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Can Restaurants Save New York City or Las Vegas Economies?

Can Restaurants Save New York City or Las Vegas Economies?

The Old Guard is in trouble when it comes to making a living on the New York City restaurant scene. Tavern on the Green declared bankruptcy in September, not even two weeks after Café des Artistes closed its doors. The owners said after 92 years in the restaurant business, the company could no longer pay employees’ health and pension benefits. Indeed, reports say they were $250,000 behind in health insurance and $116,000 in pension payments.

And both the Rainbow Room and Rainbow Grill are dark these days, with their plans to re-open shaky at best.

Statistics at NPD Group, a consulting firm that specializes in restaurant research, show that 512 New York City restaurants  have closed so far this year. It’s only October.

Las Vegas' CityCenter

Which makes it strange that Las Vegas is counting on upscale restaurants to bail it out of the doldrums. The $8 million CityCenter opening in December certainly has attracted new players to the Vegas dining scene, including restaurant moguls from New York and Paris. It could certainly be a boost to a city where unemployment levels have reached 13.1 percent, as officials are saying it will create 12,000 permanent jobs.


On the other hand, someone has to buy those rooms and meals to keep the jobs. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority says tourist traffic was down by 6.8 percent  — and that was only through June. And current plans at CityCenter call for more high-end dining establishments than casual meals.

“The last thing we need is 17 more restaurants in the inventory,”  Elizabeth Blau,  a partner at restaurants Society at the Wynn, Simon at Palms Place and Cathouse at the Luxor resort, told Nation’s Restaurant News.  Here’s the current rundown on the interlopers … er, new restaurants:

ARIA Resort & Casino – December 16, 2009
ARIA has assembled many of the best and brightest chefs and restaurateurs from around the country, uniting a pair of remarkable Las Vegas newcomers with those who have played integral roles in the development of Las Vegas’ culinary scene: Masayoshi Takayama, Shawn McClain, Michael Mina, Julian Serrano, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Sirio Maccioni, Jean-Philippe Maury and The Light Group. Each will deliver a concept totally new to their repertoire.

Vdara Hotel & Spa – December 1, 2009

Martin Heierling, the acclaimed innovator behind Bellagio’s renowned Sensi, will serve as executive chef for Vdara. Inspired by the ancient trade route spanning from Venice to the Far East, Silk Road will incorporate subtle spices and exotic ingredients to create modern trans-ethnic cuisine. Silk Road will transform as the day evolves, from fresh and lively at daybreak to chic and sexy at nightfall.

Crystals retail and entertainment district – December 3, 2009

Restaurants opening their first Las Vegas locations at Crystals include Eva Longoria Parker’s BESO and
Mastro’s Ocean Club, joining an exciting new pub concept by Todd English. Wolfgang Puck will open two innovative new restaurant concepts, including a contemporary interpretation of a traditional French brasserie with tastes of the Mediterranean region. Many more luxury brands and dining concepts will be announced at a later date.

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas – December 4, 2009

Situated on the 23rd floor will be the first U.S. restaurant by world-renowned, three-star Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire will infuse the simplicity of classic French cuisine with a modern spin, relying on a pairing of flavors and textures for which Gagnaire is renowned. Guests also can enjoy small bites and high tea rituals at the Tea Lounge; fresh preparations of world-class cuisine at MOzen Bistro; and gourmet pastries, sandwiches and more at Amore Patisserie, located directly on Las Vegas Blvd.

Perhaps it’s merely a case of old habits die hard. After, the new owner of Tavern on the Green was reportedly willing to offer New York officials a huge 20 percent of his sales for a chance to see if he could make a profit from the landmark sitting on the parks and recreation district’s land.

Photography: Courtesy of CityCenter