Is it cursed? Haunted? Suffering from an identity crisis? Or simply lacking the formula for success? Despite multiple reincarnations, 5285 Dean Martin Drive hasn’t been able to hold its own as, well … anything. The most recent blip on the radar, Epic Nightclub, quietly opened in December 2008 and just as quietly closed two months later. Scores of former employees and promoters were left to wonder, “What’s up with this place?!”
“Nothing works there,” says Denny Baughman, former leaseholder of Rox (a live music venue) and the current liquor-license holder. First a Mexican restaurant, then Hidden Secrets gentlemen’s club, followed by Rox and lastly Epic, everything to grace the marquee has met with an untimely demise. It might even have been a sports bar somewhere in there, too!
“It’s a pain in the ass to get to unless you know where it is,” says Heathen Peshek, former bar manager at Rox. Baughman agrees that the location of the 12-year-old space is problematic for both tourists and locals, particularly with so many other places to go in Vegas. In addition, those of us who did check out the venue didn’t feel like paying cover charges or splurging for bottle service.
But repeated failures didn’t necessarily come from a lack of trying, nor can they be attributed solely to the poor location or crummy interior layout. Peshek says Hidden Secrets tanked not due to a lack of customers, but because it operated under the wrong license. “There’s no sex in the champagne room,” he jokes, explaining how the strip club had morphed into a swingers club without obtaining proper licensure (additionally, there were internal conflicts among the owners).
Rox stayed afloat for about a year and a half. While patronage at shows was hit or miss, Peshek believes a tragic fight in the parking lot between visitors from California marked the end of Rox. “The club could have stayed open,” Peshek believes, but explains that Baughman was immensely upset about the incident (which was so severe, one man required brain surgery afterward), to the point where his heart wasn’t in making Rox work anymore.
At Epic, a decent renovation of the interior décor helped, but that wasn’t enough to draw a consistent crowd. “They didn’t do what was needed to be done to promote the place,” says a former Epic employee, who requested to remain anonymous. “It could have been okay for people that were tired of the Strip … if someone gave it a legitimate chance to succeed, it could work.” (Epic’s leaseholder, Brian Kim, did not return calls.)
Baughman is still trying to keep the property afloat and work with the landlord to bring a new entity into the building. But speaking of entities, what about rumors of things other than a sound system that go “bump” in the night? After numerous unexplained experiences, the Paranormal Investigation Team of Nevada (PITON) was called in and collected evidence in the form of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) and readings with electromagnetic field detectors (EMF). “It definitely has paranormal activity,” says Diana Elkins, who led four investigations along with her husband, Kelly. Research into rumors that the actual land was cursed yielded no results.
When reached, the current landowner refused to comment on the property and its history or future, stating, “It’s none of your business.” (The Weekly respectfully disagrees.)
On a more positive note, not everything about 5285 is grim. “I think I would be able to get it to work,” says Peshek of opening again someday as a music venue. He proposes expanding the square footage to increase capacity and redesigning the layout. “It’s not like live music is going to die; it’s just getting strangled right now.”
Hey—if that doesn’t work, why not play off the haunted angle and turn the spot into a goth-ish coffee shop/underground hangout. There hasn’t been a good place to hear poetry slams or hold a chess tournament since Café Copioh went down in flames. Just a suggestion …
(Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly and at LasVegasWeekly.com.)