Red Rooster

The Red Rooster was one of the most famous nightclubs in Las Vegas from the early 1930s to the early 1950s on present-day Las Vegas Boulevard, where as a "speakeasy" it was once raided by federal government agents for selling liquor during Prohibition.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, while the federal Volstead Act outlawing the sale of alcohol was in force, Las Vegas became notorious for tolerating both illegal gambling and the consumption of alcohol in local clubs, mainly on Fremont Street downtown.

The Red Rooster was one of a few newer nightclubs, such as the Pair-O-Dice, built several miles west of downtown on Highway 91 to get first crack at the motorists driving to town from California.

Owner Alice Wilson Morris opened the Red Rooster in 1931. The one-story, Spanish Mission-style building had a stage for a singer and orchestra, a dance floor, and a restaurant. But the place almost immediately became a speakeasy, serving liquor during Prohibition.

In February 1931, the United States Justice Department sent a federal marshal to order the Red Rooster to stop selling alcohol, or risk being closed down by federal agents, as had been done earlier to the Arizona Club in downtown Las Vegas. The club's management complied, at least temporarily.

After Nevada's state government legalized casino gaming in March 1931, the Red Rooster was one of the first twenty-five businesses to receive a gaming license from Clark County's new License Board. On April 1, the club was permitted to operate one blackjack table and three slot machines.

But that July, the Red Rooster earned the dubious distinction of being the first new Clark County casino to lose its gaming license after federal agents finally raided the club and charged Morris with illegal liquor sales.

In January 1933, the county granted Morris' Red Rooster what it called a dance hall license. After Prohibition was repealed that year, the county agreed to grant it a license to serve only beer. The club burned to the ground in July 1933, but it reopened on the day before New Year's Eve in 1933. The Red Rooster remained popular throughout the 1930s and World War II.

Former movie actress Grace Hayes, who had starred in Hollywood films in the early 1930s, bought the club in 1947 and renamed it the Grace Hayes Lodge. By then, an "auto court" or motel called the Sans Souci had been added.

Flamingo operator and organized crime associate Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel reportedly frequented the club's lounge. Hayes soon changed the club's name back to the Red Rooster, sold the place in 1950, then purchased it back a year later.

Hayes sold the club, on the growing boulevard now known as the Las Vegas Strip, for good in 1953. New owners renovated and ran it under names such as the Hi-Ho and the Patio Club. In the late 1950s, the former club was transformed into the Sans Souci Hotel, which contained a 400-seat showroom that proved popular with visitors, showcasing mostly middlebrow performers and burlesque dance acts. But the Sans Souci frequently ran into financial trouble.

In 1963, a new hotel, The Castaways, was built at the site. It also suffered from a lack of business at first, but would survive on the Strip for more than a quarter century. Howard Hughes bought The Castaways in 1970. The hotel finally closed in 1987 to make way for The Mirage, which opened in 1989.

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