Every year I sit down in late December or early January and lay out the Hogs & Heifers event calendar for the new year. The calendar, is designed to be a guide for my management team at both the NYC and LV bars inclusive of everything and anything that could be pertinent to, or otherwise have an impact on business from Holidays, local area events, special events, charity events, birthdays and the anniversaries of momentous occasions and heartbreaking ones. From this calendar the majority of my work travel dates are determined in advance, and then from there whatever personal dates I need to include, are then added. These would be important dates in my personal life including special dates for me, my husband, and our families. From there I try to determine any weeks that offer down time, during which I am not locked into being in either Las Vegas or New York City specifically and then, try to plan for possible vacation time. Non of this, of course, takes in to account the variable of chance which is where the unexpected takes place. Anything can happen and always does, throwing a monkey wrench in the whole neatly laid out plan. What was my mother thinking when she planned to have knee surgery during the the two weeks of annual toy runs and staff and H&H family Christmas parties? Fortunately she obliged me and rescheduled…phew!!
As I lay all of this out, I realize how little time there is to recover from the past hectic year, before I must be on point for the hectic year ahead and I wonder how it is possible to move forward when my energy is utterly sapped from the non stop insanity of the months just passed.
Although the annual calendar is designed for my business, it becomes a tool that I share with my own family, so they don’t plan for any major events, or surgeries on dates that conflict with the major events on my work calendar, like Laughlin, Bike Fest, and SEMA to name a few. Ultimately, this means that my calendar dictates the time frame for many of my family’s plans for the entire year. The inevitable realization of how my work calendar impacts not just my life, but that of everyone IN my life, is a an anxiety producing, guilt ridden experience. As a result, I often put off the annual calendar project for a week or two longer than I should, and then find myself feeling anxious that I have not done it making it difficult to relax and enjoy the downtime between the last week and first week of any year, and then I finally sit down to do it and realize how behind I already am and my anxiety continues to rise.
It is this moment when I find myself in an utter funk for a series of days, and right about now, I force myself to get back in the game, as it is the only way to get out of my funk.
With all of this said, my goal in writing today is to recap the previous year and announce what is to come this year, a topic assigned to me by an individual who knows better than to give me such a broad subject to write about, since brevity of expression is not my forte; and which ultimately leads back to the damn calendar leaving me riddled with anxiety on how much there is to plan for and get done!! You can see how it is quite a vicious cycle, multiplied in intensity for any person wired for anxiety, which I most definitely am!!
2014 began with a new neighbor in Las Vegas. The Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino opened in late 2013, directly across the street from Hogs & Heifers which was both exciting and challenging. We were all excited for the long awaited opening of a hotel/casino property across the street. The Lady Luck unexpectedly closed it’s doors in February 2006 for renovations, just 6 months after the bar had opened; and what had been a well lit street with blinking neon and a steady influx of customers, quickly became a dark, abandoned behemoth casting a moody shadow when the project lost its financing shortly after the closing the doors.
There was no question it would be great to have the street lit and alive again and, with an updated, edgy, urban design boutique hotel concept and the explosive growth of Downtown Las Vegas, The Downtown Grand would draw a good deal of business to 3rd Street. After going it alone on an abandoned block for just under 8 years, on a shoe string (read nonexistent) advertising budget, it would be lovely to have a large property bring some additional life to the street not to mention an active advertising campaign. The challenges of the year of construction that was 2013, included months of lane closures and stretches of complete street closure to thru traffic, massively impeding and at times completely eliminating, the ability to park on the street. Construction projects often cause an overall drop in business for the venues in immediate proximity and this was definitely the case for us; but the major parking limitations essentially put an end to our regular free Sunday BBQs and Hot Rod Nights which had become favorite afternoon and evening destinations for motorcycle riders, hot rod and rat rod enthusiasts, and locals and tourists alike. All of our BBQ’s featured our favorite local and traveling bands and although we were never a music venue per-say, some of our most magical moments took place with live music on our make shift stage. It was heartbreaking to let that go and truly defined the end of an era for Hogs & Heifers Las Vegas. But a new era was beginning and our sincere hope was that, with a surface vacate on 3rd Street which makes it possible to shut the street down for special events, the hotel would share our enthusiasm for block parties and bring exciting new events to the block on a larger scale. Instead of live music in the bar on our tiny stage, there would be live music out on the street and although we may no longer be able to hold a weekly free BBQ, there would undoubtedly be co-opted events that could include our BBQ’s.
