Many locals don’t feel quite at home on the Las Vegas Strip; unless accompanying a visitor, they usually stay away, preferring the homier neighborhood and Downtown casinos. But when it comes to local business owners, the Strip—despite its domination by global companies—can be a land of opportunity.
Jonathan Fine is a case in point. Fine—who operates some of the Strip’s hottest midmarket nightspots—comes from one of the most illustrious families in Las Vegas: His grandfather, Hank Greenspun, founder of the Las Vegas Sun, was one of the community’s pre-eminent leaders. His father, developer Mark Fine, was instrumental in the growth of Green Valley and Summerlin. And his brother, Jeffrey, is involved in numerous enterprises, including Fifth Street Gaming, operator of the recently opened Downtown Grand and other gaming locations.
That kind of pedigree can open doors, but it also means that Fine, 37, has a lot to live up to, which might be why he’s not been content to ride a single wave. Fine started working in hospitality when he was 15, bussing tables at La Salsa and folding clothes at Beyond the Beach. That’s not the most glamorous introduction to the business, but it gave Fine a sense of how things work at the ground level. “It showed me how important quality and service are,” Fine says. “At La Salsa, my manager Bryan O’Shields [now vice president of food and beverage at Caesars Entertainment] emphasized both of them. And it really taught me how to engage with people.”
After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1999, Fine worked for The Firm, a Los Angeles talent management company, and Maxim magazine before returning to Las Vegas to start Sting Alarm, a security company geared toward the hospitality industry. Running the company provided Fine with perspective on the problems that bar owners faced. He helped them find solutions to a variety of problems from employee theft to credit-card chargebacks, and soon he became an expert on how good bars run.
So it wasn’t such a stretch for him to open one himself. In 2007, he partnered with Jeff Beacher to open Beacher’s Rockhouse at the Imperial Palace. After splitting with Beacher, Fine and his partners in Fine Entertainment continued to run the Rockhouse until May 2012, when Quad-making renovations forced its closure. He quickly reopened the venue at the Venetian. In 2009, Fine Entertainment opened PBR Rock Bar and Grill at Miracle Mile Shops, a venue featuring bull-riding, beer pong and a party atmosphere. “We want to give people an opportunity to let loose,” he says, “to live the movie for a night.”
This year, when he wasn’t busy relocating Rockhouse, Fine was keeping his other businesses—including PBR Rock Bar and Sting Alarm—running smoothly. Fine believes his enterprises differ fundamentally from those run by out-of-town companies, and not just because of his focus on listening to customers. “You have some groups that bring in well-known brands from outside,” he says, “and often they don’t get involved in the community here.”
That’s at odds with Fine’s commitment to giving back. “My grandfather told me, ‘Take care of the community, and they’ll take care of you,’” he says. That might be why Fine has been an energetic supporter of many local charities, including the Public Education Foundation, Opportunity Village and the local chapters of both Susan G. Komen and Reggie Jackson’s Mr. October Foundation for Kids, which encourages science, technology, engineering and math education.
And Fine is just getting started. His mind is already on a number of new ventures, including social media and gaming patents, outdoor media and an interactive marketing service. It appears that he’s discovered the secret to making it in Las Vegas: keeping his ears tuned to the customers and his eyes on where the market is going.
David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.