Finally seeing green?
Neonopolis never says die
Thu, Nov 6, 2008 (midnight)
Photo: Jacob Kepler
Oscar Goodman, Hamlet and a Trekkie walk into a bar … It hasn’t happened yet, but could be possible in the near future at the Wet Ultra Lounge & Bar on Fremont Street. New tenants are finally moving into Neonopolis—plagued by controversy and management issues since opening in 2002—and the complex may finally be turning around. In addition to Wet, new restaurants are slated to open, plus a Telemundo broadcasting studio on the third floor. Also, Auditoriums 12, 13 and 14 inside the Galaxy Theatres are being converted into the Las Vegas Playhouse. And the Star Trek Experience might be moving into Neonopolis as well.
The first Wet Ultra Lounge & Bar opened in El Paso, Texas, in June 2007. The husband-and-wife team of Matt and Elizabeth Meagher recently relocated with their children to Las Vegas for the new venue. “We always wanted to open a business here, and we had been working on this for at least seven or eight months prior to us moving here,” says Matt. “Everything seems to be falling into place with the landlord eager to get good tenants in here, the mayor very supportive of Downtown,” he adds. “Neonopolis is the one thing that hasn’t flourished, and now it’s about to take off big time.”
Located on the first level of Neonopolis, the 12,000-square-foot Wet Ultra Lounge is scheduled to open in mid-December. Just inside the front doors, the theme of Wet will be reflected via water features and elements that create the look of water using surfaces and lighting; a sunken dance floor is to the right. To the left is a sizable main bar, but Wet also has a circular tequila bar across from it and an additional champagne bar toward the back of the lounge. A separate back entrance will cater to valet, cabs and limos, and the Meaghers are working on parking validation for the Neonopolis garage.
Wet will be one of the few ultralounges or clubs to offer open seating to guests not purchasing a bottle. Of course, there are still VIP tables, plus a VIP “celebrity lounge” and a private VIP room, but Wet’s use of space will allow all patrons to enjoy the energy and dancing of a nightclub, but also to experience a lounge. The owners have focused the majority of the speakers over the dance floor so guests can actually have a conversation without shouting if they’re further back in the lounge.
They’ve made the decision to open seven days a week (a choice other clubs and lounges have attempted before scaling back), but Wet will attempt to draw on different clientele each night to maintain a crowd. Thus far, Tuesdays will be Wet’s industry night, and Thursdays will be salsa night with free lessons. Resident DJ Madame Malixa will spin on Saturdays. Wet will offer a happy hour every Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. with free appetizers. “We’ll utilize all the restaurants [at Neonopolis]. Every week, we’ll feature somebody different,” says Elizabeth. “Basically putting the money back into the business here,” says Matt. Wet will also be open for afterhours Fridays and Saturdays.
“I think that we came in with the attitude that we’re not going to be the next failing entity,” says Matt. “Neonopolis is a beautiful building. I just don’t think they ever had the right tenants within the building, but now I think it’s going to become what it’s supposed to be Downtown, which is an entertainment complex.” He adds that Wet is equally targeting locals and tourists. “Basically, with the way the economy is right now, a lot more people are staying at [Fremont Street] hotels because they’re cheaper down here, drink prices are cheaper down here … and a lot of people enjoy the nostalgia of downtown Fremont.”
With Downtown’s first ultralounge destination in place, Mayor Goodman is likely enjoying a celebratory Bombay Sapphire right now and doing a little happy dance. Wet might just be the place for him to do so, if the curse of Neonopolis can been lifted.