“Dear Las Vegas restaurant owners: I realize we’ve been in a recession recently (and to some of us, it feels like we’re still in one, regardless of what economists say), and everyone’s trying to save money any way they can, but you’ve been a little stingy with wattage for a lot longer than that. I totally understand the desire to create a romantic ambience with dim lighting. And nobody wants to feel like they’re eating dinner under a spotlight. But there’s a difference between dim mood lighting and a restaurant so dark you need to wear a headlamp to read the menu or find your way to the ladies’ room. Please turn up the lights a little. Love, The Vegas Solo.”
For awhile, I thought it was just me. After all, I am nightblind. I can’t drive at night, and I often bring a flashlight with me so I can see to walk home from the bus stop. But during my last trip to Las Vegas, I realized it’s not me. Restaurants are just too damn dark. I had dinner very late one night at Margaritaville. No matter how long I stared at the menu, I couldn’t read it. Naturally, I had forgotten to bring my pocket flashlight with me. I finally had to order from memory a Cheeseburger in Paradise and a Landshark Lager. While I waited for my food, I strained my eyes trying to people-watch and noticed a young man at the next table whip out a cigarette lighter and hold it up so the woman with him could read her menu. Later, when my check came, all I could see was a greyish rectangle of paper on the table. I couldn’t see what the total charges were, or even where to sign it. I hope my tip was sufficient and I hope I entered it in the correct place on the slip, but I have no idea.
During the same trip, I had dinner one night at First Food and Bar at the Palazzo. Again, it was ridiculously dark in there. I sat at the bar, thinking surely there would be enough light there, since presumably the bartenders need to be able to see to mix drinks. But no. After staring at the menu for a couple of minutes, hoping it would come into focus, I had to admit defeat. Humiliated, I asked the bartender if she had a flashlight. God bless her, she actually did look for one behind the bar, but couldn’t find one. She had to tell me what was on the menu so I could order. But naturally, I had no idea what the prices were for any of the things I was ordering. (Hey, wait a minute. . . . Maybe that’s why Vegas restaurants are so dark.)
There’s a great thread on Chowhound from a few years ago about this–not just about Las Vegas restaurants, but restaurants in general being so dark you can’t read your menu. One poster, Tom Porc, said “I once used the candle to read my menu and accidentally set my menu on fire. Fortunately, it was so dark no one noticed.” Ha!
Which raises another question for me: Doesn’t the darkness pose a liability issue for the restaurant? If it’s so dark a customer trips and falls and hurt himself, couldn’t he sue? I would think that would be of concern to restaurant owners. I just wonder how the restaurant monitors darkness levels and determines if it’s too bright, too dark, or just right? How many customers do they need to see using penlights or candles to read the menu before they realize, “Hey, maybe we should raise the light level a notch?”
What do you think? Have you had an experience (in Vegas or elsewhere) where the restaurant was just too dark for comfort? How did you deal with it?