24 bars in 24 hours
You’ve heard that “Reno is a 24-hour town.” Well, we proved it.
On a recent Saturday, a relay team of three RN&R writers set out to drink around the clock—midnight to midnight—and to discover what Reno’s bars have to offer all day and all night.
by Megan Berner
Midnight:: Momma Bear’s Lounge
211 Keystone Ave., 329-2327
As I walked into the lounge, the patrons looked over. I immediately found my sister, Melanie, and a friend, Caitlyn, at the end of the bar, close to the door. It was clear that the people in the bar were regulars and this was a locals’ bar. The bartender—who turned out to be Momma Bear herself—took our drink order: Bloody Marys. A couple of friends, Ty and Erin, met up with us. The place was pretty crowded, but it cleared out shortly after midnight, so we took over the dartboards and dominated the internet jukebox—which played mostly classic rock—pumping out the Stones and Steve Miller. It definitely felt like being in a small town bar where everyone knows each other. As 1 a.m. was approaching, we hadn’t finished our dart game, but in a last fling, Caitlyn nailed the bull’s-eye.
1 a.m.: St. James Infirmary
445 California Ave., 657-8484
The bar was pretty cleared out when we arrived. As I waited to order my drink, I got slapped on the ass pretty hard. I turned around to find that it was a woman, who, it’s safe to say, was totally wasted and was trying to get us out on the dance floor. Instead, we made a beeline for the photo booth and proceeded to try to fit four people in there. I ended up running into an ex-boyfriend whom I hadn’t seen in about six years. We talked for a bit before I headed out to the next bar. My Scarface Stout was excellent.
2 a.m.: El Cortez Lounge
239 W. 2nd St., 324-4255
This place has the most extensive karaoke list I’ve ever seen. The El Cortez was friendly, and the clientele was a mix of an older and younger crowd. We went straight to the bar and ordered whiskey and then I attempted to persuade some of my friends to karaoke with me—without success. I ended up inviting myself to sing a duet of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” with a man by the name of Bobby, who looked like one of the Everly Brothers. When my song came up—“Buttercup” by the Foundations—Caitlyn and Erin decided to join me for backup.
3 a.m.: 5 Star Saloon
132 West St., 329-2878
We were enthusiastically welcomed into 5 Star. The bartender was super friendly when we ordered our Campari and soda. It’s worth mentioning that, as the only guy for the majority of the night with a group of girls, Ty was the only one who had a drink bought for him all morning. We played a game of pool, and then two of the guys at the bar invited us to dance. The music was good and so were the dance partners.
4 a.m.: Siena Casino Bar
1 S. Lake St., 327-4362
After Ty and I biked to two other bars that were closed, the group settled on the casino bar inside the Siena. It was a stop on our way toward South Virginia Street and Wells Avenue, and one of the only places we visited with a bike rack. Alan, the bartender, was really chatty and served us up some Greyhounds.
5 a.m.: Ten99 Club
1099 S. Virginia St., 329-1099
At this point in the morning, I opted for a coffee and whiskey. The conversation was pretty loopy as we sat in the back room—we had lost my sister and gained two new friends, Tony and a stranger we picked up at 5 Star—but something Ty said while we were splayed out on the couches pretty much summed up the feeling at that moment: “I have no idea where my mind is … it’s between the gutter and the kitchen sink.”
6 a.m.: Coach’s Grill and Sports Bar
1573 S. Virginia St., 329-2202
This place is the best. We witnessed the sunrise while eating nachos, drinking beer for breakfast, and watching American Gladiator on multiple TV screens. I’m pretty sure we were listening to heavy metal at some point too. There were at least two other people in the bar already when we got there. The sun and the food revived me and I was convinced that I could keep going all day.
