Sharkey's planning for future

Sharkey's Casino in Gardnerville will not be affected by the recent bankruptcy filings of parent company Holder Hospitality Group, according to casino manager Ron Terrell.

"Sharkey's is in great shape," Terrell said last week.

The Genoa resident, who is also the chief financial officer for Holder, said six of the company's nine remaining casinos have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization protection in order to stave off creditors.

"This is the first time I've put casinos in bankruptcy," Terrell said. "We're just trying to stay any process of repossession until we can renegotiate the deals."

Affected casinos include the Stockmen's, the Commercial Casino and the Scoreboard in Elko, the El Capitan in Hawthorne, Parker's Model T in Winnemuca and the Silver Club in Sparks, which closed in January.

Terrell said three other casinos were closed either last year or this year, and a proposed casino in Tonopah was never built.

"The owner of the company got some bad management advice and expanded too fast," Terrell said. "Time wasn't taken to let each property become profitable. There was too much corporate overhead."

According to the Associated Press, Hal Holder Sr. bought his first Nevada casino in 1999. By 2007, the company had 13 properties and about 1,500 employees.

Terrell said two years ago, all 13 properties were put up for sale.

"A lot of people were interested in just Sharkey's, but it wasn't being sold individually at the time," he said. "Now, we're willing to do that."

Sharkey's, along with the Sundance in Winnemuca and the Red Garter in Wendover, will not be affected by the bankruptcy filings.

"A property like Sharkey's is very consistent," Terrell said. "People come for the recreational activity. It's a nice place where you can get a good meal for a low price. If they put $20 in a slot machine on the way out, we're happy."

Terrell, who has a business degree from University of Nevada, Reno, and a hotel administration degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the hospitality business has changed.

"You're not going to get those customers walking in gambling thousands of dollars anymore," he said.

Rather, he said the future of gaming lies in community casinos that keep costs down and provide consistent service. For example, while Stateline casinos have been seeing 30-plus percent declines in gaming revenue, Sharkey's has kept losses under 10 percent, Terrell said.

"At this point, we're not beating last year in gaming," he said, "but the restaurant is beating last year."

Terrell attributes the latter to consistent pricing and marketing.

"Coffee at Sharkey's is still a buck," he said.

However, there have been some changes in response to the recession. Sharkey's has discontinued its senior discount and has replaced it with a universal discount on restaurant items, equivalent to the state's 6.75 percent sales tax.

"It happened when a young couple came in one day, and the husband, who'd been in construction and was unemployed, filled out an employment application for a dishwashing position," Terrell said. "This was a young couple with two kids, and I thought, 'Darn it, they deserve a discount, too.' In this market, in this current economy, everyone deserves a discount."

Sharkey's has also been an active member of the Main Street Gardnerville program. A major goal of the revitalization effort is to establish more parking, something Terrell is willing to take on.

"My No.1 priority is to have that house across the street torn down," he said.

Terrell plans to demolish it, resurface the area and build a large, well-lit parking lot between Douglas Avenue and Battle Born Wine on Highway 395.

He plans to convert the front row of the current parking lot into a landscaped park area with trees and grass. He expects the project to be completed by the end of the summer, and said the new lot will be open to the public and will assist downtown businesses with parking.

"Free, lighted, safe parking will help all businesses," he said. "It will make a huge difference in the downtown area and will help Sharkey's business as well."


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