The temperature is 23 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’re surrounded by ice. The bar, walls, seating—everything is carved from blocks of Canadian ice. And it’s all in the middle of a casino in the Las Vegas desert.
New Zealand’s aptly named Minus 5 has chosen Mandalay Bay’s Mandalay Place shops for the ice lounge concept’s first U.S. installation. President Craig Ling’s foray into ice lounges began in 1998 when he created a Russian bar with ice elements. “The back of the bar was permanently ice, the bar top was ice, and then we had statues that melted,” he explains.
With the creation of a special “cool room” already implemented in their venues throughout Australia and New Zealand, Minus 5 is set to defy our triple-digit heat. “We’ve created and engineered a special room that actually makes us able to maintain the ice [throughout] the year.” Criticism from the media on power consumption and wasted water be dammed!
Beginning your next night out on the town at the 4,000-square-foot Minus 5 looks to be a sexy new option for a hot—er, cold?—rendezvous. As guests ascend the escalators to Mandalay Place, a “moving billboard” (read: a really big window in the lounge) will give patrons a hint at the goings-on inside the frozen space. Minus 5’s entrance resembles an Aspen ski lodge with stone and wood elements.
No need to B.Y.O.P. (bring your own parka), as Minus 5 provides everything you’ll need in the changing room. Store your belongings in lockers and don the provided gloves, hat, coat and boots (all with hygienic liners for germophobes). Next comes the briefing room and a short ice-etiquette presentation. Basically, don’t push over ice statues or stick your tongue to the frozen walls. Consider using two hands for the ice shot and cocktail “glasses.”
After passing through one more room, akin to an air-lock chamber, guests finally enter the 1,200-square-foot ice lounge. “There’s a lot of excitement happening in here,” Ling says. “We’ve got ice chandeliers. We’ve got ice couches—everything’s ice.” At the far end of the 50-person-capacity space, there’s even an ice chapel; Minus 5 is working in conjunction with Mandalay Bay’s wedding services to make unique nuptials possible.
Vodka cocktails, such as the Cheeky Eskimo, are served in ice glasses created using pure New Zealand water. But forget enjoying a frothy brew inside Minus 5, as the beer would freeze. Other spirits might be served, as long they’re over 40 proof.
“[Minus 5 is a] great place to go before dinner and have a cocktail, experience what’s going on,” Ling says. It could also be a good after-dinner stop before heading out to a club, but should not be your sole destination for the evening. Patrons are only allowed in the lounge for 30 minutes, although they are welcome to stay in the adjoining exit pub/bar as long as they’d like. Ling explains the restriction on time: “We don’t want people getting drunk in here. It’s not a place you come and get drunk. It’s a place where you come and appreciate what we’re doing … it is an experience.”
In addition, cold temperatures have a different effect on alcohol consumption. Post-tour, Team Hangover personally experienced a quicker-than-normal tipsiness in Mandalay Bay’s Red Square vodka locker. Speaking of the vodka locker, how does Minus 5 differ? “They’re a cold room,” says Ling. “We’re an ice lounge experience.” In other words, the only ice in the vodka locker is a thin strip running the length of the bar top.
Minus 5 is also more accessible to the public at $30 per person, which includes one cocktail. A Red Square vodka goddess informed us that entry into the zero-degrees-Fahrenheit vodka locker requires the purchase of a bottle or an exclusive membership, $3,000-$5,000.
Minus 5 is set to open at the end of September; the adjacent bar is slated to open in October. We only hope they’ll consider extending the 30-minute time limit to 60- or 90-minute sessions as they do Down Under so guests can enjoy the surroundings without feeling rushed. Now that would be cool.
(Originally published in the Las Vegas Weekly and at LasVegasWeekly.com.)