As expected, the beginning months of the year saw a growth in business for 3 reasons. The first was the explosive growth of new businesses and luxury apartment buildings in Downtown Las Vegas, with Zappos moving in to the old City Hall building, and The Downtown Project’s actualization of Fremont East and the surrounding area, as the new hipster hood along with the refreshing burst of energy The D breathed into Fremont Street proper. The second factor was likely due to the viciously cold winter in the North West and with Vegas just a short hop from places like Utah, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and The Dakotas, Hogs & Heifers was packed with happy, beer drinking men and women wearing shorts and sandals in the middle of winter. The third factor was indeed the opening of the Downtown Grand and the onslaught of press exposure on 3rd Street meant all of Vegas was reading about the newest gem of Downtown, coming down to check it out and eagerly watching to see if it would deliver on its promise.
The Downtown Grand’s vision unfortunately fell short of the joyous and welcoming spirit that IS Downtown Las Vegas. The grass roots, community oriented, creativist ideal that has shaped the new Downtown, offering an edgy, tactile, neighborhood feel and creating an urban walking environment filled with the artistic splendor and bohemian spontaneity, was not genuinely embraced by the Downtown Grand and a constant turn over in management in every department made it impossible to develop a working relationship with them.
The months passed, the hoopla died down and just as the weather was warming up and the perfect season for block parties was upon us, the Downtown Grand began a series of poorly planned, overly rigid, painfully bland street events that often left us in shock at how out of touch they actually were with Downtown Las Vegas and how ill suited the highest tiers of management were to run a property in a town built for fun. I always say you have to enjoy a party if you are planning on throwing one and if noise bothers you, move out to the country! And if motorcycle noise and a down and dirty honky tonk bothers you, don’t buy a property with Hogs & Heifers Saloon smack in the middle of the street!
Eight years on an empty street with only two neighbors, a bizarre pawn shop with little to no business and a steak house with a great staff and a fairly regular following, meant lean times often for everyone who worked on the block. On the bright side, and there is always a bright side if you look for it, being the only late night kids on the block, the only business open on Sundays and with plenty of parking on the street, we were able to hold a ton of fun street events in our bawdy Hogs family fashion of controlled chaos and deliciously, devilish mayhem; which allowed for us to build a solid local and regularly returning tourist following that blossomed into a loyal family of wayward souls, misfits and often outrageous but genuine, good, hard working, decent people. It was a period of time that harkened back to the early days of Hogs & Heifers NYC, when the Gansevoort Meat Market hummed in the wee hours of the morning with refrigerated trucks and meat packers in bloody aprons while tranny hookers and fetish clubs filled the night. For many years we had the run of 3rd Street and although we had no budget and some very slow seasons, we held 30 plus free BBQ’s a year which included multiple charity events and much loved themed ones like our annual Luau BBQ complete with Tiki Hut, Fried Spam, Ukuleles and kiddie pools….and water balloons and water guns, and did I mention the bikinis, hula skirts and c’mon I wanna Lei-yas?
It is hard for me at times to digest that we had to give up many of those wonderful events, for a property that has seemingly done its best to suck the life from 3rd Street, but as we always have, always do and always will, we persevered through adaptability and sheer defiance in the face of misguided hostility and contempt. We staunchly refuse to give up our charity rides and accompanying after parties and will fight to the death for our right to take over the street during Las Vegas Bike Fest for the 15,000 plus attendees who visit us during those 5 days annually; and we will continue to put our best foot forward in the hopes that year one was just a tough year of working out the kinks for the new property and that this year will bring a new out look and co-opted effort to work together and if not, at least co-exist peacefully. There are definitely signs of progress and the promise of a constructive and productive rapport.
January 2014 brought us CES and The World of Concrete, which fittingly draws lots of our kind of folk through our doors and the month was over before we could even blink.
We kicked off February with our month long Bras For Breast Cancer fundraiser to benefit The Caring Place and ended the month having raised $6,000.00 in donations after taking down and counting the thousands of bras that have been donated from atop the bar over the years. The Mother Ship, Hogs & Heifers NYC, raised a bit more for the Greenberg Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
We pulled off a non stop month of March Madness accompanied by the Con/Agg Expo, Nascar, The Mint 400, the Monster Truck Jam and the NHRA Drags; AND joining forces with members of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue we created the 1st Annual St. Paddy’s Day Fire Fighter Fun Challenge which was absurdity and fun at its absolute best! Picture big fireman on tiny red tricycles and you’ll get the idea.
In April we Viva Las Vegas’d our way to the Laughlin River Run going from Rockabilly & Hot Rods to our Hillbilly Circus Road Show filled with Motorcycles and Biker Madness, coming away with a new slogan…”Hogs & Heifers, Louder than Lynyrd Skynyrd”. Yup, within steps of the Edgewater Hotel-Casino’s new event center almost a mile away on a hill top, you could still hear the music blasting from the out door Hogs & Heifers Road Bar at the Edgewater’s Party Zone directly on Main Street.
