Tim Haughinberry has been a part of Las Vegas hospitality for 30 years, so he’s seen the industry’s ups and downs, changes and growth. The founder and CEO of unique national marketing and consulting firm Back Bar USA worked in tons of restaurants and bars when he first arrived from Southern California, became Southern Wine & Spirits’ youngest manager, emerged as a pioneering force in cigar distribution during the boom of the early 2000s and launched the Montecristo rum brand—all before founding Back Bar.
“I always loved the energy in Las Vegas, and thought I would own my own casino one day when I first got here,” says Haughinberry, who came to town to attend UNLV. He says he called the busiest restaurant in town to ask for a job. “They put the GM on the phone, and I said I heard this was the busiest restaurant in town and I wanted to come to work. He made me a busboy. That busiest restaurant was TGI Friday’s on Flamingo.”
Clearly, Vegas hospitality has changed a lot since then, and Haughinberry has stayed on top of those changes to grow his business. Back Bar is a consulting company as well as a third-party marketing company, promoting and executing liquor-based events all over the country for casinos, restaurants, bars and other brands. It also operates its own successful events, including the annual For the Love of Cocktails series.
“In my business when the economy is good we drink more expensive, and when it’s bad we just drink more. There’s a constant flow of booze and business in this city and every American city,” Haughinberry says. “As far as trends, I think we’ve seen the peak of mixology, where if you don’t have a strong program people [notice]. People are going more loungey, back to an old pub style, back to more communication in bars. That’s why so many restaurant lounges are so busy. And nightlife is popular in Las Vegas but as I travel it seems less popular elsewhere. What is popular is a well-educated waitstaff in the kitchen and bar like we’ve never seen before.”