Urban Enthusiasts – May 2015

Urban Enthusiasts – May 2015


Richard Hooker and Babs Daitch are owner/operators of Las Vegas Pop Culture Tours, a new home-grown tour company that celebrates Las Vegas as an outdoor museum of popular culture. Hooker and Daitch focus on the city’s unique history, fabled places, iconic people and landscapes of the city’s historic and colorful past.

Hooker came to Las Vegas from Sante Fe, New Mexico and took a job with the Office of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Oscar Goodman. Daitch, originally from New York City, came to Las Vegas in the 60’s after spending time in San Francisco, initially working as social secretary for Frank Sinatra.

The pair conducts walking tours that include a  90-minute stroll through the historic Fremont Street downtown with its new hip persona and a two-hour cultural journey through the emerging 18b Arts District.

What are some of your favorite places downtown?

Hooker: I’m drawn to small entrepreneurialism; I love the newer venues of Fremont East like Writer’s Block, PublicUs, EAT, Park on Fremont. And over on Industrial Rd., eLearningMedia gallery at Downtown Spaces and Sin City Gallery does it for me in 18b.

Daitch: Roulette and Parlor Lounge cocktails at the El Cortez, Pizza Rock & beer, breakfast at the Gold Spike or EAT, affordable suites for yearly celebrations at the Plaza Hotel, the pool at the Downtown Grand, Inspire Theater for Wednesday night movies, fresh fruit and an incredibly delicious grilled cheese sandwich at the Market on Fremont Street, lunch at Park on Fremont, The Mob Museum, Writers Block Book Store, Sin City Gallery at the Arts Factory and the 18b Arts District, Container Park food, shopping and people watching, Happy Hour at the Commonwealth, dinner at Casa Don Juan’s and Burlesque Hall of Fame! Need I say more?

What do you think sets DTLV apart from other neighborhoods in Las Vegas?

Hooker: I see downtown as an interconnected cluster of neighborhoods each with its own character and vitality. We now need more connectivity, enhanced livability with more public art and commerce.

Daitch: Downtown is distinct for its oodles of pop culture eye candy, urban friendly streets, a people watching emporium, small businesses that deliver highly personal service, the entrepreneurial vibe and all the area’s stunning tree-lined streets with historic single family homes.

Anything coming to the neighborhood that you’re excited for?

Hooker: I’ll be excited to see what happens in the Cultural Corridor when the Natural History Museum moves across the street to the Antoine Predock Building once the Las Vegas library moves. Cashman’s next chapter is a big one, too.  That cultural neighborhood is the sleeping giant of Downtown.

Daitch: Natalie Young’s Chow, new Jennifer & Michael Cornthwaite projects, Glutton and VegeNation on Carson, Teazled Gift Shop & Cards at the Container Park, and the construction of more urban housing with affordable rents.

 Photo: Babs Daitch and Richard Hooker by Lucky Wenzel


  • Dayvid Figler and Rae Lathrop

    DF: Downtown was great as a kid and it is even greater as an adult. I love all of downtown’s hidden gems, its vibrancy, history and sense of connection. Rae is relatively newer to Las Vegas, but just as passionate about downtown. Downtown lends itself to the shared experience, and as a couple we both love seeing this part of the city through each other's eyes. Photo: Lucky Wenzel


  • Rob Ponte

    Some of the best nights I’ve experienced started out with no plan other than walking around to check out what’s going on. The great thing about having so many bars and restaurants downtown is the ability to move around if you’re not feeling the vibe in one place. There are plenty of options just outside the door. Photo: Lucky Wenzel

  • Brandon Wiegand

    The downtown Las Vegas of today has much to attract residents - a burgeoning restaurant and nightlife scene, growing diversity of businesses, and major centers of art and culture. Plus, living downtown I am easily within walking or biking distance of it all. Photo: Lucky Wenzel

  • Hank Gordon, Chairman of Laurich Properties

    It is always a pleasure to deal with the city of Las Vegas’ economic development department. The staff is really interested in helping create a positive business environment to work with.

