The local legend behind the preeminent Las Vegas dive bar the Double Down Saloon and the tiki bar Frankie’s Tiki Room has opened a new drinking destination inside the Punk Rock Museum. While P Moss’s new bar, called the Triple Down, isn’t quite as divey as his other haunts, it functions as a familiar type of space where punk rock fans and musicians can throw back shots with a PBR chaser and reminisce over the last 45 years of punk.
The Punk Rock Museum, where the bar is located, has been years in the making for the stars who founded it, donated old merch and instruments to its display cases, and now lead tours through the exhibitions. After meandering through the museum, past the tattoo parlor, and through the chapel, tourists are dropped off inside the Triple Down. The bar is small and sparse, with black walls, crammed seating, and a limited menu of drinks. “I’m not going to call the Triple Down a dive bar, simply because a dive bar isn’t something you can just build,” says Moss. “A dive bar is something that has to go through decades of abuse” — like the 30-year-old Double Down, Moss says. “It’s had the shit kicked out of it.”
The Triple Down offers a no-frills selection of canned beers (plenty of PBR) and hard liquor. Tabletop menus list exactly three items — two of which are straight shots and beer. The funniest item is the Fletcher ($14), named for Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise. It’s a rum and coke in a Pringle’s can — the chips come poured out on a plate — just like Dragge used to drink it. “People are going to want to take a picture of themselves holding this stupid fucking Pringles can full of booze and drinking it,” says Moss. “It’s fun.”
During Saturday’s opening, punk rock legends led groups through the exhibitions for the first time. Don Bolles of the Germs paused his tour every few minutes to point out something in a display case and remark, “I think I used to own that phonebook and it was stolen from me” or “I thought about wearing that today but I couldn’t get it out of the case soon enough.” The exhibition, which is in a two-story, 12,000-square-foot space next to the Little Darlings strip club is laid out mostly chronologically, first introducing the 1970s New York scene and ending with more contemporary acts on the second floor.
The idea for the Punk Rock Museum at 1422 Western Avenue in downtown Las Vegas originated more than two years ago when “Fat” Mike Burkett first conceptualized a punk rock shop on Main Street. The idea evolved to include old artifacts from legendary bands for customers to look at while they shopped. “I thought, that’s way cooler than just selling shit,” says Burkett. “And we just kept hiring more people, we got investors, too. And now the Punk Rock Collective is about 16 of us.” Getting artifacts for the museum was easy. Burkett, the bassist and lead vocalist for NOFX, put out a call and T-shirts, fliers, combat boots, and electric guitars started flying in. Sure, loads of memorabilia are safely tucked away behind glass. But a lot of the museum’s collection is meant to be touched.
There’s a jam band room where visitors can pick up a musician’s guitar — like Burkett’s — or sit down at a keyboard. Two rows of leather vests hang on a wall, tethered with a chain, but fully within reach of being handled or even tried on. Upstairs is a faithful recreation of the garage belonging to the Southern California punk band Pennywise, complete with the drum kit, stack of amplifiers, and posters on the walls. A photo showing Kurt Cobain sitting on a black couch hangs directly above said couch. “Go ahead and sit on it and take a picture on it,” says Burkett.
Moss estimates that the relationship between punk rock and dive bars got its start in New York City in 1975 when up-and-coming bands were scrambling for a room to play in and found their way into Hilly Kristal’s CBGB. “It was a piece of shit,” says Moss. “He said, ‘Fine, it’s not going to work but I’ll let you play.’ And that obviously worked out well for the whole genre.”
Many of the punk rockers that are celebrated within the museum have frequented the Double Down before. Burkett even performed there on visits to Las Vegas. He’s no stranger to the city, having also performed at the Punk Rock Bowling festival — for which he received criticism for his show after the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting, when he remarked on-stage, “That sucked. But at least they were country fans and not punk rock fans.” With his closeness to the punk rock community, Moss says it was a given he would co-manage the museum’s bar.
Both Moss and Burkett hope that the bar will become a haunt among punk rock fans and rock stars alike — even if it is ultimately a museum bar. “But it’s a comfortable bar where people can come hang out, listen to good music, and get loaded,” says Moss. The big question is if the Triple Down will serve shots of the Ass Juice — the Double Down’s famed shot that one drinks directly out of a tiny toilet. “No,” says Moss. It’s a trademark issue. And if that upsets you, head up to the jam room and scream about it.