7 a.m.: Alibi Lounge
125 Casazza Dr., 323-0611
I wish I came here more often. When we arrived, the bartender, RT, looked like he was just starting his shift. He was wide-awake and chipper and, even though I’d never been in the Alibi at 7 a.m. before, it looked exactly the same as it does at any other time of day or night. RT made us some celebratory screwdrivers and we applauded ourselves for making it through the morning—four of us had made it to all eight bars. Now all that was left was to head over to the Wonder Bar and pass the baton off for the second leg. As we left the bar, I took note that the Rolling Stones were playing—way to bookend the adventure. Ty and I walked our bikes down Wells and handed off the baton.
by Brad Bynum
8 a.m.: Wonder Bar
1195 S. Wells Ave., 322-7965
I am not a morning person. Waking up in time to meet Megan Berner for our 8 a.m. rendezvous wasn’t easy. Despite drinking a couple of cups of coffee, I was still feeling pretty groggy when my friends Paul and Clint and I arrived at Wonder Bar. (I would remain groggy, for a variety of reasons, most of the rest of the day.)
But if you ever find yourself in similar position—waking up early to head to a bar—Wonder Bar is a good choice. It’s casual and friendly. The small group of patrons there all seemed like regulars, but they were welcoming and inclusive. It was like sitting around a breakfast table.
Plus, they have an 8 a.m. happy hour.
“What are your happy hour specials?” I asked the bartender, who later identified himself as “Two Shoes.”
“$2,” he said.
“For what?” I asked.
“What do you want?”
We went with bloody Marys, and had two apiece.
When the graveyard crew led by Megan arrived, they all had thousand-yard stares—more a symptom of sleep deprivation than drunkenness. The exception to this was Tony, who was pretty keyed up. Perhaps it was not a coincidence that he was also the only one who opted to soldier on with us.
They regaled us with tales and photos from their epic morning, and then passed the baton and left. Clint, who was there mostly to meet up with his fiancée, Cait, left with them. We finished our drinks and headed to the next destination.
9 a.m.: Lucke’s Saloon
1455 S. Wells Ave., 324-9432
Paul, Tony and I had Lucke’s Saloon more or less to ourselves. When three guys—close friends—get to their third drink in a nearly empty bar, the conversation quickly turns to the opposite sex.
For example: “Having sex with her would be like having sex with a piece of wood covered in fur.”
I won’t say which of the three of us said that or, more importantly, who it was said about. That’s just part of the natural flow of conversation among three late-20s dudes drinking in a Reno bar at 9 in the morning.
We had two Tequila Sunrises apiece and then sampled Lucke’s signature “morning drink,” the Mclovin: vanilla vodka, orange juice and pineapple juice, shaken to a froth. The mathematically inclined might notice that I’d already had five cocktails before completing the second hour of my eight hour bar-tour shift.
One might think that I would’ve, somewhere in my sordid life, learned to pace myself, but one would be wrong.
10 a.m.: Chapel Tavern
1495 S. Virginia St., 324-2244
The big news at Chapel Tavern, voted best bar in last year’s RN&R readers’ poll, is that it’s now nonsmoking. Opinions about this differ, neatly split along a predictable line: nonsmokers think it’s great news; smokers think it’s a sellout. As a member of the former group, I couldn’t be happier. Chapel now counts breathable air among an already impressive list of positive attributes that includes great bartenders, first-rate DJs, and fresh, creative cocktails. 10 a.m. is also apparently an hour when many of my friends are willing to start drinking, so our group ballooned as we were joined by my friends Scott, Megan and Lane, my brother, Cameron, and my fiancée, Sara.
The bar had a morning special for $8 bottomless mimosas, made with fresh-squeezed orange juice. They’re delicious, though surprisingly potent. I drank four of them.
11 a.m.: Silver Peak
124 Wonder St., 324-1864
At this point, up-all-night-and-morning Tony, who had spent most of our stint at Chapel with his face flat on the bar, had to be taken home. Poor Sara, who spent much of the day acting as soccer mom for our team of drunkards, did the honors, while the rest of us stumbled over to Silver Peak for lunch. Their roasted leg of lamb sandwich provided me with some much needed sustenance, but, perhaps unwisely, I also drink two pints of Silver Peak’s excellent flagship brew, Red Roadster.
Noon: Hideout Lounge
240 S. Park St., 324-4955
This is when I really started to lose it. I had carefully planned our route to include only bars in close walking distance from one another. But because I was now quite deep in my cups, I had relinquished leadership to Paul, who successfully rallied the troops to detour over to Hideout. This meant we all piled into my car—really way too small to accommodate seven people—and sober Sara was again stuck with the thankless task of driving.
