Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 | 2 a.m.
When the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo gallops into Las Vegas, thousands of cowboys and cowgirls will stream into town to watch. They’ll bring their hats, boots and spurs — and to the delight of local businesses, their wallets.
Bars and restaurants along the Strip will try to cash in on the crowd with drink specials, product giveaways and other deals. Few are as well-suited to draw them in as Gilley’s Las Vegas.
The country-western bar and restaurant inside Treasure Island offers year-round line dancing, country music and mechanical bull riding. The scantily-clad “Gilley Girls” work in bikinis, chaps and boots.
When the NFR comes around, Gilley’s is overrun with rodeo fans, and sales go through the roof, General Manager Robert Perry said.
To prepare, Perry stocks up on whiskey, bourbon, ribs and steaks; brings pallets of beer from a downstairs cooler into the main kitchen for easier access; and arranges product promotions with apparel and alcohol vendors. Televisions are tuned to the NFR and tables and chairs crowd the dance floor, letting people watch the competitions on a large, drop-down screen built into the ceiling.
Perry also cuts the wait staff’s serving sections in half, to five tables each, so they can keep pace with customer volume. He doesn’t let employees take vacation time during the 10-day championships.
Gilley’s earns more than $1 million in revenue in December and hauls in 80 to 90 percent of that during the NFR, Perry said. Thanks to the rodeo, December is a top-grossing month for Gilley’s, even though it’s usually a slow period for tourism in Las Vegas.
Seemingly every customer at Gilley’s dons a cowboy hat and boots during the NFR. Some even wear spurs and chaps.
“Everybody’s decked out,” Perry said.
He is planning a number of attractions this year to ensure another strong turnout.
North Las Vegas-based BEX Sunglasses, which markets to outdoor enthusiasts, will sponsor product giveaways, as will Western apparel maker Cowgirl Tuff jeans. Gilley Girls will promote the restaurant at a Coors beer tent outside the Thomas & Mack Center, where the NFR is held, handing out fliers and riding a mechanical bull. And bullriders Rocky McDonald and Beau Hill will sign autographs at the restaurant.
Treasure Island is the NFR’s official hotel sponsor this year, and Perry said most competitors will stay there. They likely will eat meals at Gilley’s, drawing even more customers to the restaurant.
Still, Perry knows he won’t be the only manager angling for rodeo fans. He expects the Strip to be saturated with cowboy themes, drink specials and country music.
“Everywhere in town, it will be cowboy, cowboy crazy,” he said.