Will Bingo, Smoking, Steakhouse Return to Potawatomi? (2024)

It’s been well over two years since dauber-carrying patrons have packed the bingo hall 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 seating more than 1,300 players, has remained closed even as many of the casino’s other operations have gradually resumed since the three-month complete shutdown in 2020.

Many longtime bingo enthusiasts who had been loyal patrons at Potawatomi’s hall have been growing increasingly fearful that bingo won’t ever return, especially after table games resumed at the casino in November 2021 but bingo remained absent. Those worries deepened 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 the gambling game.

So is bingo is gone for good? Potawatomi’s management says that although plans to reopen bingo are not included in the renovation, they do plan to bring it back eventually – though a near-term return seems unlikely, since they don’t currently have a space for it.

“Bingo is a guest favorite and the game on which this business was founded,” spokesman Ryan Amundson said. “We hear our guests and are currently looking at a number of options to bring back bingo.” He noted that the casino doesn’t have a specific timeline or details concerning bingo to release at this time, “but I can tell you that the business is working diligently to bring this amenity back.”

A recent visit to the casino revealed little activity on the third floor, where patrons once flocked for spots in the bingo hall and other gaming action. Rooms that once housed off-track betting and a poker room have been stripped bare, as has the site of the former Sweet Grass gift shop, all in preparation for the large-scale renovation. A link for bingo information on Potawatomi’s website remains active but states that the bingo facility is “currently closed.”

When Potawatomi Hotel & Casino began to reopen in June 2020, there were a few highly noticeable changes. In addition to requiring patrons to wear face masks – a measure that has since been lifted – Potawatomi banned smoking, at least temporarily, inside its entire 1.1 million-square-foot Menomonee Valley property.

Now, after two years of smoke-free operations, it’s unlikely the ban will be lifted anytime soon, if ever.

“We see no change on the horizon regarding our smoking policy,” Amundson said.

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

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

When then-Gov. Jim Doyle signed Wisconsin’s indoor smoking ban into law in 2009, tribal nations were exempt from provisions that made bars, restaurants and workplaces smoke-free.

It was believed that many of the tribal-run casinos would follow suit on their own, but that didn’t happen in the ensuing decade as operators remained circ*mspect about what a ban would mean for business and fearing a negative reaction from patrons.

The onset of the COVID-19 caused a change of heart for many casino operators, including Potawatomi, which have kept smoking bans in place even after most other pandemic-driven restrictions have been lifted.

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

The high-end steakhouse, which underwent a major renovation in 2019, has been closed for business since March 2020. The pandemic forced the temporary closure of all the restaurants on the Canal Street property, but Dream Dance Steakhouse, along with Bella Italiana, which served classic Italian fare, never reopened.

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

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

“We’re taking a close look at all of our food and beverage offerings,” Amundson said. “We want to make sure those offerings are fresh, unique and something guests will get excited about.”

Amundson pointed to the casino’s recently announced partnership with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, musicians from the legendary rock ’n’ roll band KISS, who will open a Rock & Brews restaurant as part of the renovation.

“Further plans for other outlets, including a higher-end restaurant or steakhouse in the same vein as Dream Dance, are being worked on,” Amundson said.

A trio of other eateries on the property – RuYi, the Fire Pit Sports Bar & Grill and the Canal Street Café – began offering full sit-down service again in August 2021 after being limited to carryout service for several months.

Will Bingo, Smoking, Steakhouse Return to Potawatomi? (2024)
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