Did you ever go to a bar expecting to spend a couple of hours and a few hard earned dollars only to wake up 16 hours later with a throbbing headache and no memory of what took place? Well if you’re in need of such an experience, I suggest you check out Snick’s Place on 3rd and Imperial. I’ve experienced the “blackout” drunk and the “was I just roofied” feeling that only comes with afternoon romps at desolate strip clubs in Reno and visits to Snick’s.
Snick’s is unarguably the oldest gay bar in Las Vegas, and it happens to have the oldest gay people in it. Rob, the bartender du jour, could have easily passed as Captain Kangaroo, and for a brief moment I felt compelled to ask for an autograph. Realizing that Captain Kangaroo was dead, I decided not to know if I was being served booze by a reanimated corpse.
As usual, none of my friends wanted to come along on this journey. Whenever I want to make a move to Snick’s Place I’m always met with resistance like I just asked if anyone wants to visit Chernobyl for a picnic. I’m not sure why. The place is rife with human oddities and who doesn’t want to visit a bar where one has to be “buzzed” in.
“It’s to keep out the riff raff,” Nicky, the main man in charge, once told me. But, after looking around, it was hard to understand how the filter system was actually working. Honestly, the varying degrees of “normal” and “holy shit” is the real charm about Snick’s Place and, on any given night, it’s a virtual human grab bag of dowdy office workers, Village People outtakes, and, what I lovingly refer to as “beardos.”
They recently upgraded the place (if you haven’t been in a while). There’s shuffleboard! No one really wants to play, and chances are likely that it’s really used to stage sex scenes when the straights leave, but if you are into shuffleboard, they’ve got it. They also replaced the Erasure/Donna Summer heavy jukebox with a new-fangled Internet jukebox. After my third Of Montreal selection, Captain Kangaroo asked, “how many more of these did you play?” He was obviously not impressed with my taste or intuition.
Down the bar were a couple of trannies that gave up trying to fool anyone. Shaving and make-up were obviously options that they didn’t feel were worth it. Not for Snick’s. That’s probably why Snick’s always served as my default dive bar: It’s the perfect place to hide. You won’t find the snobs and sycophants at Snick’s Place and if you don’t feel like taking a shower or wiping your ass, there’s no better place to have a cocktail.
The drinks are wince inducing. I ordered a Kettle One and Seven. I didn’t see much “seven” hit the glass. If you walk in with $10, you’ll crawl out looking for your house keys.
The bathrooms are a nightmare. Touching anything with your hands feels like a gamble with the World Health Organization. I made use of the copious amounts of paper towels and made makeshift oven mitts to work the water faucets. There was no soap. This was a bit of a surprise, but not as much of a shock as when I discovered that there was a ladies’ bathroom. Who the hell uses it? Snick’s Place is definitely a boys’ club. Even the women prefer to piss standing up at Snick’s.
I saddled back up to the bar and ordered a third Kettle and Seven. Soon, as if by magic, there was two of everything. Two Captain Kangaroo’s, two shuffleboard tables, four trannies…and to regain my balance in the universe I decided to focus on the television screen. Gone with the Wind was playing. It was the sad part where the little girl goes horseback riding and Rhett calls out for her to stop, but she pugnaciously trots off to try and jump the gate only to land horrifically, sans helmet, onto the unforgiving ground. She breaks her neck and Rhett holds her broken body against his chest and weeps deeply. We all watched this bit while Sister Sledge played on the speakers above. We followed the dialog with the closed captioning like we were watching a Swedish art film. Even the trannies were a bit weepy. As I dried my eyes I knew I had enough and it was time to leave.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.