LAS VEGAS The Capital of Flair

Updated: February 1, 2004

The Capital of Flair
By Rick Barcode

In May 1997, the Rio Hotel opened a sexy little bar called The Voodoo Lounge. Not only does it have spectacular views of The Strip and a roof top patio, the first Flair Bar in Las Vegas is born. Both Alan Mayes and Ken Hall worked there and started a revolution. Together they dominated the sport of Flair Bartending with countless competition victories, they also brought Flair to a wide and never ending audience of Vegas tourists.

In January 1999, Ken Hall hosted the first “Legends of Bartending” competition at the Rio. Over the years this was to become the most prestigious competition in performance Bartending attracting competitors from Japan to Australia, Dubai to Singapore, Canada to Germany. Today Legends is recognized as the World Championship of our Sport.

There is a trend in Las Vegas for one hotel to copy another, keeping up with the Jones’. Harrahs is next to open a Flair Bar. In March 2000, Carnival Court, the only outdoor bar on the strip, explodes onto the scene. What Voodoo is to style, Carnival is to energy. This is the second wave. Mindaugas Gradeckas from Lithuania moves to Vegas to work at Carnival Court and makes history as the first Flair Bartender from abroad to be granted a work visa for the US.

With two dedicated Flair Bars and a growing regular world championship in one city Las Vegas was now fast becoming the Flair Mecca.

Caesars Palace kicks off The Shadow Bar in 2001. Kahunaville opens its doors at Treasure Island the same year as does Crazy Armadillos at the Stratosphere. With each new opening, more talent is shipped in from around the country and around the world, most notably Christian Delpech from Argentina who helped to launch Shadow and now works at Carnival Court.

With all these competitors in one town it is only natural for more competitions to start. Tommy Rockers, Convention Centers, Kahunaville, Shadow Bar, Crazy Armadillos, The Beach and the Road Runner all play host to more and more local comps.

In 2003 The Rio, who started it all here in Sin City, decides to make a bold move and announces that it is going all Flair at every one of its casino bars. The flood gates are down and Flair Bartenders from every where start relocating to Las Vegas. There are now over 150 Flair Bartenders working in Las Vegas, including a concentration of more World Champions and Finalists than in any other country around the globe.

This is a Golden Age in the history of Bartending. With so many people sharing the same passion in such close proximity there is a danger. While Bartenders are able to practice and train together, ideas and skills are accelerated, however there is also a tendency for people to duplicate what they see. Although there are now pockets of cutting edge Flair there is definitely an undercurrent of generic Flair that endangers the progression of the sport.This would not be a problem if other cities around the world were opening up Flair Bars and promoting more and more comps. Sadly, this is not the case. As Vegas draws more Flair in it leaves the well dry in other places.

Will Vegas Flair become more generic or will it inspire more Bartenders, Promoters and Bar Owners around the world to do their own thing? Only time will tell. In this town there is no such thing as a sure bet.

Rick Barcode Headshot


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