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Passwords, Secret Bookshelves And The Opening Of 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque

Where: 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. [map], 89119
May 9, 2014 at 6:53 PM | by | ()

Shrouded in mystery due to both its "secretive" location and unique theme, 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque by Holly Madison officially opened with a bang on May 1 at Mandalay Bay. The Prohibition Era speakeasy with a creative cocktail menu, raucous jazz music and 25-person cigar bar has all the makings of something one would find in the HBO hit Boardwalk Empire, with a modern, Vegas-infused twist.

To experience 1923, the first thing you'll need to do is find the place. This isn't a club like XS where the throngs of partygoers standing in line desperately waiting for access sends up a flare as to the venue's location. The 1923 adventure takes place behind a clandestine and nondescript bookshelf tucked into a corner beneath the escalators that lead to The Shoppes at Mandalay Place. From there, visitors have two avenues available to gain admittance: the secret password — which is given out to a select few each night via those in the know — or a cover fee that will run $20. (Update: The cover charge is at management's discretion so you may arrive to find you can enter for free.)

Upon successful navigation through the bookshelf, revelers are transported back in time to a party that looks like it was lifted directly out of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby. A five-piece jazz band headlined by the electric Skye Dee Miles alternates with a house DJ to score the evening in incendiary fashion. And that's just the tip of the entertainment iceberg. Former Girl Next Door and Peepshow starlet Holly Madison and her team of vixens hit the stage for approximately 12-15 minutes every hour for tantalizing burlesque performance that captivated the audience in-between orders of signature libations such as the “Pisco Sour” and “Pamplemousse Drop” (both $13).

With a capacity of 325 people (15 VIP tables), 1923 operates in a space bigger than your average, run-of-the-mill bar, but cozier than a Vegas nightclub. The center bar offers adequate sightlines to all of the evening's festivities, but for those truly interested in the on-stage performances, we'd recommend finding a seat down in front.

Personally, this writer loves the concept. Ever since Secret Pizza opened at The Cosmo, I've found myself wondering when a Las Vegas cocktail joint would follow the same blueprint by creating a drinking establishment that spreads through word of mouth due to its undercover nature. People tend to enjoy possession of shadowy knowledge that few others are privy to.

I'm also a big proponent of enjoying a quality cocktail in dimmed lighting with energetic music away from the Vegas masses. 1923 offers that type of experience in spades. But, what I worry about is the venue's long-term sustainability. Two successful models for Vegas drinking joints operate on opposite ends of the spectrum. The first such locale is the stop-and-drink concept you can find at a place like Rhumbar while the other is the all-night destination you encounter with nightclubs such as Hakkasan. 1923 operates in a space between the two, where it's not going to draw a crowd from the random tourists passing by, but is also unlikely to serve as a place one settles down for the duration of the evening.

The hope is that the current model finds success, because 1923 brings a unique flavor to Las Vegas nightlife through creativity, imagination and a little help from the bootleggers of years past.

Hours of operation: Sunday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. until “the late hours.” 

Archived Comments:

Worth a try

One of my favorite things to do at the Mandalay is having a kryptonite martini at Red Square. With 1923 right around the corner I'll definitely stop in.

Is Harry Potter Sleeping Here?

Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce flopped here big time. Secret Pizza stands a chance because you have foot traffic by the entrance...but this joint is stuck underneath the staircase! If there's no signage, it ain't gonna work. I smell a stinker.