Corner Bar Management transforms downtown Las Vegas into an entertainment destination

If you’ve visited downtown Las Vegas, you may have noticed quite a change over the past decade. What was once an area few tourists and even locals set foot on except under the bright lights and comfort of the Fremont Street Experience, has become a utopia for drinking, dancing, eating and digging into cool atmospheres. One street that has received great fanfare is the Fremont East district. It is here that you will find a memorable night of revelry. And that’s partly thanks to Ryan Doherty and his company, Corner Bar Management.

Boston native Doherty never wanted to stay in Vegas. While studying hotel management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he decided to study for a semester on the UNLV exchange program. That was in 1996, and he’s been here ever since. While completing his undergraduate studies at UNLV, he immersed himself in the Vegas nightlife industry. This industry led him into the world of marketing, printing and media, which led him to partner with the late Tony Hsieh, Zappos founder and downtown champion, who helped open Doherty’s commercial spirit to the opportunities for a renaissance in a once run-down and forgotten part of town. In 2012, Doherty signed a building lease to open his first downtown business, Commonwealth, on Fremont East. This was followed with The Laundry Room (a speakeasy inside the Commonwealth) and Park on Fremont, and the launch of its hotel group, Corner Bar Management. “We had been swept up in the romance of being downtown,” Doherty says. “I got addicted to building stuff. It was the main engine. I started to dive deeper into the design. I wanted to keep building more spaces. I started working with better artists. We started thinking that by building these places, you breathe life into an old building, but also into the neighborhood.

Over the past few years, under the CBM umbrella, Doherty and his team have continued to add hotspots to the Fremont East stretch, including We All Scream, Lucky Day and Discopussy bars; Peyote restaurant; and the bar-theater hybrid Cheapshot. (CBM also dove into the museum realm with the opening of the Museum Fiasco at AREA15.)

“The best thing about having all these places on the same street is that downtown feels more personal, more intimate,” he says. “Years ago, I stopped inviting people to a specific place, and now I invite them to a neighborhood… Our goal is to create gathering places for our community, to support the arts and to inspire the conversation. We will continue to create new sites that do just that.

Of all of Doherty’s rooms, which is his favorite? It’s his most recent opening, Cheapshot, and its accompanying variety show, Miss Behave’s Mavericks. “I love this place so much right now,” he says. “Everyone always asks me what my favorite place is, and I say, ‘Whoever’s next’. But I always come back to (Cheapshot) because it’s so fun to see people on stage interacting with the audience. There’s a recipe for throwing a really good party, but there’s this completely different recipe for keeping everyone engaged for 90 minutes with the show and having a lot of personalities to deal with and the variety act is like 14 acts different throughout the night with nine different people.”

Reviewing its other venues, for tequila and mezcal lovers, Lucky Day returns with a huge assortment of spirits and inventive cocktails. For house and techno music lovers, Discopussy is a bit of a throwback to the days of underground rave, with a warehouse-style space and a big dance floor that will keep your feet moving all night long. For childhood whimsy mixed with an adult playground, We All Scream has quickly become a hotspot for scoops of ice cream mixed with delicious cocktails, a monster sound system and a huge second-floor balcony that overlooks Fremont East action.

While the drinks are flowing freely in all its businesses, the guests are more than a buzz. “The hipper the bar, the shorter the lifespan,” he says. “Legacy matters in bars and we want to be there for decades. My goal is to build timeless places that don’t seem fancy. Our spaces are essentially large-scale art projects that rely on technology, sound immersion and visual stimulation to create an environment that feels more like an art installation than a bar.

And he’s right. Take a look at the graffiti-splattered murals on We All Scream, the playful space between art and industry in the Commonwealth, the secret garden of Park on Fremont, the explosion of lights on the ceiling of Lucky Day, the retro- desert Peyote’s patio design, and vaudevillian vibes and circus-style art encompassing Cheapshot.

“We strive to fill the spaces with art and make them very immersive,” says Doherty. “…Our bars are some of my favorite galleries in the world. They are open all night and invite people from all walks of life to experience it. So many people who enter our rooms have no idea they are entering an incredibly carefully curated gallery filled with contemporary artwork.

Over 25 years later, since Doherty moved to the desert town, through his many career incarnations and many popular venues, we close the conversation with what success looks like. “There’s something special about saving an abandoned building and turning it into a work establishment,” he says. “If you do this enough times in the same area, not only do you revive the property, but you start to breathe life into the whole neighborhood. I want them to write the history of downtown and at least mention us, like these guys added a layer that is still there. I want to leave Fremont Street better than when I found it. This will be the measure of success.

All 21+ sites:

Cheap shooting17 E.Fremont St., Ste. 100. 702.239.3786

Commonwealth 525 E Fremont St. 702.445.6400

Discussy 512 E. Fremont St. 702.754.1225

The laundry room525 E. Fremont St. 702.291.7389

Lucky day516 E. Fremont St. 702.291.7599

Parking in Fremont506 E. Fremont St. 725.210.0306

Peyote1028 E. Fremont St. 725.210.0306

We all scream517 E. Fremont St. 702.666.0313

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