Iconic downtown Las Vegas bar celebrating a major milestone

A Las Vegas institution turns 70 years old. Atomic Liquors was the first free-standing bar in all of the Las Vegas Valley.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 9:05 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A Las Vegas institution turns 70 years old. Atomic Liquors was the first free-standing bar in all of the Las Vegas Valley and many say it set the tone for downtown’s revitalization.

FOX5 spoke exclusively with some of the people who make Atomic tick. They share the secret to Atomic’s 7-decade run in a city known for being out with the old, in with the new.

Atomic Liquors has spent seven decades at the same location - 917 Fremont Street.

Walk through the side entrance of Atomic Liquors and you’ll meet people who genuinely enjoy working and drinking here. None of the “finish your drink and let’s get to the next place” attitude.

“I’m a total nerd and I love this bar. I definitely get hyped up and decorate for Halloween so when the 70th came up, it’s definitely a big deal for all of us,” said lead bartender Devin Costentine.

Seventy years ago this weekend, Stella and Joe Sobchik opened up Atomic Liquors. There is still a time capsule put together by the original owners.

“We decided to leave it there and it’s a highlight when people come here. We have Joe, the original owner’s alcohol or his health card, a pair of keys that used to open doors around here,” explained Costentine.

Atomic’s name is a nod to the nuclear testing that began one year before it opened and continued through much of the 50′s. People would gather at the bar to watch the explosions at the test site from a maybe not that safe distance of 65 miles.

“A lot of the nostalgia pieces that we have are honestly given to us by people who worked during that time at the test site or work there now or in the field and they like to drop off any kind of things around that bar that makes it more us,” Costentine added.

When Atomic opened in 1952, the city was just 43 years old, the Hoover Dam was 21 years old. The 50′s were an important decade for Las Vegas. The Riviera, Sands, and Dunes also opened which attracted the Rat Pack and Elvis.

They drank at Atomic and so did a certain iconic singer and actress.

“We keep a chair specifically for Barbara Streisand in the spot she is known to hang out because it had a clear vocal shot to the office so she could chat with the managers who were working at that time,” said Chris Gutierrez, Atomic’s general manager.

“I have a chair, I kind of took it over from Barbara Streisand, this is her chair,” Gary Rodriguez is one of the regulars, he’s been coming for 27 years. They have a drink named for him and yeah, that is his chair.

Gary came for the gaming, which is no longer here, he stayed for the company.

“And what’s interesting, this is becoming an international spot. I’ve met so many people from international countries and they come back again. I love talking to them and they love the place,” Rodriguez admitted.

“I really like the vibe of the place. It was dark, it was different, it kind of homey and cozy and kind of started making friends,” said another customer Jessica Balding.

Gary and Jessica both tell us they feel safe and accepted here. While some bars say they are neighborhood hangouts, the fact is Atomic has found the secret sauce of keeping a diverse group of customers, happy.

“My specialty is trying to stay as closely in tune to what individuals around here are looking for while still being ready for all my tourists and average everyday Americans who come visit us from all over the country if not the world as well,” Rodriguez added.

It’s a slice of Las Vegas history but the people here say it’s the heart of the place that’s kept Atomic Liquors a steady presence long before most of us were born and they expect it to continue on for a long time.

“Here’s to another 70 years. I’ll be excited to hang out and see as much of it as I can,” Gutierrez said.

Atomic Liquors will be hosting a weekend-long celebration beginning Friday night.