If sex, drugs and rock n’ roll is your mantra then rock bars are appealing, especially establishments owned by rock stars. That’s double the sex, drugs…well, you get the picture. Music is a big part of the bar/club experience so it’s only natural that a “rock” bar with celebrity musicians as owners should feel the influence of the band/individual involved. No, we’re not talking about Hard Rock Café. We’re talking about actual rock joints, where the cheeseburger isn’t the reason to go and it’s okay to smoke a joint at your table. Okay, that’s not true – everyone knows you need to be in a corner booth to get your smoke on!
There are a lot of reasons to visit one of these places; first, there is the drop-in factor. What happens when Vince Neil walks into the joint? Are there free rounds and an impromptu live set? You never know and never will know, unless you are there. Some (like in the case of Neil) are pretty casual while others (see: Gene Simmons) would probably walk their venue like a politician, shaking hands and making sure you are ready to spend your money. To each their own, but what can be guaranteed is live music, or at the very least a rock-infused playlist to keep you energized while throwing down tequila shots. All rock bars specialize in tequila shots, I don’t believe this is a hard rule, just fact.
So many legendary rock clubs, such as CBGB’s, The Fillmore and The Hacienda, have closed, opening the door for others to fill this void. Some of these bars have set out to create a true punk rock atmosphere while others (see: Gene Simmons) seem to prefer the cash cow Hard Rock Café model. Regardless, promoting rock music is a good thing (remember the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll thing?) and having these bars exist gives fans a reason to visit a neighborhood or city to support this decadent music genre.
10. Cabo Wabo Cantina (Sammy Hagar)
Cabo Wabo has four locations: Cabo San Lucas Mexico, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Hollywood. It’s both a bar and restaurant with the drink of choice, Sammy Hagar’s personal brand of tequila. In Vegas you will find a rock and roll charged atmosphere that combines kick-back attitude, energy of the Strip and of course, tequila. However, if you really want to experience Cabo Wabo Cantina you need to go to San Lucas where there is live music daily at the Cantina and the tequila flows all the way up to the rooftop. Influenced by the laid-back Cabo Wabo way of life, Hagar has created a relaxing, fun bar where the rock n’ roll never stops and although never encouraged after drinking tequila, are able to drive 55mph.
9. The Study and Octagon Bar at Clarence Hotel (U2)
Bono and the Edge own the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, Ireland which has multiple restaurants as well as The Study and Octagon Bar. The Octagon Bar is located in the center and is really a great place to meet and drink. You will notice the Art Deco floor and original trimmings surrounding the bar, there is also an open fireplace where you can cozy on up to with a snifter of brandy. There is a party vibe, but it’s more controlled, for the more sophisticated patrons (read: older) of Temple Bar. For the area, the hotel and bars are expensive, but “hello”, have you ever purchased U2 tickets? If you want good tickets you may need to sell your car. A couple extra dollars for the “cool” ambiance and the chance that Bono could walk in at any moment shouldn’t break you.
8. Snitch (Scott Weiland, Duff McKagan, Brett Scallions)
This New York City bar has long since closed, but when Snitch opened in 2004 it had the best of intentions with lots of rock and roll buzz. Initially known as the “Velvet Revolver Bar” due to Scott Weiland and Duff McKagan’s minority ownership roles, Snitch was a true rock joint with old-school night club booths, kamikaze shot specials and a “don’t tell” smoking policy (smoking already banned in bars at the time). The first few months were epic, featuring drop-in performances by Velvet Revolver and Marilyn Manson. Unfortunately, Weiland, McKagan and Scallions pulled out after 6 months realizing the management was not going to keep up the place. They were right. Two years later the once promising new rock club was a shell of itself, just another dive bar in Chelsea. Rumor has it even the Kamikaze shot specials went away which is obviously not acceptable. Snitch would close shortly after that.
7. Slidebar (Jeremy Popoff)
Promising great food, great music and great company, Slidebar was opened in 2006 by Jeremy Popoff of Lit. Slidebar is dedicated to the musicians right outside of L.A. and their memorabilia covers the walls in honor of these bands and individuals. Hungry? In addition to a full bar you can order The Cowboy from Hell Burger, named for Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and uses Dime’s secret barbeque sauce. All walks of life are welcomed, just be sure to check the attitude with your leather jacket, at the door.
