Canter's Kitschy Restaurant Ring-a-Ding-Ding Plays in Vegas

By ANDY FIXMER
Staff Reporter

Canter's Fairfax Restaurant, renowned purveyor of sauerkraut-laden Reubens and homemade pickles, has hit the jackpot in Las Vegas.

The family-owned business is expanding its partnership with MGM Mirage, which is building a 150-seat Canter's Delicatessen in its Treasure Island Casino.

Gary Canter, son of restaurant owner Alan Canter, said a 25-year contract had been signed with MGM Mirage to operate the new deli and possibly open locations in the MGM Grand and the Bellagio casinos. MGM will be the managing partner in the deal.

The first Canter's unit in Las Vegas opened on May 19 when it took over an existing 44-seat deli in Treasure Island and began importing its recipes and Dodgers memorabilia to decorate the walls.

"The stuff they had been serving might as well have been coming out of a microwave," Canter said. "We opened and I have never seen this kind of excitement before. We are doing amazing business out of there."

Treasure Island's deli staff was sent to Canter's home office on Fairfax Avenue for weeklong training, and Gary Canter stayed in Las Vegas to set up the kitchen.

"The new deli will offer more items than it does now, which is more like Canter's greatest hits menu," said Adam Odegard, vice president of food and beverage at Treasure Island.

Canter expects the Las Vegas restaurant's larger venue to have revenues of between $8 million and $12 million annually, topping the Fairfax unit's revenues of $4 million in 2000, the most recent data available, according to the Directory of High Volume Restaurants.

Canter said the higher revenues would come from prices about 10 percent higher than in L.A. "People in Vegas, they generally spend more," he said. "They go there ready to spend money."

The first Canter's Deli opened in Boyle Heights in 1931 and moved to 439 Fairfax Ave. in 1948 before moving down the block five years later to its current location.

Canter said expanding into Las Vegas could allow the restaurant to extend into new areas. "Once this gets going, I could have Canter's Deli slot machines," he said. "A jackpot could be three matzo balls or three knishes."

The restaurant's success in Las Vegas pushed MGM Mirage executives to sign the contract and start construction on the larger restaurant, which should be open by February, he said.

A pedestrian bridge now under construction will connect the adjacent Fashion Show mall to Treasure Island and end outside the entrance to Canter's new location. More than 20,000 people a day are expected to use the bridge and walk by the restaurant's entrance, according to Odegard.

"It keeps doing better," he said of Canter's. "We are planning to take it to the next level. But it's had a big impact already. We feel we'll be able to attract new guests while wowing the guests we have."

In Las Vegas, Canter has tinkered with the recipes in a way not possible in L.A. In the coleslaw, for example, he has added horseradish. "See, you can't do that here," he said. "(They) would kill you if you make it spicy."


Mall's Plans Proceed

By ANDY FIXMER, Staff Reporter

The owner of the Century City shopping center will begin work early next year on an $85 million overhaul of its 30-year-old open-air mall.

"We're waiting for the holiday shopping season to be over," said Katie Dickey, a spokeswoman for Westfield America Inc., which bought the 30-year-old center two years ago and renamed it Westfield Shoppingtown Century City. "We don't want the construction to interfere with one of the most important times of the year for our tenants."

The renovation will add 71,700 square feet of specialty store space for retail and restaurant tenants. To make room for the new stores, the mall's 14-screen AMC movie theater will be relocated to a spot just west of the Macy's department store, where there is currently open-air parking.

The food court will be moved just north of the new movie theater, and three sit-down restaurants will replace the existing food court. Gelson's supermarket will be expanded and a second story will be added to the area last occupied by Crate & Barrel, which left the mall Sept. 1 when its new Beverly Hills store opened.

Westfield also wants to expand the 780,645-square foot mall. Though the company won't comment on its plans, Peter S. Lowy, Westfield's managing director, told investors during a conference call in May the company was moving ahead with its preparations.

Lowy said the company purchased a 56,000 square foot office building and surrounding land adjacent to the center. "This acquisition will facilitate a future expansion of the center," he said.

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