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Nightlife

Downtown drinking: A bar crawl through the new Container Park

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Bin 702’s “wine goddess and director” Kathleen Lilly Thomas (center) wants to make the wine enthusiast experience attainable for anyone.
Bill Hughes

For a fair-weather drinker, I demand a lot of my bars. For one, I like them clustered. The Las Vegas bar crawl has long meant driving between watering holes and heeding the consumption limits that come with that reality. Thankfully, the Downtown renaissance—first Fremont East, then the Arts District—has more or less enabled the breathalyzer-free barhopping I enjoy when I visit most other cities. And now I can have that within a single development.

The drinking spots of the Container Park don’t possess the general inventory or entertainment diversions of their Fremont Street neighbors. They don’t even have the same operating hours, as Downtown Project’s short stack of sheds closes LA-style at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. But you can still make a full evening of it at the container court—including dinner and/or dessert—thanks to its two dedicated drinkeries.

Bin 702 offers winos a watering hole at Downtown's Container Park.

Bin 702 offers winos a watering hole at Downtown's Container Park.

I start my crawl at Bin 702, shoehorning myself in between two couples perched at the bar. I’m greeted by a smiling Kathleen Lilly Thomas, the bar’s “wine goddess and director,” who is eager to see if I can “geek out” with her.

Kat, as she introduces herself, is no bartender—she’s a sommelier with 17 years experience on the Strip—but she engages with you like one. She’s interested in two things upon your entrance: how you’re feeling and “accentuating your sensitivities from what I’ve learned about your tastes.” I watch her do this with the couple to my left, and after a friendly chat, they go with the second wine she pours out (a Malbec), their sensitivities successfully accentuated.

I feel the Malbec less than the couple, so Kat prepares a second sample. Its aroma is undeniable—“you can smell 600-year-old dirt in that one,” coos Kat—and ultimately, the swig’s worth of what turns out to be Chateau Vignot Grand Cru, which isn’t even on the list of available bottles (which can eclipse $400, though she says she’s most excited about a $50 bottle of Furmint Sec from Hungary).

Fret not: Kat isn’t hawking bottles like some overzealous VIP host. She merely wants to make the wine enthusiast (geek) experience attainable for anyone. “I have things for every single moment,” she says, ready to find exactly what you need—and what you didn’t know you needed.

The Boozery pushes local boozemakers hard, with everything from Tenaya Creek on tap to signature cocktails made from Las Vegas Distillery spirits.

The Boozery pushes local boozemakers hard, with everything from Tenaya Creek on tap to signature cocktails made from Las Vegas Distillery spirits.

There’s less concept at the Boozery across the way. Last Thursday’s lone drinkslinger, Dave, administered the bar’s ethos—a standard bar with old standbys and new mixology—as casually as he does a shot of Johnnie Walker. And once I told him I wanted something with Las Vegas Distillery vodka, but without the orange juice included in one of the signature cocktails, he also administered his off-menu, unnamed creation. I downed the refreshing drink in record time, which had a chuckling Dave pointing to a bottle of St-Germain and topping me off.

Per the Distillery selection, the Boozery pushes local boozemakers hard. My first visit introduced me to Tenaya Creek Calico Brown, which will be my go-to when catching bands on the nearby stage. That night, though, the shivering audience for Rusty Maples clearly preferred the bar’s Irish Coffee. That smart menu inclusion ought to pay off until we return to status-quo temps.

And speaking of belly-warming spirits, you can also find tequila options at Pinches Tacos (or Dos Equis—both amber and lager!), as well as beer at the other grub spots, Pork & Beans and Big Ern’s. So it’s a small booze crawl among the bins, but Container Park revives the glass-tinkling intimacy we enjoyed five years ago in Fremont East—and within a merciful one-and-a-half acres.

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