Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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OFF THE STRIP:

No longer in many casinos, lounge entertainment lives in bar

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Sam Morris

Howie Gold performs with Carl Grove on sax at Ichabod’s, a neighborhood restaurant and bar.

If You Go

  • Who: Howie Gold
  • When: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and every other Tuesday
  • Where: Ichabod’s, 3300 E. Flamingo Road
  • Admission: Free

Sun Blogs

Ichabod’s

Longtime Vegas lounge entertainer Howie Gold has a theory.

“Most of the casinos cut out a lot of their lounge entertainment, and now the live music is in the neighborhoods,” says Gold, who has been playing piano and singing locally for more than 30 years. “That’s where the work is now.”

He named a few places, including the Ibo Turkish and Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar, Lucio Ristorante and, of course, Ichabod’s, where Gold has performed four nights a week for the past 18 months. He plays solo most nights, but a guest artist, usually a jazz musician such as saxophonist Rick Moreno or trombonist Sean West, joins him Thursdays.

“We get mostly horn players,” Gold said. “A lot of the main-room players who aren’t in the main rooms anymore come by and play.”

Fans of live music can thank Ichabod’s owner Francois Alvandi, who brings in music for diners and gamblers at the video poker machines.

“Typically entertainment is not good for gaming, because if the music gets too loud people don’t like it,” Alvandi says. “But we found a good niche. Howie Gold has been around forever in this town and knows how to play. There has not been one instance where someone asks for a song he doesn’t know. The music is not loud, it’s very mellow. People can come in, think about the day, have a drink, gamble a bit and have a meal and enjoy the music.”

The gas — not lounge — business brought Alvandi to Las Vegas in 1997.

The native of Orange County, Calif., began working in his father’s gas stations when he was 11 years old. When he was 18, he bought his first station. He now has 25, including seven in Las Vegas.

He came here to turn around an Arco AM/PM station near Circus Circus. He liked it enough to buy a home in the Las Vegas Country Club and began dividing his time between here and Southern California.

“I never owned a restaurant before, never even thought about it,” he said. “I was a gas guy, and real estate. But one of my friends bought a little bar and he told me what a great investment it was and I figured it would be interesting to have one.”

He ran across Ichabod’s, which he says was bankrupt, eight years ago.

“I bought it that afternoon,” Alvandi says. “I reasoned, ‘I know how to eat, I know how to drink, I know how to gamble, so if I like it, everyone else will like it too.’ I just cleaned up the place, adding little things like tablecloths, fresh flowers and candles.

“No kids. And there’s no smoking or cussing or yelling and screaming.”

He’s been so successful he tried to franchise.

“I thought I was a genius,” Alvandi says. “I bought three more places, but they were in bad neighborhoods and didn’t do well. I sold two and closed one. This is not a business that you can stamp like a gas station.

“We keep growing because everyone around us keeps shrinking. To cut costs they start cutting everything — food, promotions, all their giveaways. A lot of restaurants around here are closing, so we’re capturing a lot of business right now.”

That’s music to the ears of pianist Gold.

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