News that the Beauty Bar has been sold—to “Big Hoss” Corey Harrison of Pawn Stars fame and Darin Feinstein, co-owner of LA’s Viper Room—sent some shivers through the Vegas music scene last week. But it was hardly the sort of massive shock wave we’ve come to expect from a community that tends to react harshly to change, especially when a beloved hangout is involved.
That might have been because, unlike the Bunkhouse’s sale to Downtown Project last year, which resulted in that venue’s immediate closure, the ownership transfer from longtime operator Paul Devitt to Harrison and Feinstein (with Devitt retaining a 10 percent stake) might not alter anything significant for Beauty Bar, apart from upgrading its interior and sound system. Then again, expecting the new, high-profile owners to maintain the hipster hideout’s tradition of booking left-of-center acts like Shellac and STRFKR might be asking too much. Harrison recently tapped Social Distortion as his dream booking, after all.
Even if the new Beauty Bar is nothing like the old, however—and this might explain the relative calm with which Las Vegans greeted the news—it might not matter much. Five years ago, the mere possibility of losing the familiar space at 517 Fremont Street might have spurred talk of outright revolution, if not online petition. But any serious music fan in town will tell you, it’s not five years ago. The Bunkhouse is set to reopen later this summer, with a booking agenda said to be focused on rare Vegas gets. Backstage Bar & Billiards and Fremont Country Club have begun plugging indie artists like Sondre Lerche and Of Montreal into their schedules. And a few miles to the north, Brooklyn Bowl has become a hub of sonic exploration, where Spoon, Cut Copy and Foxygen share the calendar alongside more traditional rock offerings.
In other words, Las Vegas doesn’t seem in danger of suffering a post-Huntridge calamity should Beauty Bar alter its programming or undergo other radical changes under its new owners. The Fremont East spot that once held aloft the Valley’s independent-music torch almost single-handedly now has company—so much so as to keep a normally fidgety scene from freaking out this week.