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October 22, 2014

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Tattoo titan Mario Barth opens ultra salon at The Mirage

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Tom Donoghue/www.donoghuephotography.com

Mario Barth.

Mario Barth

Mario Barth. Launch slideshow »
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Tommy Lee and Mario Barth.

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Mario Barth of Starlight Tattoo at the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth at Mandalay Bay.

Tattoo mogul Mario Barth is simply known as King Ink, and with this weekend’s opening of his new super studio and nightclub in The Mirage, there’s no doubt that he is the royal atop the throne. This is no dingy strip-mall hideaway. It’s a palace perfect for a prince. The emperor is at home in his castle.

Before tonight’s VIP sneak preview and tomorrow’s gala party, Mario gave me an advance tour of the 4,000-square-foot venue that features marble flooring, lavish fabrics, customized chairs and extravagant chandeliers. His rock-and-roll-inspired finishes come complete with glass skulls that decorate the bar.

You simply cannot call it a tattoo shop. You have to call it a lifestyle tattoo studio and interactive lounge and bar that become an after-hours nightclub. It’s not even just a one-room operation. King Ink is the uniquely designed tattoo parlor operated by Mario and his team of America’s finest tattoo artists. For the first time in Las Vegas, enthusiasts will get the opportunity to book an appointment with Mario himself, thus skipping the typical two-year waiting list.

Then there’s the high-tech interactive luxury lounge and bar, plus the super-sized outdoor patio for relaxation and champagne, which by night will turn into an after-hours spot. The Light Group, which operates Jet opposite King Ink, plus The Bank in Bellagio and Haze at Aria, will manage Mario’s lounge, bar room and after-hours.

“It’s certainly the first of its kind,” Mario told me. “It marries cutting-edge tattoo fashion and lifestyle with the changing face of the Las Vegas nightlife scene.” The Mirage President Scott Sibella added, “Introducing Mario into The Mirage family is an absolute privilege for us. His energy, proven track record and reputation around the globe make this new venture a sure-fire hit.”

Don’t be at all surprised to see Mario’s celebrity fans, including Tommy Lee, Sylvester Stallone, Usher and Pamela Anderson, among his regular customers at King Ink. The Austrian artist first landed in America in 1995 and arrived in Las Vegas with Starlight Tattoo in Mandalay Bay in 2008.

Mario gave me a walk-about tour just three weeks ago as construction neared completion. He’d originally planned a New Year’s Eve opening but was hit with four months of construction and furnishing delays.

He said: “It’s a very high-end studio that turns into a club and then turns into an after-hours club. It’s a totally new concept. We ripped out the gift shop, the coffee shop, and it’s right next to valet parking. It’s a totally lifestyle-oriented place.

“During the day, it’s retail, it has music, deejays in it. The later the night goes, it turns into a lounge, then it turns into a small club, and then it turns into an after-hours. You party day and night and you get tattooed. We will have four stations for the best tattoo artists in America.

“It has become the sixth fastest-growing business in America. And currently there are about 20 million people getting a tattoo a year. There are about 18,000 registered tattoo shops in America, but probably only 25 that are really top of the line. Smaller shops are trying out of necessity to be better and cleaner. It’s definitely the artist that makes a store, but it is also how it is set up. It’s a cycle. If you have a very clean store and you have a very good professional store, then you are going to have professional artists.

“If you have a little dirty store, you are going to have a sh*tty artist. Well, what I think happens is the base or the foundation of the tattoo industry started to reorganize; it’s started to become higher elevated. It’s not a store on the side street anymore. I mean they are still out there, but instead of having 50 out there, there’s 40, and then 30, and then 20.

“I chose Vegas because it is in the limelight, and it’s the best vehicle to gain recognition for the people who really want to do it right. … We all look the same naked. To be individual, people started to decorate themselves to be different. … Some people get decorated with portraits of people, parents or lost ones. It’s just amazing.”

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.