After struggling to transition to a cloud kitchen model, beloved Egyptian restaurant Pots in Las Vegas has closed. Three months ago, owner Iman Haggag closed the doors to her brick-and-mortar restaurant after her lease expired and relocated Pots into a 200-square-foot kitchen downtown. After finding herself unable to attract the same customer base she had at her previous location, Haggag tells Eater Vegas that she closed Pots for good on August 31.
Haggag opened Pots in February of 2018, at Rancho and Oakey Boulevards. The Egyptian restaurant soon became a reliable go-to for neighborhood vegetarians and vegans and a destination for tourists. Pots was Haggag’s first restaurant and she built the menu with self-taught recipes she developed to feed her family in Egypt. “Pots was my first everything,” says Haggag. “It’s my first employment, my first co-working, my first entrepreneurship experience. Everything.”
Shortly after opening at 1745 S. Rainbow Boulevard, and seeing that dishes like cauliflower shawarma, hummus, and falafel were becoming favorites, Haggag made her entire menu vegan. The menu included dishes like ful madamas — a stew of fava beans and spices, spreads like baba ganoush, and street food koshari with elbow pasta, black lentils, tomato sauce, and fried onions. Early in the pandemic, Haggag donated up to 50 bowls of Koshari a day to Las Vegas locals who were food insecure.
“When the pandemic hit, Iman was instrumental in being a part of the Las Vegas community and giving food to people who needed it,” says Diana Edelman, who runs the Vegans, Baby vegan dining website. “In terms of the plant-based community, there isn’t another Egyptian restaurant in town. It’s sad to see that cuisine no longer represented in Las Vegas. And it’s one of the only plant-based spots in town that isn’t relying on mock meats. It’s a loss for the whole community.”
Haggag says that when her lease ended in May, her landlord did not give her the option to renew. Running on a tight deadline, Haggag moved Pots into the Lucky 3 cloud kitchen at 333 W St. Louis Avenue.
“We needed a place we could just plug in and not wait to build up a restaurant,” says Haggag. “We don’t have the money to do that again, because we spent so much money on the first one. So it looked like my best option was to get into a ghost kitchen.”
The cloud kitchen downtown houses more than a dozen small restaurant brands that rent kitchen space within a large communal building. Customers can either order through a delivery app or pick up orders at the front desk. Haggag says that, at about $3,800 for rent, services, and utilities, she was paying about the same for her 200-square-foot kitchen at the ghost kitchen as she was previously for her restaurant space. She adds that while she thought being part of Lucky 3 would offer marketing leverage, she found that neither prospective customers nor her regulars knew where she was.
“I kind of dropped in sales to about a third of what I used to do, while I kept my people who have been working with me for quite some time,” says Haggag. “So we’ve been draining money for the last three months. Almost like a broken pipe.” With the restaurant closed, Haggag says she is focusing on her next project: a spice line that will put the flavors of Pots into her customers’ home kitchens.
“I’m glad that I came out on the bright side of things,” says Haggag. “I don’t owe anyone anything. People have been supportive and showed me love. I am grateful for it all.”