Join the Party: These bars serve drinks and debauchery

Posted by on Sep 28th, 2011 and filed under Featured, Nightlife. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Visitors join the party at Rockhouse Bar and Nightclub's front bar which opens up on the Las Vegas Strip. Photo courtesy of Rockhouse.

Visitors join the party at Rockhouse Bar and Nightclub's front bar which opens up on the Las Vegas Strip. Photo courtesy of Rockhouse.

Las Vegas nightclubs provide a party you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re willing to drop a large enough pile of cash, you too can be treated like an A-list celebrity with a special VIP host catering to your every whim as a model server pours you drinks from whatever pricey bottle of spirits you prefer.

While a Vegas nightclub is something everyone – young and old, rich and poor – should experience at least once, it isn’t for everyone all the time.

Party bars, though, combine a stellar party, great drinks and unique décor – all at a nice price tag that could turn your night of waiting in lines outside the clubs into an unforgettable experience.

Vegas is full of wild bars and two more world-renowned party spots are on their way later this winter with the addition of Senor Frog’s at Treasure Island and Carlos’n Charlie’s at the Flamingo.

We’ve put together a list of some must-see party bars that will leave you reliving your experience on Facebook the next day as you struggle to remember all the fun you had.

Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub

Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub located in front of the Imperial Palace is an inauspicious venue whose under-the-radar popularity was almost created purposely by the staff.

“We try to show the 40,000 people that walk by every day a real high-energy, fun environment,” said Jonathan Fine, owner of Fine Entertainment, which owns Rockhouse and PBR Rock Bar.

“That’s what they’re kind of trained to do on the front. And as they grab the tourists and they talk to them and the tourists enter the patio area, they’re kind of engulfed in this energy.”

Most of those 40,000 people don’t even know that Rockhouse is there, one of the few bars and the only nightclub located directly on the Strip. The surprise makes for an interesting demographic that echoes a random sampling of world tourists, from American businessmen taking a break from a convention, to Star Wars fans, to bachelorette parties and the occasional porn star.

Fancy is not a word anyone would associate with Rockhouse. Full kegs are part of the décor, which also includes tire swings for the attractive staff to swing on, a steel cage, worn-down dance floor and a dance platform that every bachelorette party seems to find. And while no piece of Rockhouse would make sense in another nightclub, outside of the turntables and light system, it all makes this a party bar atmosphere not to be missed.

Rí Rá

Photo courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser.

It doesn't have to be St. Patrick's Day to get the party going at Rí Rá. Photo by Heidi Geldhauser.

The party always seems to be going on at Irish pubs. Rí Rá inside Mandalay Bay ensures that you won’t have a more authentic Irish pub experience even if you travel to Dublin. The difference between Rí Rá and many other Irish pubs is that others merely try to imitate the feel of a pub, while Rí Rá actually brought in Irish relics to create something that looks like it had to clear customs to enter the United States.

But while décor certainly goes a long way in building a great Irish pub, Ciaran Sheehan, who owns Rí Rá with childhood friend David Kelly, said that Irish people have a phrase for what makes their pubs so popular: Great craic. The term means fun, which Sheehan said is like an infectious spirit, when one person starts having fun it carries throughout the pub.

This concept is part of the reason that Rí Rá has become not just popular in Las Vegas, but also at its other 11 U.S. locations.

“You have to have, in my mind this is the most important thing, is people feel relaxed,” Sheehan said. “They may not be relaxed when they come in the door but if they feel they can let their hair down, within reason – they need to have respect for the venue and not destroy it – but if they feel that it’s somewhat their home away from home and they’re comfortable, then clearly they’ll stay longer.”

The at-home feeling comes easier when guests notice the different rooms that make Rí Rá unique. Each room has a different feel, including the main room with its authentic Victorian bar that was part of Foley’s in West Cork, Ireland during the 1880s.

No Irish pub would be complete without a good selection of beer and great Irish music and Rí Rá has both. More than 85 different bottled beers are available and serve as décor throughout the bar along with 17 more on tap, including Guinness, which every bartender is trained to pour perfectly. As for music, Irish bands play nightly, giving Rí Rá an even more authentic feel.

“It definitely adds a fresh and ever-changing atmosphere to the pub,” Sheehan said. “A lot of music venues, particularly Irish venues, will have a house band, especially because the Vegas customer changes so often that they can probably get away with that. But in our particular case we’re trying to showcase all things Irish, so for us an opportunity to showcase Irish talent in Las Vegas is fantastic and clearly because of the reputation of Las Vegas, Irish musicians want to showcase their talents there.”

Kahunaville and Rock & Rita’s

Welcome to the "World Famous Party Bar" - Kahunaville - with specialty drinks and amazing flair bartenders. Photo courtesy of Kahunaville.

Welcome to the "World Famous Party Bar" - Kahunaville - with specialty drinks and amazing flair bartenders. Photo courtesy of Kahunaville.

This may date you a little, but remember that movie “Cocktail,” where Tom Cruise was throwing around bottles of alcohol and serving up drinks in ways that you never imagined? In the last 20 years or so, flair bartending has elevated beyond the movie and become a mainstay at bars around the country and has inspired worldwide competitions.

It was the movie, though, that brought national attention to the drink-slinging style and inspired the original Kahunaville in Delaware that was later brought to Las Vegas in Kahunaville at Treasure Island and its sister bar, Rock & Rita’s at Circus Circus.

“Originally, probably like everybody else, was the movie ‘Cocktail,’” said Mark Green, one of the owners of Kahunaville and Rock & Rita’s, about what inspired him to work with flair bartenders. “After watching that movie, we had a big nightclub in Delaware where one of the guys started working at our bar, flipping bottles. People liked it and it was fun.”

That guy was taught by “Magic” Mike Werner, who instructed Tom Cruise for the making of “Cocktail.”

“Fun,” though, doesn’t really give flair bartending enough justice. The bartenders at Kahunaville and Rock & Rita’s transcend the typical role of a bartender and become a source of entertainment. It starts simply with a conversation and escalates into an eye-popping stage show where alcohol sales are actually stopped so everyone can catch the show.

Everything about Kahunaville and Rock & Rita’s screams party bar, from the island décor at Kahunaville to the hodgepodge at Rock & Rita’s, to the specialty drinks at both locations, including one that is served in a miniature toilet bowl.

“It looks like it’s spontaneous, a lot of it,” Green said. “But a lot of it actually took some thought. Especially with our flair shows. I mean they’re doing a lot of stuff that looks like it’s happening spontaneously but we kind of create that to happen with the music and stop the bar, we do certain things intentionally.”

Hogs & Heifers

Remember that movie where the shy, inspiring songwriter ended up dancing on a bar for a living, became a professional songwriter and fell in love with an Australian guy? “Coyote Ugly” was a lot of fiction but the truth behind the hit movie was that it was inspired by Hogs & Heifers in New York City. About the only difference is the movie was cleaned up to get a PG-13 rating, while the real version gets a hard R.

When you enter into Las Vegas’ version, located downtown, you know you’re in for a night of unadulterated fun when you walk by the wall near the photo booth and notice image after image of women showing more than smiles to the camera. Ladies are welcome – no, strongly encouraged – to dance on the bar and are immediately met with stickers to cover themselves should they decide to flash the crowd.

Bartenders bark at customers via bullhorns and offer snarky attitudes as part of their service. Where customers would walk out in other venues, the attitudes, shabby décor and wild time just add to the mystique of Hogs & Heifers.

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