As we were driving over, Paul called the bar. “What kind of specials do you have today?”
The bartender, Brooke, said, “Oh, we’ll whip something up for you.”
“Something” turned out to be the “stupid dumb bitch”: equal parts cherry vodka, Red Bull and orange juice.
The bar was busy—rockin’ and bumpin’. I remember hearing Guns ’n’ Roses and … I’m not sure what else. Though I dutifully took notes all day, my notes from this point on are illegible and/or indecipherable. My appetites are rarely matched by my endurance—or, as Paul more eloquently put it, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
1 p.m.: Ryan’s Saloon
924 S. Wells Ave., 323-4142
I spent this stop passed out in the passenger’s seat of our car. But my crew, who stayed on course with the mission, like Samwise carrying Frodo, later reported that they had a great time at Ryan’s. Sara said she had a really good time there, probably because it was the only bar where she wasn’t burdened with the Herculean task of babysitting her embarrassing steamroller of a fiancé.
2 p.m.: Corrigan’s Bit O’Ireland
1526 S. Wells Ave., 322-1977
The kind folks at Ryan’s Saloon were nice enough to give Sara a to-go cup of coffee, which she used to revive me. We ambled back down Wells Avenue to Corrigans, a sentimental favorite of mine. It was busy but friendly—with a distinct old-school, old Reno vibe. I mostly just sipped coffee and attempted to keep my eyes straight. But Scott and Paul—charming mofos both—made some new friends, one of whom bought us a round of Underberg. It seems like this digestif bitter, which comes in a tiny little single-shot bottle, is all the rage lately. I’d never had it before and, at that time, it tasted like licorice mixed with urine.
3 p.m.: Shenanigan’s Old English Pub
77 W. Plumb Lane, 324-1177
Our group had dwindled. We’d lost Lane and Megan along the way. Sara and Cameron left to pick up Mark Dunagan, the anchor of this bar-hopping relay. Paul, Scott and I were going to walk to Shenanigans to meet the three of them. Unfortunately, the most direct route from Corrigans to Shenanigans includes going in the front door of Polo Lounge and out the backdoor. (At least that’s how it seemed to us at the time.) So we made an unscheduled stop at Polo and had a beer, and were then late meeting Sara, Cameron and Mark.
Shenanigans rules, by the way. Great beer selection, and some of the best pub grub in town. I had a Boddingtons and an order of potato wedges. Great stuff—though I think we tested the limits of the server’s patience. Paul, Scott and I were all pretty silly at this point.
I was overjoyed to see Mark, and pass the baton, and to be relieved of my duties as gonzo documentarian, to just be a guy in a bar who’s perhaps had a few too many, and needs to be carefully led, by the loving hand of his fiancée, to the car and to the home and to the bed.
by Mark Dunagan
4 p.m.: Polo Lounge
1559 S. Virginia St., 322-8864
At my first stop, my compatriots looked the worse for their binge, especially teammate Brad. The pre-game bombast and swagger was gone, replaced by the half-mast eyelids and slushy speech of a hundred-pound co-ed at her first kegger. Polo was ideal for our marathon’s transition. It’s busy, but quiet and friendly. Every stool was occupied, primarily by an older, sociable clientele. Bartender Frank was amiable, delivering my first two drinks—a bloody Mary and a salty dog—with a smile and classic barkeep banter that harkens back to yesteryear. The place has an unironic old-school vibe that reminds me fondly of the Three’s Company’s Regal Beagle, only with video poker. As 5 p.m. nears, I headed out, humming “Come and Knock on our Door.”
5 p.m.: Biggest Little City Club
188 California Ave., 322-2480
The day shift team was in tatters. Paul wandered off on foot without a goodbye. Sara delivered Brad safely home. Only young Scott could muster another stop. BLCC caters to a younger, later crowd, so it was empty at this hour. Zane, the bartender, was welcoming and quick on the draw with my next two beverages, both vodka sodas. I had a logical liquor progression by which to abide, so I didn’t partake when Scott persuaded Zane to pour him a “pickleback.” Nothing to do with the soulless atrocity of a rock band whose name it conjures, the pickleback chases a shot of Irish whiskey with pickle brine, which apparently neutralizes the after-effects of whiskey—except for the drunken effect, which was in full force as we argued about the pickleback’s merits. As the sky darkened, Zane aimed a movie projector onto the bar’s front window, Scott stumbled home, and I walked to dinner.
