Staff members say they were given no notice that the restaurant was closing that day — some employees even attended the mandatory staff meeting with expectations of working the dinner shift that evening. Thomas Kaplan, a senior managing partner in the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, says that while there were plans to renovate and re-theme the restaurant later in the summer, the slow season and hot weather at the outdoor shopping mall spurred the group to close the restaurant earlier. “The sooner we close, the sooner we can reopen,” says Kaplan.
The Players Lounge opened in Downtown Summerlin in February 2020, replacing the former Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. It was a sports bar intended for watching Vegas Golden Knights games, but fancied up for the Summerlin crowd with leather seating, a nice cocktail program, and glass lockers which regulars could pay to store their spirit of choice.
Kaplan says the Players Locker closure is part of a larger-scale shake-up, starting with Lupo, the Wolfgang Puck restaurant that has been at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for 24 years. “As part of the repositioning ahead of the Super Bowl, they asked us to re-concept Lupo and do something fresh,” says Kaplan, referencing the 2024 Super Bowl, set to take place in Allegiant Stadium, across the street from the casino. The restaurant is getting a $7 million remodel and a new name. “Lupo is an important brand. My partner, David Robbins, and I decided to bring it to Summerlin and do a neighborhood higher-end restaurant,” says Kaplan.
Lupo at Mandalay Bay will close around Labor Day and re-emerge at the end of the year as a new restaurant with a different name, while the Players Locker at Downtown Summerlin will transform into a new Lupo.
Alicia Schulz, a bartender and server at the Players Locker, says that she was informed by her managers a couple of months ago that the restaurant would eventually shut down, possibly in August, to be renovated and renamed to Lupo. “A lot of us were excited,” says Schulz. “I told multiple bar guests how excited I was to do more craft cocktail vibes.” The staff meeting on July 30, when she and the rest of the staff were informed that day would be the last day of service, came as a shock. “We were told it was closed as of this moment,” says Schulz. “[We were told] we’re welcome to apply at other Wolfgang restaurants and can text managers about rehiring. But we’re losing all out PTO. It’s not getting cashed out.”
Other staff members, like Olivia Woolverton, a food runner, and servers Katherine Urbina and Danielle Miller, say that they had been told by their managers months ago that they would be relocated to other Wolfgang Puck restaurants — though they say that was never communicated in writing — and were shocked to be let go from the company on Sunday. “We were excited to work at other properties and then come back,” says Urbina. “Then on Sunday they told us this is your final day.” The employees also say they would not receive a payout of their accrued paid time off. “As Wolfgang, you’d think they’d be more respectful because of their name. It’s a big downer,” says Woolverton.
Kaplan tells Eater Vegas he doesn’t know if it is company policy to pay out PTO.
When the Players Locker reopens in the fall as Lupo, it will retain about 25 percent of the original Italian Lupo menu and gain a slate of Mediterranean dishes with Asian and American influences. Kaplan says that he and Robbins had long wanted to do a fine dining restaurant off-Strip, a clear turn from the two casual restaurants that previously operated in the Locker space. “Especially post-COVID, people don’t necessarily want to drive to the Strip every weekend,” says Kaplan. “They’d rather have their luxury or higher-end meal here.”
When asked about the decision to abruptly close Players Locker, Kaplan says the Wolfgang group didn’t want to make a big “to-do” by having a closing party or event, but rather to take advantage of the slow summer season and start on renovations sooner. “Fortunately, we have other restaurants and people can rebound,” says Kaplan. “Post-COVID, there’s a lot of restaurants looking and hotels looking for staff. I don’t want to say it’s easy to get a job but I think if you can get another job for a few months, I’m sure it will be fine.”
Schulz says that as frustrating as it is to suddenly be out of a job, she’s also disappointed to lose the restaurant. “We had regular guests weekly or multiple times a week,” she says. “It was a community there.”