  • Jonathan Jenkins, Founder & CEO of OrderWithMe

    As our company continues its rapid growth, we quickly realized the need to set up a formal U.S. headquarters. We explored multiple cities and were about to make the move to San Francisco, and then we heard about the complete reinvention of downtown Las Vegas. Coming from China where things are booming and growing, we love that downtown Vegas now has a similar vibe of energy and change. Not only is there an exciting tech community here and much lower costs than the Bay Area, but we love the fact that almost every industry group brings their conventions to our front door once a year.

  • Andy Hsieh, Owner of Lux Delux

    We love the vibrancy and energy of Las Vegas, and downtown is at the heart of it all. That's why we've launched our mobile platform with a focus on downtown. This is an exciting time in Las Vegas history, where community, commerce and technology are all converging at once. Downtown is our city's hidden gem.

  • Ramesh Srinivasan, Chief Marketing Officer & Head of Partnerships of SocialWellth

    We chose to relocate from the suburbs to downtown for several reasons. Our brand image and that of downtown’s mesh perfectly. The new downtown Las Vegas reflects a more hip, startup, social media-style image. Additionally, downtown’s emerging technology corridor, anchored by Zappos, is an environment that enhances our ability to recruit the types of technical skill sets required for our continued growth and success.

  • Mark Brandenburg, President of Golden Gate

    I think downtown Las Vegas is a unique blend of intimacy and great energy. Plus, in contrast to The Strip, it’s so easy to walk around…The Golden Gate has been here for over 100 years and with all the changes going on downtown, it feels like a new era. It truly is a renaissance—the rebirth of a classic.

  • Roberto Mendoza, Co-owner of Banger Brewing

    The city has been great in helping us with the licensing and procedures necessary to start a business. There hasn't been a brewery built in the city of Las Vegas for probably 10 years. So for them it hasn't been a typical ‘cut and paste’ thing. We're something different. It was a team work process to get us opened – a lot of talk and listening on both sides. And now the city started opening up the doors for other breweries once we were up and running. Good news for us and good news for the future. (Photo: Lucky Wenzel)

  • Alexandra Epstein, Executive Vice President of El Cortez Casino Hotel

    This downtown area… is emerging and where many events are happening.

  • Meghan Mossler, Owner of Stitch Factory

    The city and the department of economic development have been very helpful to us and all the other downtown business owners. It’s such a community here, and everyone asks you what you need. That kind of help launching a business is amazing and priceless.

  • Pamela Dylag, Co-owner of Velveteen Rabbit

    The city is so supportive of new businesses. Things are popping up constantly. (Photo: Lucky Wenzel)

  • Marc Abelman, CFO & Co-owner of Inside Style

    Downtown is becoming very much in demand…there’s a limited supply. Run fast, don’t walk.

  • Sam Cherry, CEO of Cherry Development

    For a while, downtown was one of the only places in the valley you would see cranes when you drove around. It was nice that city government stepped up and the private sector married with the public sector to create amazing projects that filled the gap. That was very important for us.

  • Johnny Jimenez, Owner of Toy Shack of Las Vegas

    Our business is booming amid the foot traffic on Fremont Street, and we’ve started to see how tourists are falling in love with downtown as they discover it. In the past year, we’re increasingly hearing things like, ‘Wow, next time we’ll stay downtown instead of on The Strip,’ or ‘We’ve visited downtown many times, but this is the first year we’ve actually stayed in a downtown hotel.’ They like that there is more to do within a smaller walking radius.

  • Rich Worthington, President and CEO of The Molasky Group of Companies

    Historically, downtown Las Vegas has not been a top destination for many locals, but in recent years… that trend is reversing itself. Given all the recent openings and progress, there’s much to explore and experience downtown.