Iconic Las Vegas dive bar Double Down celebrates 25 years

It was the fruity mystery hooch best consumed from a toilet-shaped shot glass that helped get the British royal family member naked.

Five years ago, Prince Harry hit Las Vegas, stopping by the Double Down Saloon one day.

Then came the Ass Juice.

“There have been many surreal and unforgettable moments in 25 years,” says the iconic dive bar’s proprietor, P. Moss, “but if I had to choose one that would be a perfect fit for this story, it would be the time that Ass Juice became the catalyst for one of the major moments in Las Vegas history.”

Enter the queen’s grandson.

Exit his trousers.

“Prince Harry and some of his friends spent the good part of an afternoon shooting pool and drinking rounds of Ass Juice,” Moss recalls. “This led to his famous night of debauchery that spawned the entire ‘Keep Calm’ phenomenon.”

When nude photos of Harry’s hotel-room high jinks later that evening hit the tabloids, it became an international scandal — though, really, what’s so scandalous about a nice game of strip billiards among friends?

Vegas loved it, so much so that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority cheekily engaged in a “Keep Calm Harry and Carry On” ad campaign.

That’s but one story.

Spend a night at the Double Down — as tens of thousands have over the past 25 years — and you’ll probably walk, or stumble, away with a few of your own.

Since first opening its doors in 1992, the Double Down has been lauded as one of America’s best dive bars, given the world the bacon martini and hosted countless bands, big and small, while never charging a cover.

The self-anointed “clubhouse for the lunatic fringe” has long lived up to that designation with a killer, punk-heavy jukebox, come-one, come-all vibe and perhaps the most apropos dive bar motto ever: “Shut up and drink.”

Words to live by.

“I’m very proud that Double Down has succeeded against all odds,” Moss says, “that it became such an important part of so many people’s lives and has transcended generations. That even after 25 years, we’re still way ahead of the curve. That employees have been loyal for over 20 years. That the little bar that for years the city did not understand has become a tourist destination and an important part of the fabric of Las Vegas.”

Dirk Vermin

This former frontman for long-running punks The Vermin and current head of Derk Vermin and the Hostile Talent was the first singer-guitarist to ever take the Double Down stage back in the day.

One of the best shows I remember, one of the craziest ones, was the night that Timothy Leary came in. At the time I had my Betty Page comics out, and he was just sitting there, signing them for random drunk girls. It was the oddest thing. We’re watching from the stage, ‘That’s (expletive) Timothy Leary.’ That just shows you what the Double Down is and was, and I’m proud to say we drove him out of there. He was holding his ears and he literally said, ‘I can’t take it anymore’ and he walked out. I’m like, ‘We just drove Timothy Leary out of the Double Down.’ ”

Patrick Dean “McQueen”

The lead guitarist for California punkabilly rockers Throw Rag, one of the bigger bands to keep coming back to the Double Down over the years.

“What makes the Double Down so special to me is exactly why it’s been around for 25 years: It’s never changed! It’s real in a town of make-believe. I remember going to the Double Down — might have even been the first time — the night the old Dunes hotel was imploded in the early ’90s. (I happened to be in town and showed up to watch, like thousands of others.) The wind was blowing so hard that night, it created a giant dust storm. We ran, to get away from the man-made haboob, laden with asbestos. It chased us down Flamingo Road, and we ended up at the Double Down. We proceeded to toast the Dunes and drink Ass Juice all night. Now that’s a party. Cheers to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth!’ ”

Jesse Del Quadro

This guitarist for surf rockers Thee Swank Bastards has played countless shows at the Double Down.

“The first time we played there was in 2003. Three fights broke out. We were like three-quarters of the way through the set and all of a sudden fights just started. That’s my first memory of playing there, just a packed room that was aggressive. It’s evolved over the years, obviously, with more venues opening and such. It’s a bit of a different room than it was, and that’s fine. The room now is half tourists, which is kind of cool. I love that half the room could be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m in from the U.K.’ It’s such an international and eclectic crowd on a random night.”

Asako Watanabe

Bassist for Japanese garage rockers The Heiz, who’ve become a Double Down favorite.

“In 2009, The Heiz toured the U.S. for three months for our first time. During that tour, we played seven times at the Double Down Saloon! The tour was started there. Then we came back once in the middle of our tour. When it was over, we soooo missed Las Vegas and the Double Down, so we came back again and ended the tour there. We got lots of friends and family in 2009. We feel like the Double Down is our second home.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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