Dining Out-of-Doors? Yeah, We Got That

Park on Fremont

Park on Fremont

Why does Las Vegas have such a shortage of patio dining?

I field this question quite a bit—particularly when the weather is nice—but let’s be honest: If you had asked me 10 years ago, I might have understood the complaint. Back then, the popular Vegas version of patio dining was inside the “outdoor” Forum Shops, at a cafe table at Spago or near the fountain at Bertolini’s. But in the time since, so many legit patio-dining options have sprung up that the complaint no longer seems valid.

I’ll grant you this: Most of today’s options are either in upscale shopping malls (Town Square, The District, Tivoli Village), or in resorts along the Strip. On that front, casinos have really embraced the idea of pushing their buildings (once set back from the Boulevard at the end of a long, formal driveway entrance) right up to the sidewalk, and then populating the facades with bars and restaurants. That pattern is fairly typical for Las Vegas, where cash-flush private developers can quickly pursue an idea or trend, planning and building something from whole cloth with relatively little financial worry that the thing will go sour.

Smaller, off-Strip operations are taking to the patio as well. For instance, in the revitalizing portions of Downtown,  Bar + Bistro, Park, Le Thai, La Comida and Eat each have formal patios, sidewalk dining or both. Bars Commonwealth, Atomic Liquors, Velveteen Rabbit, and Vanguard Lounge are also serving under open skies.

Unlike the fancy, “climate controlled” efforts that money can buy at, say, Kona Grill, the smaller joints generally cannot afford patio covers with ceiling fans, misters and heaters. And when the weather turns cold (uh, 60?) or hot (hmm … 85?), many patrons balk at sitting outdoors, which in turn affects staffing, capacity, table turns and all the customary bottom-line headaches. And the little guy really needs to squeeze income from every leased square foot.

Still, sidewalk dining is flexible and efficient. And an awning or the open sky costs less than a fixed ceiling, with those pesky required fire sprinklers. So expect the alfresco trend to continue.

Got a question? AskANative@VegasSeven.com.