A retro hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard is about to become a new hub for Las Vegas’s queer community. The owner of the downtown gay bar the Garden and host of the Strip’s biggest LGBTQ+ pool party is debuting Queen Las Vegas, a collection of connected spaces leased from a historic Las Vegas hotel and transformed into a bar and restaurant, nightclub, and block of themed hotel rooms that cater specifically to queer folks.
“It’s been my mission for many years, and my career, to focus on LGBTQ-inclusive food and beverage [spaces],” says Eduardo Cordova, the owner of Queen. ”I’ve been trying to create and develop an entertainment district for the LGBTQ community.” When it opens this fall, Queen will be home to 28 newly designed hotel rooms, a nightclub with local performing artists, and a 24-hour restaurant featuring a weekend drag brunch — and a space where Cordova says all visitors can feel safe, represented, and heard.
Cordova and his Q Group Hospitality are leasing the saloon, chapel, and event hall from the Thunderbird Boutique Hotel — a hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, north of the Strat, in an area commonly referred to as the Gateway District. The Thunderbird saloon is becoming the Queen restaurant and bar. The event hall is becoming the Queen nightclub. And the chapel will remain a chapel — now dedicated to hosting weddings for queer folks. While many of the property’s hotel rooms will remain under the Thunderbird, Cordova is taking the 28 rooms that are adjacent to the Queen venues and remodeling them, and moving the check-in process for those rooms to the Queen bar.
“The rooms are already operational. And they’re nice,” says Cordova. “But we’re doing a little gay touch.” Cordova says that if the model proves successful, the plan is to purchase the entire property outright.
Queen is far from the first space to take up the torch as a hub for Las Vegas’s gay community. The cluster of LGBTQ+ nightclubs and bars on Naples Street near UNLV has been referred to as the Fruit Loop — a name first used as an epithet before it was reclaimed by the local queer community — since the 1970s. Many of those gay bars are still open, including the Piranha Nightclub, Quadz, and Freezone. But Queen’s takeover of the Thunderbird is a sizable new entry to the Las Vegas queer scene. And it’s a new direction for the property — which had previously courted tourists who planned to split their time between the Strip and downtown areas.
Cordova says the Queen’s bar and restaurant will be “the crown jewel” of the property. The 24-hour bar and restaurant will offer a selection of light bites and dinner entrees, plus a weekend drag brunch, similar to the one hosted at the Garden. The bar and nightclub will serve a menu of signature cocktails. He describes the restaurant as a hybrid between a supper club and a drag bar with a giant disco ball serving as a DJ booth. DJ sets will perform nightly to accompany shows by the resident queens, Cordova says. And Cordova looked to his own community for staffing the restaurant. “I have pretty much everything in every color in the rainbow working for me and being represented here,” he says.
A tunnel of 50,000 LED lights will connect the restaurant to the Queen nightclub. On weekends, aerialists will sway from the club’s 25-foot-tall ceilings and dancers will perform on elevated platforms in front of a giant LED screen. “We’re giving the gays the Vegas nightclub experience that we don’t currently have,” says Cordova. Currently, he also hosts and books talent for Temptation Sundays at Luxor, the Las Vegas Strip’s only LGBTQ+ pool party — and the city’s closest approximation to the long-gone Krave nightclub. He anticipates double-booking celebrities and DJs to split their weekends between Queen and Temptation. Early next year, the plan is to put a bar in the chapel’s lobby so that visitors can bar-hop between the restaurant bar, club, and chapel.
The Thunderbird’s facade is getting a face-lift for Queen, with a coat of pink paint, gold accents, and animal prints. When Queen opens in September, Cordova plans to have drag queens performing on the sidewalk in front of the entrance, beckoning passersby in with music, a red carpet, and queer pride.
Stationing drag performers at the property’s entrance is more than just good scene-setting. In the wake of drag bans rippling across the country, Cordova says that representation is important in ensuring people in his community feel seen — and safe. He points to the LGBTQIA+ Center, located just a mile away from Queen. “They say ‘be whatever you wanted to see the most when you were growing up,’” says Cordova. “And for me, it was that mentorship and representation.” He hopes for Queen to grow into a gay entertainment district, where both locals and tourists are welcome to visit the resident drag artists, dine in the all-hours restaurant, and stay in the remodeled suites.
“I’m determined to make this the West Hollywood of Las Vegas,” Cordova says.