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Desert Companion

Downtown Dive

Downtown DiveOscar Goodman once glibly proposed imploding the Union Plaza to pave a better prospect to what would later become Symphony Park. Today, the former mayor’s name is stamped on a restaurant in the resort that’s now slicking and primping for maximum swank in the New Downtown. But the truth is that the Union Plaza (now just the Plaza) was always experimenting with swankitude in several forms. As depicted in this 1972 photo, there was originally a pool on the second-floor overlook where Oscar’s now serves up beef and buxom she-mascots.

Of course, something was bound to trickle down. After about a decade of hosting feather-haired femmes and white-slacked guys with porn ’staches, complaints emerged that the pool was leaking onto the porte-cochère below. The dry idea: Replace the pool with a restaurant. Originally opening as the Center Stage gourmet room, by some accounts the place whimpered by, failing to snag downtown gamblers more interested in clogging arteries than wrapping mouths around culinary gymnastics. The Center Stage found greater success when it embraced a classic steak-and-seafood menu. Later incarnations of the site — sports bar, tapas nightspot — didn’t prove as successful until it landed on its current avatar: A restaurant that trades on Old Vegas spirit. The pool that hosted thousands of bathers and baskers? We’re told it was emptied but never filled in, and holds its breath just below the floorboards.

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