917 Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas, while only just over 100 years old, is a city with tremendous history, even if much of that is just personal history from its many visitors. Whether it be the early years with Bugsy Seigel and other mob types, Howard Hughes’s era, followed by Sinatra, and the Rat Pack, or your own personal “Hangover” moments, anyone who has been there has memories, and some history to share.
Regrettably, it has also become a city, that while it acknowledges its history, has let vast amounts of it be dismantled or destroyed for new development.
Fortunately, not all of the good old places have been torn down or completely changed. Atomic Liquors began life on Fremont Street in 1945 in the form of Virginia’s Cafe, a small place mostly serving travelers who stopped at the owners’ next door gas station, and local hotel employees. This continued until 1950 when it was decided to convert it into a liquor store, the very first in Las Vegas ( I hate to think what the number must be today). Shortly after, they purchased the ‘pouring’ license from a nearby casino lounge, and created a new category, with Las Vegas’s first ‘tavern’ license.
In 1951, the federal government began the testing of nuclear bombs in the not distant Nevada desert. Since Fremont St. was the northernmost developed part of Las Vegas at that time, the tavern had a perfect view of the tests, and guests would regularly go up onto the roof and enjoy the view of this rather powerful entertainment; hence the name, Atomic Liquors.
The outside still sports the original neon signage from its early days, and gives the appearance of still being a package store. An outside patio has been added in recent years to handle the higher business periods. Inside has the warmth and coziness of a neighborhood bar with plenty of seats at the bar; tables, chairs, and padded benches add to the charm. The staff is very cordial and friendly, and highly knowledgeable whether it be about craft beers, spirits, or cocktails.
Atomic Liquors has a strong craft beer program, which is regularly changing and evolving. Their selection of whiskies is quite extensive, and includes many special expressions outside of just the traditional. They frequently hold special events such as tap takeovers, and special parties that can include brew masters and master distillers from various breweries and distilleries, both separately and together.
The bar is an “L” shape, with the longer leg running down the left hand side, which is where you will find the bulk of their whiskey offerings. You will find a very wide, and deep selection of whiskies of all varieties. The staff can help with finding just the right selection for your personal taste or what might work best in a particular drink.
On that same wall, be certain to check out “The World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Beer”, as decreed by the Brew Dogs who brewed it in their second season during an episode in Las Vegas. An auction was held at the end of the episode with Robin Leach, as auctioneer. It was finally purchased by a group of staff members for display in the bar.
One sure way to know if a bar is good is to find out not only where the locals go, but more importantly where the bartenders from the area go. Atomic Liquors is pretty consistently the first name that you hear out of the industry folks and, especially in a town as industry-focused as Las Vegas, that says a lot.
The list of famous guests is far too long for here, but what makes the Atomic great is that you are just as welcome, and will be as well treated as any of the many notables who have graced their doorstep. So order a dram or maybe a Hunter S. Mash, named after Hunter S. Thompson who is rumored to have spent some time there, and relax, and imagine that he or Sinatra or any of the lengthy list of notables are sitting with you, discussing the issues of the day or even just the weather. Of course, at Atomic Liquors it could actually be a living celebrity there next to you, and now you have just made more Vegas history.
Monday: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
Tuesday: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
Wednesday: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
Thursday: 2:00 pm – 3:00 am
Friday: 2:00 pm – 4:00 am
Saturday:12:00 pm – 4:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
“I feel bad for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
~ Frank Sinatra