Thursday, March 17, 2011 | 5:48 p.m.
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Inside Ri Ra’s Irish Pub at Mandalay Place, Ciaran Sheehan has erected a tribute to his homeland. Salvaged memorabilia, even whole bars, were imported from all over Ireland, and its exterior façade could have been plucked from a Dublin sidewalk.
The heavy oak doors opened into a musty, but jovial, scene on Thursday: Friends toasted each other, dressed in holiday garb, and a fiddle player cut a traditional Irish tune somewhere in the back.
“We’re hoping it’s as if people were walking in from the street,” Sheehan said.
The pub held its grand opening appropriately on St. Patrick’s Day, marked by a green-speckled parade through the mall Thursday morning as the rest of the valley donned a favorite shade of emerald, grabbed a green beer and celebrated the holiday.
From the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign on the south end of the Strip, where showgirls posed in green-tinged outfits with visitors, to Fitzgeralds casino on Fremont Street, revelers descended on Las Vegas for the traditional Irish celebration. Festivities kicked off early in the morning at places like O'Sheas on the Strip, where Holly Madison squared off with Brian Thomas, also known as Lucky the Leprechaun, in a beer pong match. The revelry along Las Vegas Boulevard was expected to spill into the night.
It was the perfect opportunity to open Ri Ra’s, said Sheehan, 43, born in Timoleague, Ireland, as some of his waitresses tapped their toes in a traditional Irish dance outside the pub’s entrance. Along with his business partner, a high school classmate, Sheehan has opened 12 Ri Ra’s throughout the country.
At each pub, they try to conjure an Irish ambience, Sheehan said. More than 30 of his whiskeys are exclusive Irish brews, but it goes deeper than that, he said.
For example: One of the many bars inside was once housed in a pub owned by his great-aunt in Timoleague. He used to work behind it when he was 15 years old, Sheehan said. Artwork imported from the Olympic Theatre in Dublin hangs from the walls. That kind of attention to detail is what makes Ri Ra’s unique, Sheehan said.
The pub organized a St. Patrick’s Day parade through the hallways at Mandalay Place on Thursday, a smaller version of the celebrations Sheehan remembers when he was young.
“Everyone is Irish for a day, and we encourage that,” he said. “On a day like today, when you’re celebrating your own heritage, it makes you very proud.”
Elsewhere on the Strip, it was green, green, green.
Tammie Pasquale and Eric Reiemiller were two of the honorary Irish citizens letting loose at O’Shea’s early Thursday afternoon. A U2 cover band launched into a ballad in the alleyway while the boisterous crowd filled most of the sidewalk. Beer pong games were under way inside.
The property practically glowed green.
“I’m not Irish, but I love partying with the Irish. They throw the best parties in the world,” said Pasquale, adding that she had her first drink at about 7 a.m. “This allows everyone to come together. It doesn’t matter who you are. We need a lot more of that in our world.”
Reiemiller, sipping from one of the Strip’s signature oversized cups that had gone green for the day, nodded in approval.
“It’s about celebrating who you are and where you’re from and enjoying life,” he said.
In downtown Las Vegas, the festive mood was palpable.
Daniel Brown, who lives in Las Vegas, and Dan Doherty, a Henderson resident, were strolling Fremont Street, green beers in hand, impossible to miss with their massive top hats and Brown’s clover leaf sunglasses.
They’ve made it a tradition to spend the holiday wandering the corridor, stopping for pictures with strangers and feasting at Fitzgerald’s, which was offering a meal of corned beef sandwiches, kettle chips and green beer.
Doherty’s grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the late 1800s, Doherty said. While growing up in Chicago, he always looked forward to the St. Patrick’s Day parade and the other ethnic holidays.
“Everybody got together. It was an opportunity to go out and see someone’s culture,” said Doherty, 53. “Now, we just want to come out, celebrate and enjoy the festivities.”
The D Las Vegas is the new revved-up name for a longtime downtown Las Vegas hotel, Fitzgeralds, which had been in operation since 1987.
Owner Derek Stevens rebranded and refurbished the hotel in fall 2012 to give it a motor city theme, using the nickname of his beloved city, Detroit, for the name of the new hotel. He also brought in two restaurant favorites from Detroit: American Coney Island and Joe Vicari's Andiamo Italian Steakhouse.
The property features 638 remodeled contemporary rooms and suites. The unique two-level casino included slots and table games. Dancing dealers are featured on the first floor. And the second floor transports guests back in time to old-school Vegas with its Vintage Casino.
The casino also features the LONGBAR, the longest bar in Nevada, where sports fans can watch games on big screen TVs. Outside on Fremont Street, D Bar invites guests and passerby alike to enjoy refreshing frozen libations and specialty cocktails as talented, trickster bartenders send bottles and glasses flying through the air.
The Showroom at the D features the interactive comedy show, "Marriage Can Be Murder," where guests can be part of the mystery.