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July 3, 2015

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Joe Downtown: Decades-old safe discovered in Atomic Liquors yields only old receipts


Bill Hughes

A view of Atomic Liquors, the oldest standing bar in Las Vegas, on Fremont Street, June 27, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

A floor safe at Atomic Liquors, 917 Fremont St., yielded several receipts from the 1950s, but no riches.

Map of The Atomic

The Atomic

917 Fremont St., Las Vegas

New owners of Atomic Liquors on Fremont Street, one of the oldest free-standing taverns in Las Vegas, finally opened a floor safe discovered months ago during remodeling.

With local tales of the Atomic’s customers including the likes of the Rat Pack, Barbra Streisand and union honcho Jimmy Hoffa, the owners had fun imagining the safe's contents.

Turns out, imagination and reality didn’t meet. The safe was opened Sunday and contained little beyond some 59-year-old receipts for soda and liquor.

One receipt dated June 23, 1954, was from Redwood Publishing Company for what appeared to be an Atomic advertisement, which ran for $10 per week.

Atomic's owners also said in a news release another receipt showed the Atomic paid $1.35 for a case of 8-ounce sodas from Pepsi (it would have been $2.35 but the Atomic received a $1 credit for returning an empty case).

Bar owners paid $218 for 55 cases and 12 quart-sized bottles of beer.

Co-owner Lance Johns said he would put the safe's receipts on display; he has ordered thick, clear glass to place over the safe so people can see the receipts plus other items found during the remodeling.

The tavern became “Atomic Liquors” in 1952 because customers used its roof to watch atomic blasts from the Nevada Test Site to the northwest. In 1957, it received the first package liquor license and off-sales permit in Las Vegas.

Purchased last summer, the Atomic, 917 Fremont St., is expected to reopen in eight to 10 weeks.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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