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December 19, 2014

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The thrill of the chill at Minus5

The Mandalay Bay bar is both hot and… not

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Minus5 Ice Lounge has been open at Mandalay Bay for two years now, but it had never even occurred to me to have a drink there. Even though I hate the heat, the all-ice bar seemed like a touristy thing, a place that, as a local, I would never consider going.

Turns out there’s an essential flaw in that thinking: Tourist draws become tourist draws because they’re fun.

The outdoor temperature is nearing 90 the day a friend and I fork over $25 each, which includes a drink and 15 minutes in the all-ice environment. We stash our iPhones in a locker, pull on parkas, and after a moment in an intermediate space like a sci-fi airlock, we step into the frosty air. Twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit, to be precise.

Click to enlarge photo

Holly Madison at Minus 5 Lounge in Mandalay Bay on April 13, 2010.

I immediately feel … festive. Maybe it’s the vestigial thrill of the chill for this Buffalo native. Maybe it’s the Christmas-y inner glow of pastel-hued lights on icicles. Maybe its the martini I enjoyed earlier at another ice bar (Red Square, also at Mandalay). But I’m suddenly suffused with an almost childlike happiness.

Club Guide

Minus5 Ice Lounge
Inside Mandalay Place, 632-7714.

At the bar—made, like all the furnishings and artwork, of amazingly clear ice—I order a vodka on the rocks. “In the rocks?” asks bartender Shelley, eyebrow raised. Because, of course, my cup, too, is made of ice.

Shelley’s smirk is not unkind—she’s seen and heard it all before. She says the frosty environment leads to several entirely predictable human behaviors.

Joining us in the lounge are a dozen members of a black sorority, a pre-concert trio of Kenny Chesney fans and a woman who pulled a parka and booties over her Corona miniskirt and flip-flops.

“They’ll all be in their underwear soon,” Shelley notes. And sure enough, it’s a matter of moments before the cowboy-hatted Chesneyites are down to their boxers and briefs, posing for pictures.

Another almost automatic behavior is licking the furniture. It’s irresistible, really. Shelley assures me that my tongue wouldn’t stick to anything, a la A Christmas Story. So I do, starting safe with a window and moving on to French-kissing the life-sized Elvis statue. I enjoy it—I think Elvis did, too—until my friend reminds me of how many tourist tongues have lingered on that same spot.

Minus5 is opening another location soon at Monte Carlo, replacing the Lance Burton magic boutique. Don’t cheat yourself out of this odd treat—I plan to go at least once a month during the summer swelter.

Best of all, you can eat your glass.

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