by michael kaplan | October 1, 2013 | People
With a little luck, this aging casino will soon be a trendy, modern urban oasis.
Schorr and his sister, Courtney, in front of $1 million at Binion’s Horseshoe Club.
On an early morning in Downtown Las Vegas, Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, sips iced espresso. Peppy and slender in day-off Bermuda shorts, he occupies a front booth at Triple George Grill, one of the restaurants managed by his company. The eatery plays off the city’s bad old days with vintage photos, an old-school vibe, classic steakhouse fare, and close proximity to the Mob Museum. Through the window, Schorr can see across Third Street to the façade of his Downtown Grand, a hotel-casino in the old Lady Luck space with the potential to be a neighborhood game-changer.
Its development and management are being overseen by Schorr’s Downtown Grand Managers for the real estate company CIM, and the 650-room operation will boast innovations large and small. Having worked with Steve Wynn, Schorr knows that it’s all about the details and what you do with them. He lucked into the city’s only license for outdoor gaming and will set up alfresco craps tables, where customers will feel like they’re throwing dice against a brick wall. There’ll be a beer garden on the roof, outfitted with picnic tables and near an infinity pool, plus 700 brand-new slot machines and what he vows will be innovative casino signage. The whole thing will be wrapped up in an industrial-chic aesthetic that brings modern urbanity to the new Downtown.
Schorr envisions CIM’s hunk of real estate—stretching five blocks along Third Street—eventually resembling a kind of big-city oasis. He’s starting with a strip that runs parallel to the Grand and includes the Mob Bar, Triple George Grill, and Hogs & Heifers Saloon; coming soon will be the self-explanatory I Love Burgers, the showboating pie palace Pizza Rock, and Daily Kitchen & Wellness Bar. “Las Vegas never had small streets with bars and restaurants and retail,” he says. “There will be landscaping; you’ll enjoy walking around and engaging with people. We’re bringing to Las Vegas what is already successful in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, in Austin, and on Beale Street in Memphis.”
With mounting evidence seeming to augur long-term success for Downtown, a big pop here feels like Sin City’s spin on manifest destiny. Told that he’s situated himself in the perfect spot, Schorr smiles wide and says, “It seems a lot more appealing today than it was three years ago when we got started. The economy was in a tenuous place. Everything was on the horizon and nothing was guaranteed.”
But that’s okay with Schorr. His heart has always been in it, as the work he’s doing right now represents something of a homecoming. A second-generation casino man (his father, Marc, was a long-serving top executive for Steve Wynn), he spent 14 months living in the Golden Nugget back in the mid-’80s and first learned about the business from a Downtown vantage point. “At the age of 7, I put on a suit and tie and tried acting like my dad at the Golden Nugget,” he says. “I had business cards that read ‘Director of Children’s Marketing.’”
Since giving himself that title, Schorr has worked as a Wynn executive for real and helped to launch Wynn’s operation in Macau. He had a short stint toiling in Manhattan’s financial services industry, opened his own string of casinos in North Las Vegas, and maintains a travel services business that packages Vegas trips for Chinese gamblers. As with the last two of those ventures, Schorr feels as if he’s filling a gap by implementing his ideas for Downtown development. “Downtown is authentic,” he says. “It’s historical and real.”
Of course, Schorr also understands the importance of spectacle and innovations aimed at customer convenience. He’ll cater to Asian clients by putting rice steamers and teapots in their rooms, and partiers will get rooftop bashes with live music. And he’s particularly excited about one amenity: “Out by the infinity pool, each cabana will have its own blender. You know the way you get guacamole made tableside? We’ll have tableside blended drinks.” He hesitates for a beat before putting things in perspective. “Will it move the needle? Of course not. But it’s just one extra thing. And they all add up.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (LADY LUCK); COURTESY OF THE SCHORR FAMILY (SETH AND COURTNEY)