It is no secret that the current economic environment has affected millions of Americans. Many restaurants have closed and loyal employee s for years have lost their jobs. But, as with any negative event some have excelled in a very tough environment . One of those risk takers who as expanded in this contracting economy is Raymond Nisi and his Double Helix Brand.
Raymond opened Double Helix Wine and Whisky bar / Boutique 4 years ago. It is located The Shoppes at The Palazzo resort and has nearly 2,100-square-foot space that includes a circular lounge where guests can enjoy 50 wines by the glass. The adjacent boutique offers hundreds of bottles of rare and hard-to-find labels from all over the world, plus a selection of wine books, wine accessories, wine-infused gourmet foods, and specialty spirits.
His next venture took him to Town Square Shopping center where he opened Double Helix Wine and Whisky lounge. The lounge features a full bar that offers over 30 unique wines by the glass, 50 whiskeys, sampler flights, and Double Helix’s signature “winetails”. Chef Doug Vega, whose previous experience includes Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie heads up the kitchen and has created a wine and spirit-friendly small-plates tasting menu.
Raymond’s next step was his biggest step yet. Recently Raymond opened Bottles and Burgers by Double Helix and Tivoli Village in Summerlin. His newest venue features gourmet burgers, salads, and even an old fashioned ice cream bar and soda fountain as well as a variety of Double Helix’s private label wine and 50 selections of half bottles of wine.
We sat down with Raymond Nisi at Bottles and Burgers and spoke to him about his thoughts on expansion in a down economy and his three venues.
Q: In an economy where restaurants are closing and jobs are being lost you are opening restaurants and hiring. What is your strategy?
A: “I don’t listen to negativity, I always try to be positive. In a down economy rents are low and in some cases you can get funding to improve an existing property. It’s like buying houses and stocks; you get in when it’s low. Because rents are low you get locked in. When the economy improves your profits increase because you negotiated a low rent in a down economy”
Q: We have visited all three locations and your staff is very good. What do you look for when you hire a new employee?
A: “Personality is first and foremost. I can teach service, the menu, the wines and the spirits but I can’t teach Personality. “
Q: Many of your employees have come from other restaurants on and off the strip. Do you ever hire any without any previous experience?
A: “That is a great question! .This is a tough town. Everyone is expected to have experience when you walk in the door. In all three venues I have hired people who had no previous restaurant experience, I go with a gut feeling . I have been wrong but if they have personality I will give them a chance. I have a few bartenders that started as barbacks for me with no bar experience so I have been right as well.”
Q: Tell me about Double Helix Palazzo .
A: “It is now 4 years old. It provides a great experience to sample wines by the glass, Scotches and Whiskeys that you may not see very often. We even get repeat tourists which is a big plus. They come back to see us every time they are in town. It also provides a nice meeting place because it is centrally located”.
Q : Ok let’s move on to your Town Square location.
A: “It was the next step in the plan. Chef Doug Vega has created a menu that is tapas style. The lounge is all about sharing in a laid back atmosphere. We get large groups of women who come in to talk and relax without having to deal with loud music.”
Q: Bottles and Burgers just opened. Please tell us what we can expect.
A: “This was a natural expansion of the brand. We offer wine and a full bar as well. We are kid friendly and even offer an old fashion soda fountain for them. We have over 50 half bottles of wine. Krista Rediske our Wine Director has done a great job spearheading this. The half bottles have been received very well and offer guests yet another way to enjoy different wines without having to order a whole bottle.”
Q: Finally, what do you foresee for the Las Vegas Economy in 2012?
A: “It will improve but is small increments. More local businesses need to open and they need to be supported by the community. Locally owned businesses define a cities culture. Shop local!”