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November 22, 2017

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Joe Downtown: Discovery of floor safe excites new owners of Atomic Liquors


Bill Hughes

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

Map of The Atomic

The Atomic

917 Fremont St., Las Vegas

Under layers of old flooring, Kent and Lance Johns, manager/owners of the old Atomic Liquors, 917 Fremont St., made an astounding discovery recently.

A safe.

“We were excited, believe me,” Kent Johns said. “There could be anything in there.”

The Johns attained ownership last summer. Stella and Joe Sobchik died in 2010 after owning Atomic Liquors for more than 50 years.

Kent Johns said the safe was round, brass and about 8 inches in diameter; it appears concrete was poured around it, securing it into place.

“That’s when the mob was here,” Kent Johns says about 1952, the year the bar took on the Atomic moniker. The Johns haven’t found any documentation that says when exactly the safe was placed.

The Atomic was a haunt of Frank Sinatra and Rod Serling, who filmed episodes of “The Twilight Zone” in the desert around Las Vegas and, Kent Johns said, a bar scene in the Atomic.

“It was open late at a time when no one else was,” Kent Johns said.

He said he hoped to open in the spring after a few more “finishing touches” were completed. When it’s open, the owners might have a “safe-opening” event focused on that floor safe, similar to the infamous live broadcast of the opening of Al Capone’s vault by Geraldo Rivera in 1986.

“People still remember that like it was yesterday,” Kent Johns said. “Whenever I tell someone about this safe, they bring up Geraldo Rivera.”

Of course, they also remember the vault was virtually empty.

Kent Johns is hoping for a different outcome.

“In the 50s a lot of times they used to do time capsules,” he said. “We’re hoping maybe that’s what this is, filled with stuff from the 1950s.”

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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