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Bar Exam

Worth the trek

In the wake of Quark’s demise, Downstairs Bar now the final frontier

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Darren Benjamen holds up a phaser and a drink during the Downstairs Bar’s Star Trek-themed party.
Photo: Jacob Kepler

First Spock died. Then the Enterprise was destroyed. Then the Next Generation Enterprise was destroyed. Then the entire Star Trek franchise—spread too thin by multiple spin-offs and lackluster sequels—came to an end. And then Quark’s Bar at the Star Trek Experience became the latest casualty of Las Vegas’ need to constantly reinvent itself. Sheesh. Sci-fi fandom is arguably more perilous than actual space exploration.

Then again, Spock came back to life. They built a new Enterprise. They even built a new Next Generation Enterprise. And the whole series will see a rejuvenating reboot with a prequel film next summer. It seems Star Trek refuses to die. And the latest example of this stubborn tendency comes in the form of a Star Trek-themed party at the Downstairs Bar, which intends to pick up the Trekkie torch from the decommissioned Quark’s.

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The (next) final frontier
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Downstairs Bar
1251 S. Eastern Ave., 492-6900

With moderate hopes, I set a course for Henderson. I’ve been to Downstairs many times, and it’s always been a cozy little bar with excellent cuisine shipped down from the upstairs restaurant, the Hilltop Café (formerly Viaggio), but it’s never really had what I’d describe as … a 24th-century vibe.

The great thing about Quark’s was its over-the-top devotion to the Star Trek gimmick. Its costumed characters and exotic drinks were even fun for non-fans, whether they wished to indulge in the silliness or quietly mock it amongst their friends. But if you were a fanboy, it was a haven—a sanctuary where conversations about the geekiest aspects of pop culture could run rampant. Darren, a bartender at Quark’s for nearly a decade, could go toe-to-toe with me on Trek trivia. (And I didn’t kiss a girl until my 20s, so out-geeking me is an impressive feat.) I’m dubious as to whether a regular bar can approximate the spirit of the late Quark’s.

Boy, am I in for a surprise. I stroll into Downstairs to find that much of the crew and contents of Quark’s have been beamed directly there. The couches and bar counter are populated by half a dozen uniformed Starfleet officers—most of whom are former Quark’s employees. Enormous, smoking fishbowl drinks are being served. And behind the bar, serving those drinks, it’s Darren!

The Trekkies gather in Vegas

“They asked me to come in and help,” he says. “I’m just working for tips, but honestly, I’d do this for free.”

In a way, it’s more Battlestar Galactica than Star Trek. With their home destroyed, these Quark’s refugees have banded together and built a new community. The actors have their own costumes, and with dry ice and fishbowl-sized glasses, Darren can replicate a 24th-century cocktail anywhere. This isn’t an approximation of Quark’s. This genuinely is everything that made Quark’s—just without the alien architecture.

I order a James Tea Kirk (a ridiculously large Long Island iced tea that will dye my tongue blue), and Darren and I peruse through photos of the dismantling of the Star Trek Experience on his iPhone. Occasionally, I glance up at the TV to catch a minute of Deep Space Nine. Between jukebox songs, someone in the bar does a damn fine imitation of the Enterprise’s intercom whistle.

Other patrons and I effortlessly launch into dialogues about Mystery Science Theater 3000 and our hopes and fears for the next Star Trek movie and upcoming MMO video game. We even launch into an old debate about whether or not events from the Star Trek animated series should be considered canon (they totally shouldn’t). Oh, yes. These are my people.

Rumors abound that the Star Trek Experience might move to Neonopolis (apparently, much of the Trek décor was salvaged as it was being taken down at the Hilton). So there might be yet another rebirth in the franchise that refuses to die. In the meantime, every other Tuesday at the Downstairs Bar, devoted Star Trek fans are seeing to it that their beloved series continues to live long and prosper. The next Star Trek-themed party will take place October 21, and it promises to be a great place to take your Away Team for a few drinks.

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Matthew Scott Hunter

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