6 p.m.: Imperial Bar and Lounge
150 N. Arlington Ave., 324-6399
Imperial is a funny place. In the early hours, it’s an attractive, mature spot with an urbane menu. By moonlight, it morphs into a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of sorority sisters and backward-hat bros. My dinnertime arrival found the spacious, exposed-brick room quiet, and I sipped a gin martini, chatting up bartender Justin until my wife showed up to eat. Vegetarians both, we enjoyed tasty tofu sliders, frites and a thin-crust margherita pizza. We made our escape before the collegiate locusts descended.
7 p.m.: West Street Wine Bar
148 West St., 336-3560
The only hitch in my predetermined liquor progression was a flute of sparkling rosé. All this drinking had me losing track of time, and Mrs. Mark and I had to shotgun our champagne to keep on pace. We couldn’t linger long, but we basked for a spell in the relaxing vibe of the wine bar. It’s a sophisticated, well-appointed alternative to most downtown watering holes, perfect for a postprandial libation and perhaps musing over one’s stock portfolio and asset liquidity. The ambient techno-jazz pouring over the room had me feeling a touch older than my years, and I departed for seedier environs.
8 p.m.: Foxy Olive
220 Mill St., 324-4119
“Foxy” feels like a throwback to the carousing days of my early 20s, before pesky anti-smoking sentiment swept the nation. Tucked away under a weekly motel of questionable repute and marinating in waist-up clouds of cigarette smoke, it’s no place for my wife. I kissed her goodnight and headed inside to meet Art, the faithful drinking companion who finished out the night with me. Biz Markie on the jukebox and two scotch and sodas got my bender into full swing. Foxy is the perfect spot to reminisce about the Reno bar scene, and our anecdotes got me laughing a little too loud and feeling the false confidence of the freshly intoxicated. We hit the pavement on foot to take the night by storm.
9 p.m.: Lincoln Lounge
306 E. Fourth St., 323-5426
Reno’s best Abraham Lincoln-themed tavern is a personal favorite of mine. Antique furniture befitting the Great Emancipator and some portraiture of his likeness make Lincoln Lounge a distinct locale. Blacked-out windows give it a speakeasy feel, and rich red hues offer a welcoming ambiance no matter which scene you identify with. The bar features an achievement-based beer club, but I wasn’t swayed from my trusty scotch and soda. Art and I cadged a round off some acquaintances and commenced to a gentlemanly shuffleboard match, in which Art narrowly prevailed because he had been drinking for four hours fewer than I.
10 p.m.: Davidson’s Distillery
275 E. Fourth St., 324-1917
People speak in hushed tones about Davidson’s and its rowdy crowd. I’ve heard it’s a true biker bar and not for the meek. As we approached, the live music blasting from within was both menacing and beckoning. Turns out it’s a tame, friendly place, easy to get a drink in spite of a large crowd. Many patrons were seated before the stage, rocking out to a stream of ’90s alternative radio staples churned out by a decent band with amusingly mismatched members. They hit their stride with a Green Day cover, and I started to appreciate Davidson’s for what it is: an unassuming spot for average Joes looking for a good time. There’s nary a hipster in sight, and I’m sure the regulars like it that way.
11 p.m.: Sierra Tap House
253 W. First St., 322-7678
For the home stretch, we hoofed it across downtown and met some old friends assembled for a rare night out. Our guys-only rendezvous was appropriate; the Tap House was an unmitigated Brodeo. Dudes in vampire costumes dotted the crowd, holdovers from a themed pub crawl that I am elated to have mostly avoided. Workmanlike bartenders Johnny and Sean busily slung draft beers as the witching hour drew nigh. I surveyed the revelry at midnight, celebrating my achievement with a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue that I was too besotted to taste. The night was young, so I visited a few more bars, though my stomach protested my attempts to imbibe more alcohol. Heeding the wisdom of Kenny Rogers, I know when to walk away.