Downtown Las Vegas goes al fresco with city-run outdoor dining areas

Bethany DeFrancesco, left, Alex Messer, center, and Krista Froemming chat during Dine Out Downtown on California Avenue between Main Street and Casino Center Boulevard Thursday, May 21, 2020.
Photo: Steve Marcus

On Thursday afternoon, Arts District diners enjoyed the mild May weather at outdoor tables under the shade of pop-up tents. They sat on a closed segment of California Avenue (between Main Street and Casino Center Boulevard). Around them, other Downtown denizens lingered on the patios of nearby restaurants.

After the dreariness of the lockdown, this cuisine and camaraderie felt like a veritable street festival. The air was sweet and the mood was joyful—a vision of a happier, pre-pandemic era.

It's the City of Las Vegas’ new "Dine Out Downtown" program. The City has closed off two streets to traffic to create a pair of urban dining areas (the second is on 6th Street between Fremont Street and Carson Avenue), complete with socially distant tables, chairs, shade and portable trees. According to a press release, the areas are being cleaned and disinfected by city staff—but that’s no call to abandon masks or hand sanitizer.

With plans to operate through Phases 1 and 2 of Nevada’s pandemic closures, “The program will allow more people to enjoy the restaurants and eateries … Downtown, and practice social distancing at the same time,” the release stated.

For Stefanie Jackel, co-owner of Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar at 1115 S. Casino Center Boulevard, the “Dine Out Downtown” program is a welcome addition to lockdown recovery. Her venue is set to open on May 22 at 50% capacity. In addition to the limited indoor options, she’s encouraging patrons to purchase growlers and bottles at Three Sheets and then consume them at the outdoor picnic area.

“We’re really excited,” Jackel says, adding that the outdoor dining reminds her of her California roots, where such al fresco options are popular and often include live music. She’s celebrating the "ability to increase our footprint into a communal space. It gives people more reason to come down to this ever-growing and expanding area. If we can get people to come down, park their car and walk around, we're all going to win.”

Three Sheets is now operating under a temporary restaurant license; they serve personal pizzas. "It’s a cool solution," Jackel says. "The City of Las Vegas has been fantastic to work with. They’ve been creative and small-business minded, which has been awesome."

Locals Bianca Sosa and Jessica Castillo ate gelato from Waffelato in the Downtown Container Park at the 6th Street dining area Thursday evening. They ventured Downtown from the suburbs to eat and explore. The duo didn’t know about the new dining area but stumbled upon it while strolling around. "We saw this area and we were like, 'Oh, this is nice to have our ice cream and sit down and talk'," Sosa says.

“I think it’s really cool,” Castillo says of the outdoor dining area. “We get to enjoy Las Vegas Downtown without so many other people here. And the weather's just so lovely.”

Esther’s Kitchen’s Chef-Owner James Trees says he thinks the dining area is great for the street. “It’s bringing a really good vibe to our neighborhood,” he says. “It feels like there is [a] return to normalcy, which makes everyone feel hopeful.”

Other restaurants, bars and markets within range of the new outdoor seating areas include Bocho Sushi, Carson Kitchen, CraftHaus Brewery, Flippin' Good Burgers, ReBar, Tacotarian, Therapy, VegeNation and 7th & Carson.

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