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Downtown Crusader: Ryan Doherty
This story is part of a series highlighting 50 intriguing alumni as part of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality’s 50th anniversary celebration.
When Boston-born Ryan Doherty came to UNLV as part of a college exchange program, his intention was to stay for one semester. Two decades later, the entrepreneur still proudly calls Las Vegas home.
“I ended up making a bunch of close friends right off the bat, so I just kept telling myself, ‘OK, one more semester,’” he says. “A lot of us weren’t from Vegas, so it was like we had a big family here when no one actually did.”
Doherty used the relationships he fortified in college to bolster his career, eventually teaming up with fellow Rebel and current business partner Justin Weniger.
“There’s a ton of equity in having a lot of friends and people you trust,” Doherty says. “Those connections I made at UNLV have stayed with me, and we continue those relationships by supporting each other’s businesses.”
Together, Doherty and Weniger own a media company, two bars, and half of the annual Life Is Beautiful festival. Supporters of revitalizing downtown Las Vegas, the duo centralized their businesses entirely around the Fremont East Entertainment District. Doherty is so devoted to downtown that he even keeps a part-time residence at the El Cortez when business calls for late nights.
“Every business downtown is technically competition in a way, but we’re also huge cheerleaders for each other,” he says. “It’s important for downtown to be a place where tourists make a stop on their tour of Vegas, and we’re getting to that point by working together.”
After two decades in the desert, the Rebel spark continues to guide Doherty and Weniger, who live with the mindset that “it’s now or never.”
“There’s been half a dozen times where we’ve just looked at each other and said, ‘If we’re going to bet everything, now is the time,’” Doherty says. “Some things work, and some things don’t. It’s all a roll of the dice, and that’s a bet we’re willing to take.”
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