Jesus is at Atomic Liquors. He’s in the office, in the back hallways and placed in a poem in the liquor room, guarded by a photo of the pope. Perhaps Joe and Stella Sobchik hung his image everywhere to look after the souls of the drinkers who bellied up to the bar over the decades, a place that now looks like a living museum: Phone numbers are tacked onto an office wall. A vintage painting hangs near the back door. Pull-tabs fill a glass cup behind the bar where a lone white lightbulb is mounted near a marker used to check the bills before they hit the till.
It’s as if the Sobchiks, who died in 2010, closed up one night and never came back in the morning.
“It’s a real gem. It’s such a unique situation that one owner would have this (since 1945) and not do anything,” says Derek Stonebarger of the bar at 917 E. Fremont Street. Along with brothers Lance and Kent Johns, Stonebarger bought the bar from the Sobchik’s son, Ron, and plans to open by the end of the year, keeping the vintage integrity of the notable dive with a storied history.
The antiquated power sockets and cords need to go. The popcorn ceiling needs to be painted. There will be a small art gallery near the back door, a few added amenities and movies playing on the building’s exterior (Stonebarger has three hours of atomic blast footage). But otherwise, it’s the same iconic watering hole it has always been, standing as homage to the past and a celebration of a new mentality where not everything is torn down, but preserved with its legendary tales and artifacts in tact. Welcome back, Atomic Liquors.