For years, Casino Fandango had a small space adjacent to its sports book with a handful of stools, a few TVs and a small selection of draft beer. It was a run-of-the-mill sports bar. Blink and you might miss it.
One day in 2018, Court Cardinal, the casino’s general manager, took a hard look at that ho-hum space and saw untapped potential. This epiphany came around the same time when a specific industry was brewing and buzzing in Northern Nevada and beyond: craft beer.
“We had a bar that largely went unutilized,” Cardinal told the Nevada Appeal. “I said, ‘It’s time for a facelift. It’s time to do something new in this corner of the casino.’ The whole craft brewing industry was taking off. I thought, let’s look into that; how can we be a part of that?”
Fast-forward to 2020, Casino Fandango is home to a stylish new bar that would grab the eye of any passerby. Boasting at least 55 craft beers, including 24 available on a rotating tap, Craft 55 showcases a massive island-style bar, seating to accommodate groups, and four video boards displaying each available beer’s ABV and IBU figures.
Craft 55, Cardinal said, features a beer selection that’s “largely local” — from brewers like Shoe Tree (Carson City), Revision (Sparks) and Lead Dog (Reno) — but also includes the Guinnesses (Ireland) of the world. Porters. IPAs. Fruit-infused. Craft 55’s beer selection — which can be viewed on an app called “Untapped” — will feature all flavors and styles, he noted.
Cardinal said eventually Craft 55, once a month, will host “tap takeover” nights where local breweries can offer all of their beer selections at once. Moreover, the bar will have a daily happy hour from 4-6 p.m. in which certain beers each month will be half off.
“The local brewers have offered huge support for us, they’ve been extremely helpful,” Cardinal said. “We really want to showcase a lot of Northern Nevada and local stuff as much as we can.”
In fact, to show their state pride, Craft 55’s four-beer flight holder (designed and made in-house) is silver and cut in the shape of Nevada. The bar will also house a machine that uses 3D-printing technology to — get this — add images to beer foam.
“We can take a picture of you and put your face in the top of the beer,” Cardinal smiled. “You can come in and drink your own likeness. It’s pretty cool.”
Craft 55, Cardinal said, will also offer “eclectic” bar food — everything from beer-battered bacon cheese fries to Reuben sliders to duck wings.
‘A PERFECT MARRIAGE’
What’s more, Craft 55 will feature multi-hand video poker progressive slot machines at the bar and 15 brand new 85-inch flat screens cover the surrounding walls. The new TVs, Cardinal said, were a result of him deciding the bar wasn’t the only area that needed a facelift. Before Craft 55 was carved out, the casino remodeled its William Hill sports book, adding new betting boards, new tables, new chairs and new carpet.
“It started off as a small project and it just got bigger and bigger,” Cardinal shrugged. “We decided we’re going to do something that’s really going to impact the community and bring them something that’s really cool and that nobody else has around here.
“Now, having this craft beer bar incorporated within the sports book,” added Cardinal, slowly clasping his hands, “it’s a perfect marriage.”
In a press release, William Hill CEO Joe Asher said the company is “excited” about the Casino Fandango’s redesigned sports book and the addition of Craft 55. He added: “The new space will make for an incredible place for residents and visitors to Carson City to watch any sporting event.”
Craft 55, which started pouring beer Dec. 6, will have a grand opening and ribbon cutting on Thursday, Jan. 9.