Atomic Liquors may have shuttered Jan. 1, 2011, but this Friday, the iconic neon sign will light up again and the oldest liquor license in town will again serve up alcohol when the keys are handed over to new owners.
Downtown attorney Lance Johns, his brother Kent Johns, a commercial real estate broker salesman, and Derek Stonebarger plan to convert the 2,500-square-foot venue into an entertainment hub for artists with a planned December opening.
The building, originally constructed in 1945, was first home to Virginia’s, a cafe where customers watched atomic blasts while drinking atomic-themed cocktails.
The renovated Atomic Liquors will feature larger bathrooms, back-bar upgrades and an outdoor sitting area and beer garden. Décor will include museum-like dedicated spaces of the venue featuring Atomic Liquors history, retro Vegas art and more. Look for Rat Pack Corner, Smothers Brothers Alley, Barbra's Seat, Bugsy's Bar and Hangover Hideout.
The attached 3,000-square-foot mechanic’s garage will be converted into a space for live events, including local and national bands, while the parking space behind the bar will become the Atomic Drive-In Theater showing Atomic Test Site footage, movies and commercials of the era with talks of installing a theater on site.
In 1952, Virginia’s became Atomic Liquors and later received the first package liquor license and off-sales permit of Vegas in 1957. Since it opened, Joe and Stella Sobchik, 65-year residents of Las Vegas, owned the bar. The couple died three months apart in 2010.
This place is rich in history. Bugsy Siegel, Roy Rogers, The Rat Pack, Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Rod Serling are some of the bold-face names with ties to the place.
Several members of the Rat Pack including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, as well as comedians Tom and Dick Smothers spent late nights there after headlining shows on the Las Vegas Strip since the iconic bar was one of the few spots pouring drinks after hours. When Barbra Streisand was in town, she would play pool there.
Actor Roy Rogers spent so much time in the place that he used it as a location in his Westerns and television shows.
Atomic Liquors was immortalized by Martin Scorsese’s Casino, where it was the setting for the scene where Joe Pesci’s character uses a pen kill a man.
The Atomic Liquors sign even makes appearances in an episode of the Twilight Zone, The Hangover and Clint Eastwood’s 1977 classic The Gauntlet.
· Atomic Liquors Official Site
Atomic Liquors [Photo: Bruce S./Yelp]