Under pressure

The economy, the closures, citations, allegations … the heat is on!

Pizza, $3 booze and nostalgia.


Red Room Saloon owners Rick Barcode and Mike Taing have had to bid goodbye to their bar.

Red Room Saloon owners Rick Barcode and Mike Taing have had to bid goodbye to their bar.

Carnage ... and the <em>Weekly</em>!

Carnage ... and the Weekly!

Wednesday, July 29, 12:50 a.m.

It should be said that I take no pleasure in reporting a venue closure or legal woe, no more so than if I were that unfortunate operator. I definitely do get a high from breaking news. But as with sex, after the act and the afterglow comes the inevitable crash.

At the stroke of midnight late Tuesday, I was still in my cubicle, and my brain had long since been turned to pumpkin puree. I can’t remember the last time I needed a drink so badly. In my line of work, I don’t need to “get away from it all” quite so often as, say, an accountant or a schoolteacher might. (Though I sometimes do need to get away from all the getting-away-from-it-all.) But after 12 straight hours of reporting on the seamy goings-on at Privé, Poetry’s relocation and the Red Room Saloon closure, my eyes were crossed along with all of my Ts.

The Red Room’s owners being longtime personal friends, that one hurt the most. So that was where I needed to go.

As a neighbor to the tiny gaming/industry/hipster bar I keep thinking I should have come in more often for one of Rupert’s Negronis, that maybe a few more cocktails might have kept the doors open. But no, I am assured, it was more than that.

According to co-owner Mike Taing, many other businesses on this stretch of West Sahara will be saying their own farewells soon, if they haven’t already. When he notified the company that owns the pool table and cigarette machine, Taing says he was informed that his was the sixth bar that day to call it quits.

When Taing and co-owner Rick Barcode opened the Red Room Saloon in March 2006, they didn’t even receive keys for the doors, so firm was their plan to be open 24/7/365. But in recent times, they’d had to start closing up. “A victim of our own success,” reported an upbeat Barcode, sipping at a Pabst Blue Ribbon he boasted stealing from himself. Red Room’s livelihood relied on daytime video poker. As costs for their beloved underground nightlife scene increased, and gaming decreased, they essentially starved internally.

Tonight the place was positively packed, looking like any Friday or Saturday night here, the crowd spilling into the parking lot, the bar humid with bodies and the smell of the four 30-inch pizzas the owners sprung for.

“And the police only came in once!” Taing said, picking plastic cups off the pool table. “It’s painful, pulling it all apart,” said Barcode. He plans to keep some of the bar’s artwork as souvenirs; Taing is taking the “Titty Timer” free shot clock.

Wanting to do my part to help drain the inventory I ordered a Widmer Hefewizen; a plastic cup already dangled over the Bud Light keg handle. Bartender/GM Erin Connelly reported being out of cranberry juice so my friend Heathen had to order a Vodka Whatever.

“In an hour and a half we’ll run out of every alcohol,” said Barcode proudly. After the closure, he’ll be focusing on his adult-entertainment industry aspirations, launching his website (tag line: “It’s not cheating if it’s online”) and splitting his time between Vegas and LA. Taing, too, will likely relocate to California to work his family businesses. I wasn’t nearly as chipper as Barcode and Taing, but I tried, for them.

Bartender/GM Erin Connelly gets a smooch from a fellow unemployed bartender.

Bartender/GM Erin Connelly gets a smooch from a fellow unemployed bartender.

So, is it me, or is it getting hot in here?

Since the watershed moment when the behemoth Pure nightclub opened, the pressure has been on for nightclubs to one-up each another on design, square-footage and cleavage. And when that became the norm, it was all about how tiny the place could be, how opulent or how exclusive exclusive could really be (the answer being, so exclusive no one knows about the place). And then, who has the most expensive drink, the most tricked-out cabanas, the hottest pool, restaurant or bathrooms even … It’s been a predominantly friendly fight to the top, only a few minor scuffles and the odd IRS raid.

But as the mountain narrows toward the summit, the air gets thin, and things can get … tricky. The pressure to be the best has become crippling, so much so that some VIP hosts and managers have leveraged themselves into immense debt for cars, suits, homes and women they cannot afford just to cut a dashing figure at the ropes. So much so that certain clubs would have to actually decide to conduct lawful, legal business, and worse still, that some individuals may find themselves doing things they would never have considered back in their hometowns just to make a buck and keep up with the Rhodeses.

As one friend put it last week in response to the announcement of a new low in nightlife marketing (Emmanuel Lewis?!), “Things are getting a bit desperate, eh?”


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