Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2014

Currently: 92° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Columnist Jerry Fink: At Double Down, Vegas takes a dive

Jerry Fink's lounge column appears on Fridays. Reach him at [email protected] at (702) 259-4058.

Double Down Saloon is just an upchuck south of the Hard Rock on Paradise Road.

It's dark, it's loud, it's edgy, its motto is, "You puke, you clean" and it's one of the best dives in the United States, according to Stuff and Playboy magazines.

"It's a genuinely cool place," said Stuff deputy editor Mark Remy.

The national publication for men conducted a readership poll for the second year in a row to find the best dives in the country, and the Double Down made the top 20 list that appears in the January 2003 issue.

"There are three criteria to judging a true dive," Remy said during a telephone interview from his New York office. "It has to be slightly grimy, but in a good way, and slightly dark and serious, but not self-consciously so. And it has be slightly dangerous.

"Those three things plus good cheap beer and a room full of people make for a great dive."

The Double Down knocked it out of the park on all of the standards set by Stuff.

The bar has a pool table, naturally, which on rare occasions has served as a bed for those intoxicated by love and Ass Juice (the name of the club's house drink).

While Gilley's and other bars feature mechanical bulls, the Double Down has a mechanical horse similar to those found outside of supermarkets -- only this mount isn't for children.

The walls and tables are covered with paintings created by local aspiring artists; the floor is wood and the juke box is full of music you won't find on the radio -- punk, ska, surf, rockabilly, garage.

The Double Down is intimate, with enough room for about 130 patrons.

Customers might be students, models, bikers, corporate executives or anyone else from the rich fabric of society -- all rubbing elbows and butts in the noisy, smoke-filled den that is busiest on Friday and Saturday nights.

"Every bar in this town is pretty much exactly the same, with the same 15 slot machines," says owner P (initial only; no period) Moss. "They're boring. When I opened the Double Down, I wanted a place that wasn't boring. I wanted a bar that was different and interesting, a place where you could go to escape from the bad day you had and from the mundane life that you have."

More home runs.

Moss' formula has worked beyond his dreams. Double Down celebrated its 10th anniversary on Dec. 2. Besides being applauded by Stuff, in November Playboy.com chose Double Down as its Bar of the Month.

Location is important to the success of any business, especially bars.

"In the beginning, everyone said this location was horrible," Moss said.

But that was before the arrival of the Hard Rock Hotel and Club Paradise.

Now, Moss seems like Nostradamus.

"I didn't know they were going to build the Hard Rock Hotel or Club Paradise," he said. "They have helped us tremendously, but just being a couple of blocks off the Strip is great."

Moss was in Los Angeles, earning a living as a screenwriter, when he decided he wanted to own a bar in Vegas. He says his expertise comes from having sat in bars most of his life.

"That's where I got the schooling to open this joint," he said.

Moss is thinking about franchising Double Down.

"I had deals in Nashville and San Francisco that fell through," he said. "A place so unique as this, you don't just want to turn the idea over to somebody else. They could drop the ball, screw it up and that reflects on me and the reputation of this place."

And he doesn't want to become another PT's Pub chain, with clubs all over town.

"I don't think there's enough business to go around to support another place like this in Las Vegas," Moss aid. "I would just be stealing our own customers. In Las Vegas, there will be only one. But if the right opportunity came along, we could open another somewhere else."

Moss won't make the mistake of expanding his saloon, as some places do when they become successful -- and then they go belly-up.

"It's just the right size," Moss said. "There's no need to grow. It's a dive bar, and I say that proudly."

Lounging around

Art Vargas, a dynamic entertainer who is proud of his lounge roots, will perform his new show "Vargas and the Swank Set" at Bally's Indigo Lounge from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. Today, Saturday, Dec. 27 and Dec. 28.

John Earl & The Boogey Man Band have left the building -- that would be the Memphis Barbecue Blues Room at the Santa Fe Station. John Earl is at The Orleans tonight and Saturday from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.

The "Our Way" tribute to the Rat Pack, formerly at Tropicana, opens in the Westward Ho showroom Jan. 22. Gary Anthony, the Frank Sinatra of the group, will be Sinatra's body double in a commercial for the NBA game that will begin airing on Christmas Day.

The lounge at Ellis Island is becoming a radio studio Saturdays at 1 p.m. for Sandy Zimmerman's "Las Vegas Today" program. The general public is invited to the lounge/studio to watch Zimmerman talk to celebrity guests, whose interviews will be taped for broadcast on KLAV AM-1230 Mondays at 11 p.m. The first guest on Dec. 28 will be singer/impressionist Bob Anderson, who appears at Stardust. Future guests will include the cast of the "Tournament of Kings" (Excalibur) and Dr. Scott Lewis, comedian hypnotist (Riviera).

More than 120 fans of Frank Sinatra turned out for the late crooner's birthday, celebrated Dec. 12 at Fellini's Restaurant on West Charleston Boulevard. It was the first fund-raising event for The Cast Inc., a charitable organization whose members are part of the local entertainment community. Founder Nelson Sardelli said the luncheon was so successful people were turned away.

Folks are getting into the spirit of the season. Larry Taylor's 15th annual "Christmas Ball" at the Gold Coast Tuesday night was one of the best ever, with the ballroom filled to capacity with dancers in tuxedos and evening gowns and swinging to waltzes, polkas, rock 'n' roll and Latin sounds.