Deceptively roomy given its small facade and hard to find between two minor streets is a rare combination of old-time bar style and modern entertainment.
Immediately past the entrance, Noreen’s Lounge’s large, horseshoe-shaped bar at 2799 E. Tropicana Ave., comes into view. In addition to a wall full of cocktail glasses and beer bottles, it holds enough gaming machines to excite any gaming enthusiast. The darkness of the bar is contrasted by well-lit pool tables in the adjacent area. The flat-screen TVs on almost every wall depict not only sporting events but also the latest and most popular dramas and situation comedies. And among all the sports and alcohol memorabilia, there is a casino penny slot machine.
“Where else are you going to find one outside of an actual casino?” asked Kourtney Sheldon, owner Sean O’Connor’s girlfriend. “That’s one of the things that makes us so unique in that it is really uncommon for local bars to have those kinds of machines.”
Even though the machines have become part of the bar’s charm and the Las Vegas theme is prevalent, there is no denying the Pittsburgh Steelers pride as memorabilia fills almost every space. Even the chairs have the Steelers stamp, embedding Steeler spirit into the bar’s essence.
The fact that Noreen’s Lounge is deemed the official Steelers bar of Las Vegas is a point of pride for O’Connor, especially because a proclamation from the Pittsburgh City Council declares the venue an “official Steeler bar” and an “outpost of The Steeler Nation.” The document is displayed on a wall.
“Sean’s parents were from Pittsburgh, and they were proud Steelers fans,” Sheldon said, adding they were the ones who opened the bar almost 30 years ago and that O’Connor’s father, Timmy, had named it for his wife, Noreen.
Erick Roth, the self-proclaimed king bartender of Noreen’s Lounge and “not at all a Steelers fan,” said that even though the bar is Steeler-themed, the most important thing is its family feel.
“A great deal of what makes us who we are is that we care about the people that come in as if they were family,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a Pittsburgh fan or even if you are not into football at all, we’ll put whatever you want on the TV, and you are always welcome.”
Roth said the local aspect of the bar is not only related to the fact that it is 30 years old but that every employee is a local, and as such, has things in common with the patrons.
Almost all the bartenders have college degrees and are UNLV alumni. Of the six bartenders, some work for the Clark County School District or the city of North Las Vegas, one is a registered nurse and another is a retired firefighter.
“That’s what’s so cool about us, because there is something different in each one of us that appeals to our patrons,” he said. “There is a lot more to our service than just giving people drinks.”
“It’s not just the cheap drinks and the machines that keep me coming back,” said Chase Van, who has been a Noreen’s Lounge customer for years. “I have made such good friends with the bartenders and other patrons that most of the time, I come to see them and talk to them, and I am here at least four times a week.”
Van said the environment is also a reason for his loyalty, and although he is also not a Steelers fan, he enjoys the intimacy the bar provides and that he feels at home there.
“Even if you are not a sports fan, you can come here and watch your favorite TV show,” he said. “They’ll put in on for you and do anything to make you feel like family.
“In one word, I would describe us as ‘family,’ ” Sheldon said. “We are close with our patrons, with the employees and even with people who own and operate other bars around us.”
After the economic recession, many bars were forced to close due to a lack of business, and Noreen’s Lounge lost business from construction workers, who were a core customer base.
“We have enough to keep the doors open, but it’s a struggle,” Sheldon said, “But we’ll keep it open because we do it for family and because it is important for us to remain part of the community.”
She said the concept of family is what has spurred a healthy competition between Noreen’s Lounge and other bars, and it is also what caused Noreen’s Lounge to remain open.
“The loss of business is directly related to the economy, but our locals are loyal to us,” Roth said. “They like our drinks, machines and our service, and they keep coming here.”
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Maria Agreda at firstname.lastname@example.org.