Rockhouse Bar & Nightclub touts itself as a bridge over the gap between dive bar and nightclub. That should say something about what you will find inside the space that also bridges the gap between Las Vegas Boulevard and the Imperial Palace: mayhem, outlandish behavior, and a motley cast of characters doing things you can be assured their parents, significant others or bosses would not be too pleased about.
Forget beer-fueled debauchery; insanity is what’s on tap nightly at Rockhouse.
Said one nightclub photographer as we surveyed the scene at Monday night’s grand opening (I know, I know; I’ll get to that in a sec), “places like this serve a purpose.” In fact, she’s surprised there isn't one in front of every casino. Why go in for expensive bottle service and pay for a VIP host’s new shoes?! If this is enough for you, here ya go!
Passing through the heavy steel doors into Rockhouse at 10 p.m. is like going back in time. Suddenly, it’s 1998 and I’m on spring break in Puerto Rico with 11 of my sorority sisters. All that’s missing is the tattooed braces-wearing beefcake I hooked up with for that week (think Sean Astin in 50 First Dates).
Balloons in clown colors line the VIP booths like a kid’s birthday party. Every pole and danceable surface is occupied by a Rockhouse server, go-go or barefoot yokel getting it on with someone she hasn’t been properly introduced to. DJ Infernos rock-tastic tunes and dark and strobe-y lighting make it difficult to pick out faces or hear names anyway. The rest of the crowd either mills about seeing what sort of trouble they can get up to or balances towering yard glasses on the tabletops which sport kegs instead of legs.
And it’s almost always packed. Costumes abound, as do bachelorettes in their best dress, smallest purse, highest heels and dumbest hat/tiara/sash. It’s smoky, thanks to a smattering of would-be cigar aficionados and it’s dirrrty—not in the unclean sense, but rather according to the Christina Aguilera definition: possessing naughty intentions.
Wild go-go gals and cocktail servers sprint 90 miles per hour through the crowd in every direction or stand in place and grind on security when they’re not needed. The vixen swinging with abandon on the tire swing dismounts her steed to dole out the shots of god-only-knows-what from a suspiciously unmarked bottle. Fourteen screens blaze with music videos drawing in a constant stream of thugs, frat boys, princesses, tramps, geeks and party fiends in this Vegas nightlife equivalent to a dragnet. From my perch within the wire bird cage go-go box, I spy on the very next table, where six ladies bedecked with bachelorette gear weigh their options with four plucky suitors, each with a light beer in one hand, a tri-color frozen drink in the other; on the table between them, a bottle of Grey Goose chills on ice along with three 72 oz beers.
Someone’s making a baby tonight.
Sure, I nearly got creamed by two taxicabs on the half-mile hike through the maze of ramps from self-parking to Rockhouse’s back door (I never could figure out how to go through the casino) and sure, Rockhouse will go down in history as the first and only club or bar I've ever met someone wearing Birkenstocks. And socks. But that was a very different time.
The Rockhouse opened in August of 2006, a collaboration between notorious, controversial funnyman Jeff Beacher and local entrepreneur Jonathan Fine, and was commemorated with a Paris Hilton CD release block party of sorts. Very shortly thereafter, the partnership ended. Beacher’s logo was peeled up off the dance floor and since that time, Fine—now a sole proprietor—has made myriad changes to the interior including the addition of the bird cage, tire-swing, keg service, the cessation of the keg service, a mechanical bull and the removal of the bull who now rests comfortably atop a fridge, watching the door.
Noting the irony of celebrating his joint’s grand opening just five months from what will be its three year anniversary, Fine levels with me: “We’re making up for lost time."
Loitering casually outside the doors to his own party, Fine seems more pleased with the turnout than he is interested in being exact on this matter. So, to that end, he will celebrate Rockhouse’s one-year anniversary on Monday, April 27, the two-year sometime in May or June and the three-year, oh, sometime in the vicinity of Rockhouse’s three-year anniversary. Maybe. Though Fine is tripping my every OCD wire with his disinterest in exactness, blasé is par for the course at the Rockhouse where everything is treated with a little playful irreverence.
"Everything we do is to make fun of something else," says Fine, citing for example the painted ceiling inside the foyer which mimics Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel scene—also found in the foyer outside Tao—only this time, Adam is not reaching to touch the hand of God but to toast the Almighty with his Heineken.
Moving successfully towards year three, it looks as though the Rockhouse’s claim to fame will continue to be Fine’s obsession with cultivating the best assortment of plastic yard paraphernalia in Vegas; his 72-ounce beer bottle and 88 oz guitar are the stuff of drinking legend, as well as “illegal in most states,” he points out proudly, “except for Louisiana. And Nevada.”