Las Vegas restaurant owner reflects on career as federal official tours
When Hideki Horiuchi moved from Tokyo to Las Vegas in 1997, he noticed something was missing.
Back home, he had enjoyed hanging out at the Izakayas – a kind of Japanese restaurant similar to a bar or pub. But in Las Vegas, it was all âsushi, sushi, sushi,â he said.
So without experience as a chef or restaurateur, he decided to open one.
It was September 10, 2001, to be exact. The next day’s attacks faded, because Horiuchi was so busy figuring out where to buy plastic straws and other essentials that he could barely focus on what was going on outside the walls of his restaurant.
A few months before Ibiza’s 20th anniversary, the restaurant welcomed a special guest on Sunday: Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the US Small Business Administration. She stopped as part of a trip across the country to meet with small businesses and to tout the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guzman, who will speak at the Economic Reservations Summit on Monday, said meeting with restaurateurs was important on his trip. She planned to visit more restaurants and host a roundtable with underserved communities during her visit to Las Vegas.
âWe know restaurants have been hit the hardest during COVID – often the first to close and the last to fully reopen – and now, as they try to position themselves for a recovery, we really need to make sure that ‘they have the capital they need and the resources they need, âshe said. “And the (Small Business Administration) is here to help them.”
Horiuchi said he was not sure Ichiza would survive the pandemic. The restaurant received PPP loans and managed to do so, but the challenges did not end.
He struggled to fill vacancies, like many business owners in Las Vegas. For the first time in nearly 20 years of service, the restaurant is now closed one day a week because there are not enough workers to fill the shifts.
But on Sunday, as the media and politicians packed his restaurant, Horiuchi was in high spirits. He first came to Las Vegas to study casino management at what is now the College of Southern Nevada. Decades later, his sudden career change went very well.
âIt was really a challenge,â he said. âI was about 30 years old, a whole new start. And I came here, like the other students.
After all the cameras were gone, he stopped and scanned the walls of his restaurant, adorned with additional menu items that have been added throughout his existence.
âI had a goal, after all,â he said.