Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas: businesses expect record number of visitors

The Lake Mead Marina on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Boulder City. Bruce Nelson, director of oper ...

Local businesses in Boulder City and at Lake Mead aren’t overly concerned that declining water levels will keep people away from the popular recreation spot.

“Lake Mead and boating and Memorial Day all kind of go together,” Bruce Nelson, director of operations at Lake Mead Marina, said earlier this week. “People like to recreate.”

Businesses are expecting record numbers throughout the long Memorial Day weekend even while Lake Mead hits record lows.

The waters at Lake Mead National Recreation Area are currently at approximately 1,050 feet, but that doesn’t seem to be deterring locals and out-of town visitors from coming out.

To ensure visitors have a safe time out on the water, the National Park Service is continuing to monitor the lake levels and will patrol all weekend.

Lake Mead officials, via social media, also have informed people about newly exposed shoreline being “dense and difficult to navigate,” warning visitors that under such conditions, “vehicles, vessels and people can get stuck.”

“As water levels go down, the park is seeing things come up in the lake: from sunken boats to natural rock formations,” warned the Lake Mead NPS Public Affairs Office. “Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

First big weekend of summer

On the shores of the lake, Lake Mead Marina has been preparing for this weekend, the unofficial kickoff for the summer season.

“We’re very busy before this,” Nelson said, “but it really is that first weekend of the year that people really want to get out, enjoy their family and a long weekend.”

Boating is still a safe activity on Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the country, but with water in the reservoir fluctuating, boaters are advised to proceed with caution when navigating low waters.

“You’ll see that Lake Mead is a huge lake … underneath [the marina] right now is 40 feet of water,” said Nelson on the size of the Lake. “The end of our dock is 100 feet, so, you know, it’s a huge reservoir.”

Nelson sees the biggest challenge this Memorial Day season being the launch ramps. The only open launch ramp, Hemenway Harbor, is right next to Lake Mead Marina. That means the marina expects higher levels of business this weekend than any other Memorial Day weekend.

“The Park Service has done an absolutely phenomenal job and making it serviceable,” said Nelson on the condition of the singular launch ramp. “I would recommend people come and launch early and come pick up their boat a little later.”

With just one launch ramp open, people should expect wait times of up to three hours, he noted.

The other launch ramps — Callville Bay, Echo Bay, Boulder Harbor, Temple Bar and South Cove — are closed due to low water levels and muddy road conditions.

Will Hayes, manager for sales and service operations at the marina, anticipates a bump in business because of the proximity of the launch ramp.

“Between the two marinas, Lake Mead Marina and Las Vegas Boat Harbor, we have approximately 1,600 slips; we’re at 99.9 percent occupancy,” said Will Hayes, manager for sales and service operations at the marina. “Probably 60 to 80 boats (will) be here.”

Both Hayes and Nelson said they hope customers practice caution when boating at all times and exercise patience with the staff as they deal with high levels of people.

In Boulder City, the streets are lined with U.S. flags and local business owners are showing their patriotic colors in their windows for Memorial Day, which honors all military members who died while serving in U.S. forces.

The small city is home to multiple events commemorating Memorial Day, including an annual ceremony at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 1900 Veterans Memorial Drive. Gov. Steve Sisolak will speak at the event, held annually by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

Boost for Boulder City

Boulder City also will see packed streets throughout the long weekend as visitors stop by on their way to Lake Mead.

The Coffee Cup, a Boulder City restaurant hotspot, expects a large influx of visitors and has been gearing up for weeks.

“It’s one of our busiest weekends of the year … we just increase our food orders, we increase our staff,” said Carri Stevens, co-owner along with her two adult children, Lindsay Stevens and Terry Stevens.

The Coffee Cup brings in more staff and increases its food orders to handle the increased numbers of customers.

“It kind of evens out because you got more food, but then you’ve got to have more payroll,” said Carri Stevens. “All the [food] prices have been going up, too.”

Tara Bertoli, owner of Boulder City Co. Store, a coffee shop and apparel store, said she’s also anticipating strong business over the weekend.

“It’s like a destination town. So all of a sudden, it’s jam packed, and then it’s nothing, and then it’s jam packed. We’re kind of used to that,” said Bertoli, whose store is decked out with red, white and blue decorations, and offers Uncle Sam T-shirts.

Along with the Fourth of July, Memorial Day is one of the busiest weekends for her store. But, like the Coffee Cup, she cited the extra operating costs over such big weekends.

“Labor versus sales is always a thing because I do have to have an extra two people per shift during the big weekends,” Bertoli said. “’I’m the only store downtown that doesn’t serve alcohol, which I would make a hell of a lot more money if I did sell alcohol.”

For the Hoover Dam Hotel, the holiday weekend is important but isn’t much different from a normal weekend because the hotel is always full.

“Our hotel is booked every weekend, all year. So, we really don’t have to do anything here at the hotel for Memorial Day weekend,” said Roger Shoaff, general manager for the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, the organization that owns the hotel and museum.

Emerson Drewes can be reached at edrewes@reviewjournal.com or via Twitter @EmersonDrewes.