Real estate developer plans to restore Moulin Rouge

LAS VEGAS - Despite years of failed attempts at restoring the Moulin Rouge hotel-casino to its brief 1955 splendor, a Canadian real estate developer has decided to sink more than $8 million of his own money into the aging historic building.

The Las Vegas Planning Commission on Thursday will consider a special-use permit for a 6,000-square-foot expansion of the western dining area at the hotel.

Bart Maybie, who purchased the hotel for $3 million in 1997, has grown weary of offers by community-based groups and casino moguls to restore the city's most noted black cultural icon, his business partner told the Las Vegas Sun.

''There have been people who approached Bart over the past two years saying they'd try to get HUD money or loans,'' Moulin Rouge General Manager Fred Bilawey said. ''But he finally said, 'I'm not getting anywhere with these groups, I'm going to do it myself.' ''

Maybie, who has lived in Las Vegas for about 10 years, was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

City planner Robert Genzer said his staff is recommending approval for the use permit.

''We really don't have any issues with what they're trying to do,'' Genzer said. ''They have an existing unrestricted gaming license and everything looks to be in order.

Bilawey said the expansion will be just a small part of the overall renovations, tentatively expected to be finished by December 2000.

The first phase includes covering a patio overlooking the pool and building an expanded dining room called Maxine's. The first phase also includes construction of an 80-foot bar with 75 slot machines.

Bilawey said he hopes the first phase of renovations, which will cost $500,000, will be completed in January. After that is finished, work will get under way to restore 12,000 square feet of space inside the 44-year-old building.

The second phase includes adding two bars, 300 slot machines, and a bandstand in the main casino area, which is overlooked by two historic murals reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec's Paris Moulin Rouge posters but featuring black showgirls.

The Moulin Rouge opened in 1955 as the city's first interracial resort in an era when blacks, including entertainers, were barred from casinos downtown and on the Strip. Acts at the Club Rouge showroom entertained such greats as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr.

Its closure a mere six months later for financial reasons seemed incongruent with its apparent success. Many argued the resort was too popular for its own good, drawing too many customers from the Strip.

The Moulin Rouge was also the place top casino executives met in 1960 to sign an agreement ending segregation on the Las Vegas Strip.

In the four decades since its closing, the landmark has mostly remained shuttered except for occasional stabs at renovating the nightclub for boxing matches, concerts and soul food offerings.

Past restoration attempts led to the Moulin Rouge's nomination in 1992 to the National Register of Historic Places.


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