In Your Neighborhood: Eastside restaurant survives with home cooking and neighborly support

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Every neighborhood has a favorite haunt and for the people who live on the far eastside, it’s Sunrise Casablanca.

Generations of eastsiders have supported the bar and vice-versa.

“I find the people on the eastside much like the midwest, very accepting and when you’re in, you’re in,” said Mike Sullivan, owner of Sunrise Casablanca.

Photograph of the original Sunrise Casablanca.

Sullivan’s family has owned Sunrise Casablanca for 25 years, expanding from its humble beginnings as an eastside watering hole back in the 1950s. Las Vegans stick together through good times and bad and the pandemic was one of the worst.

“Oh, we were completely shut down. We didn’t have any revenue for three months,” Sullivan said.

The shutdown was a devastating blow for the young cooking couple who lease Casablanca’s kitchen. Ryan Whelan and Kelcie Alder were just a year into their new restaurant, catering and food truck business — Monti’s Smokehouse BBQ. Business was sizzling when the phone calls and emails started.

“Canceled, canceled, canceled, refund, cancel, cancel,” Alder said.

Every dollar they had was tied up in their cooking ventures.

“Our business partner told us, ‘dry your tears, pull your pants up and figure it out,'” Whelan said.

And that’s just what they did. They devised a to help feed neighborhood locals and keep their staff working. They reached out on a community Facebook page – Eastersiders Taking Action – offering weekly menus of affordable cooked meals.

Kelcie Alder and Ryan Whelan cooked homestyle meals during pandemic and sold them at cost.

“Think comfort food, blue plate special type stuff. Spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff, fish and chip dinners,” they said.

The meals were a delicious hit and word spread like a kitchen grease fire through Sunrise Manor.

“We had over a hundred orders the very first day and it didn’t slow down,” Alder said.

Mike Sullivan didn’t cook, but he helped where he could.

“He said, ‘Ryan, don’t worry about your rent. Kelcie, don’t worry about us. We’re here we’re doing this together. Let’s get through this,'” the couple said.

“I was happy to do it,” Sullivan said. “They’re just wonderful people. They give so much and expect so little in return.”

For nearly three months, cars lined up around the block for the daily specials. Customers often paid extra to make sure neighbors who weren’t working were able to eat.

“It was heartwarming. Everybody was so grateful,” Sullivan said.

“I never knew this type of community would have existed on this side of town. It’s a country town is what it is. It’s a way more old Vegas feel and neighbors are neighbors,” Alder said.

Monti’s fed people like that for about four months while Sunrise Casablanca was closed. And they did it at cost. Kelcie and Ryan say they could not have made it happen without Mike forgiving their rent.

They are about to open a wing business with Green Valley Grocery. The two are slammed again with catering gigs and haven’t had a day off since before February.

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