6. Cathouse (Taime Downe)
In the eighties, the Cathouse was where the glam bands and groupies hung out. After all, this was Taime Downe’s place and if it was good enough for the lead singer of Faster Pussycat then it was good for anyone with big hair and high heels. Riki Rachtman, rock DJ and the eventual MTV Headbangers Ball host, was also a partner so not only was this a place to be, but a place to schmooze as well. The bar stayed open for 6 years (eventually killed off by grunge movement), but at the time it was ground zero for sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Regulars included members of L.A. Guns, Guns N’ Roses and Bang Tango. Since, the Cathouse has reopened to some success, but nothing like the eighties. Now there are at best mullet haircuts and karaoke contests. Damn you, grunge movement!
5. Rock and Brews (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley)
This chain restaurant is owned by Dave Furano (promoter), Bill Graham (tour manager) and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS. With five locations and planned future expansions, I am still shocked Simmons never found a way to incorporate KISS into the name of this establishment. The idea behind this restaurant/bar is to create a backstage experience for families, similar to the way Furano and Graham have done so for KISS as well as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead while on the road. There are several beers available and the walls are covered with memorabilia. I’m assuming each location contains a Simmons guitar, but don’t look directly at it (you may be charged a dollar for doing so).
4. Fleetwood’s (Mick Fleetwood)
If you are playing which one doesn’t belong with the others, then you might choose this one. Of course, you really need to catch up on your rock history, because few bands have gone through the true rock lifestyle as the members of Fleetwood Mac did. Mick Fleetwood’s restaurant and bar, aptly named Fleetwood’s, combines food and rock music. Located in Maui, it’s an ideal place to enjoy friends and watch live entertainment in a laid back atmosphere, leaving the drama behind, or better yet, back in the seventies.
3. JBJ Soul Kitchen (Jon Bon Jovi)
Not all rock partnerships are about music and tequila – well at least not this one. This one isn’t even a bar; however, in the name of charity we won’t hold that against Jon Bon Jovi. JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey is where you pay for your meal via donation. The idea is that everyone gets a meal. How does it work? Suggested price is $10 and if you can pay more you are essentially paying for someone that can’t afford a meal of their own. The restaurant has been in operation for several years now and has served countless meals to those in need.
2. Alice Cooperstown (Alice Cooper)
There are two Alice Coopers. First there is “Alice”, the musician who creates a theatre of sorts during his live performances. He is into horror and shock (loves snakes) and is a very big part of rock and roll history. Alice Cooper is a regular dude that just looks like a rock star. He is really into sports, especially golf. The restaurant, located in Phoenix, Arizona, is more based on the latter version of Cooper, but you still see the “Alice” influence. Here you will find lots of rock memorabilia and a patio with a full bar. Live music is booked often and there is even a souvenir shop, but unfortunately no live snakes are sold. The best part of Alice Cooperstown is the wait staff; they all wear “Alice” eye makeup.
1. Feelgoods and Vince Neil’s Tatuado Cantina (Vince Neil)
Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil owns a lot of businesses, mostly around the Las Vegas area, where he lives. Feelgoods Rock Bar & Grill initially opened on the west side of Las Vegas and then had a second location open in West Palm Beach. The layout was total rock club complete with a giant stage, huge bar and cages for girls to dance in. I’m pretty sure Neil’s club wasn’t zoned as a rock n’ roll strip club, but yeah, you get the picture… Once I went to check it out and there were mostly bikers there (half of the parking lot is for motorcycles) drinking along with two guys fully dressed in KISS garb. Not playing, just chilling in seats, drinking Bud Lights. On stage was a pretty kick-ass band and although that particular night wasn’t packed, you could see the layout and attitude could produce electrified nights of dirty rock chaos.
A few years ago Vince would exit the Feelgoods business, but there is a Hollywood ending. The bar is still there and continues to be an excellent rock bar named Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar & Grill. As for Neil, well he is doing just fine. In addition to his many other businesses (and Motley Crue) he has opened another bar, Vince Neil’s Tatuado Cantina at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Here you can order up a “Feelgood Rita” and drink Neil’s signature tequila, Tatuado Tequila.