Thursday, July 5, 2018 | 2 a.m.
When the massive 650-seat Smith & Wollensky steakhouse inside its own three-story building closed last summer after nearly 20 years of business on the Las Vegas Strip, it seemed to leave a big hole. There aren’t many free-standing restaurants on Las Vegas Boulevard, especially fine-dining destinations.
The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group never really saw the move as a closing but more of a right-sizing. The company that began in 1977 in New York City always wanted to stay in Las Vegas and recently announced a new steakhouse set to open in the spring at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian.
“When we opened the original on the side of the Mona Marie Motel on the Strip, there was really only the Bellagio. That was the only [resort] that had opened at that time that had started the transformation of dining on the Strip,” says Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group CEO and President Michael Feighery, who was the opening general manager of the Las Vegas location at Christmastime in 1998. “The casinos really didn’t have those 11 or 12 dining options they all have now, so building 30,000 square feet with those immense private dining spaces was the right thing to do at that time.”
Feighery believes Smith & Wollensky has found the right location for the next evolution of the Vegas steakhouse in the high-traffic space formerly home to Zeffirino. The thousands of hotel rooms at Venetian and Palazzo and the connectivity with the Sands Expo convention center creates what he believes is the perfect home for the brand’s classic offerings.
The new restaurant will be two stories and 14,000 square feet with approximately 444 seats, still serving the hand-butchered USDA Prime steaks, premium seafood and award-winning wines that define the Smith & Wollensky experience.
“I think there are a few iconic things we bring with us, starting with when you walk in and see some familiar faces and then the evolution of what we’ve been able to incorporate with remodels at our newest location in Boston in Wellesley,” Feighery says. “You’re going to be familiar with a lot of the elements and notice the changes, but we also love to pay homage to the city and be part of the community we’re in. This will be a bit lighter and more accessible, a little less like the masculine steakhouse of the past.”
There are many spectacular steakhouses on the Strip including Wolfgang Puck’s Cut, just next door at The Palazzo. But there should be room for the return of Smith & Wollensky considering another Palazzo favorite, Carnevino, is closing on July 22.
“I think we bring something to the game, not just another option in the steakhouse segment,” Feighery says. “The original has been around for a little over 40 years now. Going to a steakhouse is tradition. It speaks to the pioneer American spirit and that attitude and we believe we’re America’s steakhouse. The people that live and work in Las Vegas reflect that attitude. We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces and old memories and we have some new stories to create.”
The new restaurant could open as early as March 1.