Three years have passed since the coronavirus descended over Las Vegas, temporarily shutting casinos and roiling tourism.
A closed buffet restaurant at the Suncoast in western Las Vegas illustrates the noticeably different landscape of 2023.
The buffet, known as the St. Tropez, wasn’t the only buffet casualty. Buffets up and down Las Vegas Boulevard and outlying areas were closed during the pandemic. A few attempted comebacks in different forms. Most, however, did not.
Near the Suncoast, Red Rock Resort vanquished its Feast Buffet and temporarily turned the space into an area for gift redemption. Today, swanky new restaurants and bars inhabit space once occupied by “feasters.”
Still closer, the Rampart Casino at the J.W. Marriott, situated on the other side of Canyon Run Drive, in 2021 revived its buffet, which is formally known as the Market Place Buffet. It’s prominently advertised as “the only buffet in northwest Las Vegas” and includes patio dining.
But today at the space formerly occupied by the lively Suncoast buffet, a black curtain cordons off the area from passers-by.
While others have moved on, the Suncoast appears frozen in time. The St. Tropez signage is down. But the space where customers dined on prime rib, carved turkey, grilled pork chops, baked catfish and swordfish, and hush puppies remains unoccupied.
A casual peek behind the curtain shows interior signage remains. But the counters where patrons queued up for custom-made omelets are starkly empty.
The abandoned fixtures and furniture inside are like that of a new ghost town — relics of life before the coronavirus when sated buffet guests could find slivers of cake and pie (low-sugar optional), chocolate-chip cookies, soft serve, bread pudding and gelato for dessert.
This is not to knock the Suncoast. Its Prime steak house is excellent with taste-bud arousing cuisine and excellent service. Similarly, its 90 Ninety Bar + Grill attempts to up the restaurant game.
Still, what is the future for the several thousand square feet hiding behind the curtain?
How many cooks, servers, busers and cashiers did the buffet employ at its peak — and where are they now? How many thousands — tens of thousands? — of customers passed through the buffet, made a meal out of Mongolian barbecue or Italian fare, and left generous tokes on the tables after a meal?
We may never know. An operator at the Suncoast referred us to Boyd corporate offices, but a request for comment and more information was not returned.