Bass throbs, smoke billows and a strobe paints a rainbow on thousands of revelers indulging in fancy drinks and the practiced tease of a caged bikini girl with a back tat. But it’s lunchtime on a Tuesday, and there are floodlights. That’s because I’m at the annual Nightclub & Bar Trade Show, where more than 600 industry players are shaking their latest and greatest moneymakers.
The products range from spirits and sound systems to glassware and games, anything related to the operational side of nightlife. That includes stuff the average clubgoer never sees, like vacuums. But I am the average clubgoer, so I focus on what matters to my tribe.
On my way to the Liquid Ice Energy Drink booth, I notice a beautiful woman in a tight dress with a website printed across the ass. Despite feeling creepy, I stare, trying to make out the URL. I’m tempted to ask the furry-booted vixens of Liquid Ice if they can read it, but instead I try a sample. It tastes like one of those deliciously fruit-smelling markers, with a refreshing fizz.
Across the way lies “The Future of Flirting.” Called FlipMe, it aims to empower women to flirt safely through a set of clever cards and a website. On one side, the cards say things like, “I’m that girl,” “You’re being hit on” and “Here’s hoping you can read.” On the other is an ID number and a login for flipme.com. It’s a sexy and playful approach, and no personal information is shared in order to make a connection.
Speaking of sexy and playful, the next thing I see is a plastic figurine in a mankini positioned over a plaque that reads, “Cancun Spring Break Hairiest Chest Winner.” Don’t like him? Far Out Awards can make you one with a lifelike breakfast skillet instead, or maybe a marlin or brass knuckles. You dream it; they’ll shellac it.
I’m suddenly thirsty, and while beer isn’t my go-to, I’ve always liked New Belgium. I try Biere de Mars, part of its Lips of Faith series. It’s complex and bright, and “Beer Ranger” Ben Barrett tells me the flavor comes from wild yeasts. I tell him I like wild, and he asks if I want to try something really special. He hits me with La Folie sour brown ale. Apparently, special tastes like fermented pickle juice. I don’t like Scotch either, so I’m sure this is just another case of my palate not being at geek levels of cool.
I do like Kona Brewing Company’s Koko Brown ale and its toasted coconut top note. Six-year-old Ron del Barrilito, Puerto Rico’s real favorite rum, is a smoky, oaky delight straight or with a splash of coconut water over ice. And Crater Lake’s hazelnut espresso-infused vodka with cream makes me feel a little like The Dude, especially given how much this trade show looks like a Coen brothers dream sequence.
Just past the confetti cannon is a glowing beer pong table. Liquid Games’ Kurt Doll says you can usually find them “where it’s cold or where there’s a beach,” though the Strip has several. Down the row, a sign says: “Move over beer pong, there’s a new game in town.” That game is the Shot Gun, a toy Russian roulette revolver that fires hard alcohol. Taking shots is a potent experience without the liquor literally shooting down your throat, but what do I know.
Heading out, I see a mini bowling alley and three old guys in massage chairs that look primed for alien experimentation. The booty URLs are everywhere. I say as much to a purveyor, adding that I might write about it in my column. The guy next to me says this: “I don’t understand why your column’s not on your ass.” Touché, strange man. Maybe next month.