Will bingo, smoking and the steakhouse come back to Potawatomi?


It’s been well over two years since dauber-wearing patrons filled the bingo room at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

The casino suspended all operations on its sprawling Menomonee Valley property, including bingo, in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The Nest of Life bingo hall, located on the third floor of the casino and able to accommodate more than 1,300 players, remained closed even though many other casino operations have gradually resumed since the complete three-month closure in 2020.

Many long-time bingo fans who were loyal customers of the Potawatomi hall are increasingly concerned that bingo may never return, especially after table games resumed at the casino in November 2021, but bingo remained. absent. Those concerns were heightened last month when Potawatomi unveiled a $100 million renovation that will significantly alter the third floor – where bingo is located – but made no mention of gambling.

So, is bingo gone for good? Potawatomi management say that while plans to reopen bingo aren’t included in the renovation, they plan to bring it back eventually – although a short-term return seems unlikely, as they currently don’t have space for it.

“Bingo is a guest favorite and the game this business was founded on,” spokesman Ryan Amundson said. “We are hearing from our guests and are currently looking at a number of options to bring bingo back.” He noted that the casino does not have a specific schedule or bingo details to release at this time, “but I can tell you that the company is working diligently to bring this equipment back.”

A recent visit to the casino revealed little activity on the third floor, where patrons once flocked for seats in the bingo hall and other games. Rooms that once housed off-track betting and a poker room have been stripped, as has the site of the old sweet grass gift shop, all in preparation for the full-scale renovation. A link to bingo information on the Potawatomi website remains active, but indicates that the bingo facility is “currently closed”.

Photo by Visit Milwaukee

When the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino began to reopen in June 2020, there were some very notable changes. In addition to requiring customers to wear face masks — a measure that has since been lifted — Potawatomi has banned smoking, at least temporarily, throughout its 1.1 million square foot Menomonee Valley property.

Now, after two years of smoke-free operations, the ban is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon, if ever.

“We don’t see any changes on the horizon regarding our anti-smoking policy,” Amundson said.

A smoking ban is in place for all areas inside the Potawatomi facility. The casino has designated an outdoor area near the Northern Lights Theater for patrons who still wish to smoke.

Potawatomi was among several Wisconsin casinos to implement a smoking ban in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Smoking bans remain at most Wisconsin casinos, leaving only a few that allow patrons to light up. The Casino St. Croix Turtle Lake is among them, allowing smoking inside the establishment but not at table games or in the dining rooms.

When then-Gov. Jim Doyle signed Wisconsin’s Indoor Smoking Ban in 2009, tribal nations were exempt from provisions that made bars, restaurants and workplaces smoke-free.

It was thought that many tribal-run casinos would follow on their own, but that did not happen over the next decade as operators remained wary of what a ban would mean for businesses and feared negative reaction from customers.

The outbreak of COVID-19 caused a change of heart among many casino operators, including Potawatomi, who maintained smoking bans even after most other pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

Dream Dance Steakhouse; Photo by Visit Milwaukee

It’s official: Dream Dance Steakhouse, the flagship restaurant at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, will not reopen.

The upscale steakhouse, which underwent a major renovation in 2019, has been closed since March 2020. The pandemic has forced the temporary closure of all restaurants on the Canal Street property, but Dream Dance Steakhouse, as well as Bella Italianawhich served classic Italian dishes, never reopened.

Dream Dance opened in 2000 and was originally operated by Bartolotta Restaurant Group. The restaurant changed its name to Dream Dance Steak in 2009. It closed for renovations in June 2019 and resumed serving customers four months later in a renovated space on the first floor and with another name change to Dream Dance Steakhouse . COVID-19 again forced the restaurant to close less than six months later.

Bella Italiana opened in December 2016 in the third-floor space formerly occupied by Wild Earth Cucina.

“We are looking closely at all of our food and beverage offerings,” Amundson said. “We want to make sure these offerings are fresh, unique and that customers will be excited about.”

Amundson highlighted the casino’s recently announced partnership with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, musicians of legendary rock ‘n’ roll band KISS, who will open a Rock & beers restaurant under renovation.

“Other plans for other outlets, including an upscale restaurant or steakhouse in the same vein as Dream Dance, are in the works,” Amundson said.

A trio of other restaurants on the property – RuYithe Fire Pit Sports Bar and Grill and the Canal Street Cafe – resumed offering full service with seated service in August 2021 after being limited to take-out service for several months.




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