VIDEO VAULT | Hopes still alive for revival of historic Moulin Rouge Hotel
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
The longest sign in the Neon Museum boneyard comes from a property that also looms large in the social fabric of Southern Nevada. When you see the delicate, Parisian-style letters spelling out "Moulin Rouge"--or at least partially--you're transported back to heady days more than sixty years ago.
"It was the in place at that time." Theodore Toney told News 3 in 1987. "We had great times here."
Toney had been a waiter when the Moulin Rouge first opened, and was excited when new owners were trying to re-create history.
"I feel that we should do greater this day than we did yesterday. Because I think it should last longer."
The first time had not lasted long at all.
"These doors first opened in 1955 to opportunities never before explored," said reporter Katie Harris in 1988. "The Moulin Rouge marketed almost entirely to Afro-Americans.”
It was a time when performers like Sammy Davis Junior and Nat King Cole would headline showrooms on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip, but have to find lodging elsewhere.
The Moulin Rouge wasn't just a barrier breaker; it was a class act by any standard, with it's Tropican-can dancers, swank restaurant and top management.
But there were financial problems, and just five and a half months after its debut, the Moulin Rouge casino and showroom closed.
Over the next few decades, the Moulin Rouge would have a hotel and a bar, but no casino.
"People don't come to Las Vegas to drink," observed part-owner Sarann Knight Preddy in 1988. "They come here to gamble."
She had been working tirelessly to obtain financing even as the neighborhood struggled economically.
"That's one of the downfalls of this area is because we have not been able to get any money," said Preddy. "If you don't have any money, then you can't get too much going."
By 1992, it looked as though the City of Las Vegas would supply the seed money needed to finally revive the Casino.
"With Moulin Rouge being an anchor in the community, it could serve as one of the first anchors as part of a comprehensive plan that we are presently working on in West Las Vegas," said Ward One Councilman Frank Hawkins.
"I expected that the City would cooperate," responded co-owner James Walker. "It's not 100% of what I wanted, but it's certainly an adequate start. And it's a sign that government agencies are ready to seriously consider doing something for the minority community."
But the intentions were never followed up the cash that was needed, and in 1996, the hotel portion and Club Rouge closed for good. The hotel rooms were used for subsidized city housing for a few years.
Meanwhile, there were fires. The first fire at the Moulin Rouge had been back in 1966. But after the turn of the century, they seemed to come every couple of years--a problem exacerbated by squatters taking residence in abandoned rooms. The most recent fire was just a couple of weeks ago.
Still, Sarann Knight Preddy and others after her have discussed building a new Moulin Rouge.
"Plans for a craft brewery and a resort and casino are all going to contribute to the growth and redevelopment of this neglected area," reported News 3's Fatima Rahmatullah in 2014.
There are actually three different groups currently hoping to buy the property out of receivership, with two of them hoping to build a new Moulin Rouge, and the third being Clark County which would use it for administrative offices. A judge is expected to make a ruling in the very near future.
Meanwhile, of course, the original Moulin Rouge sign is on full display at the Neon Museum on Las Vegas Boulevard just north of Bonanza.