At Night, the Gold Still Glitters

After hours, Henderson-style

If Water Street can claim to have a nightlife hot spot—at least, until someone makes good on the City’s incentives to open an “urban lounge”—it’s indisputably the Gold Mine Tavern, a small, seemingly unremarkable bar that’s been a Water Street staple since 1965.

Thanks in large part to redevelopment grants, the Gold Mine was recently remodeled and expanded to include an enclosed patio. Today, it’s one of the few establishments on Water Street—the Coffee House is another—that draws in a younger clientele. On this quiet evening, there are about six vehicles in the parking lot, and a few motorcycles on the street in front, with their leather-vested owners hanging out on the tavern’s front patio.

Inside the black-and-red lounge, some older regulars chat at one end of the bar, sharing a box of take-out pizza. In the middle of the room, a group of mostly male twenty-somethings dominate three billiards tables, dancing and singing to the music pumping from the digital jukebox, which makes sudden swerves from hip-hop to classic rock. In the corner, a display proffers “Hendertucky” T-shirts for $15—a proud reappropriation of the derogatory term for the older, lower-income areas of Henderson.

Behind the bar is 22-year-old Shadi Azzam. This is his first bartending job, and he’s only been at it for about six months. Despite his inexperience, Azzam is killing it, deftly moving from customer to customer, taking orders, filling drinks and even stopping in between to experiment with new alcoholic creations.

“Are you allergic to cinnamon?” he asks me, as I look up from my reporter’s notebook.

I reply “no,” and he hands me a large shot glass filled with a milky liquid, sprinkled with cinnamon. We clink glasses and toss back the shots.

“You like it?” Azzam asks. “I just came up with it.”

When I ask him what’s in it, he tells me it’s a “secret.” Fair enough.

This is a typical Saturday night at the Gold Mine, Azzam says, “but when there’s entertainment here, it’s packed.” The tavern has become a popular spot for all sorts of live music, from alternative rock and punk to hip-hop and jam bands.

Despite its recent influx of new customers and physical expansion, the Gold Mine has done what few older businesses can do: retain its historic flavor while adapting for the future, keeping its existing clientele happy and drawing in a newer crowd.

And that just may be the blueprint for downtown Henderson’s redevelopment.