Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens, a world-renowned fine-dining restaurant and bar located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, has reopened with a completely vegan menu nearly 12 years after it officially closed.
Founded by the late, legendary pianist, singer and actor Liberace, Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens pays homage to international cuisine. Chefs from around the world create the perfect cuisine for show business royalty that is familiar to Liberace’s famous establishment. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Betty White, Michael Jackson and Walt Disney were among the restaurant’s famous diners.
And while Liberace’s original Tivoli Gardens iteration was by no means a vegan attraction, local entrepreneur Sacbe Melling has transformed the Vegas restaurant into a premier, plant-based destination.
Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens are being restored
Melling is no stranger to the Las Vegas dining scene. Restaurateur Pancho owns Vegan Cantina, a plant-based, Mexican restaurant located next door to the space originally occupied by Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens. Last fall, Melling officially took over Tivoli Gardens and began restoring the historic restaurant.
After careful, “conservation-oriented compensation,” Meling took Pancho’s Vegan Cantina to world-famous space, the Liberace Foundation reports. “My intention was always to keep the space as close as possible to what Liberace originally created,” Melling tells VegNews.
Original interior—open, brick walls in dining room; hand-carved wooden furniture at the wine bar; And a legendary piano bar surrounded by dim lighting and mirrored walls featuring Liberace’s song lyrics – all remain intact.
“Liberace fans can see the last and biggest project [the musician] started,” said Melling. “Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens is a futuristic time capsule of the 1980s, and we were able to recapture 90 percent of its glamour.”
Melling worked with the Liberace Foundation to ensure the restaurant’s rich history and legendary interior were properly preserved. To reflect the revitalization of the restaurant and the space’s new tenant, Pancho’s Vegan Cantina is now officially called “Pancho’s Vegan Cantina at Tivoli Gardens in Historic Liberec.”
Plant-based menu at Pancho’s Vegan Cantina in Tivoli Gardens in historic Liberec
Longtime fans of Pancho’s Vegan Cantina will be happy to know that the eatery’s Mexican menu isn’t undergoing drastic changes. Instead, Melling is focusing on incorporating new, internationally inspired vegan dishes in honor of Tivoli Gardens’ gourmet, global cuisine.
“We are creating international menu items to bring back some of the essence of Liberace,” shares the restaurant. “We will serve our regular menu, but host special events with international menus.”
“The idea is to bring international cuisine back to Tivoli Gardens in Liberec and feature different chefs,” he says. “As usual, [it will] Be 100 percent vegetarian.”
The event menu will feature global dishes such as French ratatouille, Italian sausage rigatoni, Mexican tamales and Norwegian dishes. chops (Flat meatballs are traditionally made from pork.)
Legacy of Liberace
Beyond incorporating globally inspired vegan fare, Melling is committed to ensuring Liberace’s legacy is felt throughout Pancho’s Vegan Cantina in historic Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens.
Melling plans to pay homage to Pancho’s original Mexican cuisine with the dignity of Liberace by displaying the iconic costume worn by the artist during his visit to the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.
In 1980, Melling shares, Liberace performed with the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico Ensemble in Mexico City. Liberace enjoyed the group’s performance so much, he took the group to Las Vegas where they sold out several shows together. The legendary pianist will invite the Mexican group to join him on a tour of the United States and Japan.
“The costumes used for that tour will be on display in the restaurant,” Melling said. “They were mariachi-style suits [made] in the style of Liberace.”
Keeping Liberace’s legacy alive is very important to Melling.
Although Liberace was a celebrated, world-renowned performer, his death was a source of controversy. In 1987, at the height of the AIDS epidemic—a time when autoimmune syndromes were widely misunderstood and those who became ill were cruelly ostracized—Liberes himself died of AIDS-related complications. The artist’s estate took extraordinary measures to conceal the cause of Liberace’s death, but the truth eventually came out.
Less than a week after the performer’s death, a press conference was held by the Riverside County Coroner, where AIDS was revealed as Liberace’s true cause of death. This fueled long-standing rumors about the artist’s sexuality.
“A few months before his death, Liberace was still selling out venues. He was extremely popular until AIDS [related complications] Killed him,” explained Melling.
“After his death, people revealed the cause of his death to the media,” he says. “In 1987, coming out of the closet was a death sentence. It was unforgivable to many.”
Mailings expressing displeasure at the response to Liberace’s death continued. Unlike other performers, Liberace did not undergo the formal dimming of lights that often occurs after the death of notable figures.
“On the Las Vegas Strip, when a performer dies, they turn off the lights for a minute […] For Liberace, not a second,” Melling said. “We’re bringing Liberace out of the shadows, but we’re doing it vegan.”