Was it something we said? Last year, we submitted the Hard Rock Hotel’s Center Bar—a fixture of the resort since the day it opened in 1995—for consideration in Vegas Seven’s Bar Hall of Fame. Of its nomination, we wrote, “We’re shocked that three years into this project, the Center Bar is still among this list of nominees.” You agreed, voting it into the Hall under the “Pioneers” category, where it received 33 percent of the vote.
This year, we’re shocked for another reason entirely: Hard Rock management recently announced Center Bar will close for good June 28. Until then, the bar is offering $5 shot specials, culminating with a “Final Toast” from 7-10 p.m. on closing night, when locals, visitors and final employees are invited to drink heartily and heavily to this doomed institution.
The Center Bar is significant not only for its place in the middle of the Hard Rock—we can’t tell you how many nights we chilled here, cooling down after concerts at the original Joint and, every so often, watching the likes of Ben Affleck playing poker—but it was a game changer for Las Vegas, too. At the time, casino bars were still something of an afterthought, little more than a meet-up space or somewhere to hang if you didn’t want to play slots for comped drinks. But Center Bar was a destination almost from Day One, a place where people intentionally gathered and remained for many an hour. The drinks were well made, the music loud, the energy unflaggingly high and the people-watching out of this world—an endless parade of name actors, rock stars and people easily mistaken for name actors and rock stars.
Unfortunately, the biggest downside to being a pioneer is that others copy you and crowd you out. Center Bar’s onetime novelty is now lost on a town that also boasts Caesars Palace’s Vista, the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar, and other upscale, high-energy, Affleck-ready lounges. Hard Rock management tried to reinvigorate the space by hanging up televisions, obstructing views of the bar’s signature globe (and, consequently, of the lights on the ring circling the globe, which are actually musical notes on a scale; it’s the chorus of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe”). Apparently, it didn’t work, and now Center Bar is set to meet the original Joint in Hard Rock heaven.
For now, Hard Rock management is mum on what will replace Center Bar. “It’s the end of an icon but the beginning of a new and exciting era on property,” Chief Operating Officer Jody Lake said in an email statement. Hey, we get it: Change is Las Vegas’ only constant. Still, it’s hard letting go of that old era. After all, we liked it enough to put it into a Hall of Fame.