In May we welcomed the PBR’s Last Cowboy Standing, and sent them off reeling and stumbling…but still standing…sort of. Most importantly in May, we held our 9th Annual Hog Wild For Kids Motorcycle Ride and after party to benefit The Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation’s summer program Camp Cartwheel raising over $35,000.00 and sending 138 children to camp for a week.
For the 16th time We mourned the loss, but honored and celebrated the life of my first husband, Hogs & Heifers Saloon founder Allan Dell in June and then rocked out on Sailer Jerry Day introducing our pop up Sailor Jerry Rum sponsored tattoo parlor in the Flag Bar with Eddie and the crew from Bad Apple Tattoo and finally we put on our furry boots and blinky lights for the Electric Daisy Carnival.
In July we rang in Independence Day with our Stop the Irish Insanity campaign, yes I am still fighting that trademark battle against the asshole in Ireland that opened a Hogs & Heifers there and despite photos on their own website, of his own team inside what is indisputably Hogs & Heifers in New York City, is claiming he did not know we ever existed and that he just came up with the idea of a motorcycle enthusiast’s hang out where women dance on the bar, they collect bras and use a cow head in their advertising platform and just happen to have an upside down motorcycle hanging from the ceiling…hmmm, where I have seen that before…oh right, the day over 22 years ago when we hung one upside down above the bathrooms in the New York Hogs & Heifers only hours before opening our doors for the first time. But we put that aside during the UFC’s Fight Week and Fan Appreciation days in Downtown Las Vegas to kick off the UFC’s 5K Run through Downtown and hosted Johnny Hendricks and Travis Browne for an autograph signing session that turned into a drink fest that they didn’t want to leave!
In August we welcomed riders headed for and returning from Sturgis and I took some time to do a little road tripping of my own along the California Coast and into wine country with my husband and a group of friends (read: me and a bunch of guys lane hopping at 95 miles an hour for hours on end). Thank God for the ladies Charlene and Kelly, who although not riders, were great companions.
In September we honored the memories of those lost on 9/11 and were humbled to be honored as the starting and ending point of the Firefighters 9/11 Memorial Parade. The Pipes and Drums took over inside the bar after the ceremonies and played gloriously for all fortunate enough to be there that day. The Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund opened a chapter in Las Vegas, raising money to bring equipment and training to under-serviced firefighters and additional support to Firefighters in need and we were happy to host their kick off fundraiser and welcome them to Las Vegas. After September 11th we began construction of our new road bar, which our own Assistant GM, designed, drafted and constructed putting in insane hours to be ready to drop it in the center of 3rd Street before the month’s end in preparation for Las Vegas Bike Fest. And drop it we did…
We took over 3rd Street for the first 5 days of October as Las Vegas Bike Fest revelers roared into town. With a 26’ by 40’ bar directly in the middle of the street, a team of 18 brilliant and beautiful, bawdy, boot stomping, ass shaking, shot making and heartbreaking Hogs & Heifers bartenders, motorcycles from one end of the street to the other, and thousands of our closest friends, we threw an insanely, bad ass 5 day party and all in the face of a communication breakdown (read: serious adversity) from the Downtown Grand who threatened to “pull the plug” on our outdoor bar if we didn’t stop using foul language! Gosh Darn it, can’t we all just get along! We delivered them a sold out hotel and a packed casino floor filled with our customers, the very people that love our twisted sense of humor, audacious attitude and use of gratuitous language, so who exactly were we offending anyway? Certainly not the people who stayed on 3rd Street during Bike Fest so that they would be within stumbling distance from Hogs & Heifers. Certainly not the Cowboys we welcomed back later that month for the PBR World Finals and definitely not the drivers, crews and attendees of the NHRA Drags who came to party with us over Halloween weekend.
We rolled right out of our Rockstar themed Halloween party and right into SEMA kicking it off on November 3rd with our annual Pre-SEMA party. This year’s party was the best one yet. The street was filled with sick hot rods and rat rods, new young guns and legendary masters of the industry and our Paint Your S**T Pit for charity with brilliant artists throwing down and airbrushing items to be donated to the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation for auction. Mickey Harris, Kiwi Terry, Sam Zamora, Sid LaJeunesse, Ryan Evans, Scott MacKay and Craig Fraser all airbrushing together with our own Tank Bilt. Horny Mike was hanging out with his Horny Bus and furry coat, Gene Winfield was flirting the night away and Bob Hase was back again with the Mini Truck Hall of Fame Class of 2014 induction ceremony. It was the Hot Rod social event of the season for those who were in the know and if you missed it, you missed out!
November is a busy month for me personally. Right after our Pre-SEMA party we turn Hogs & Heifers in Vegas into a disco for my annual Disco Birthday party complete with disco ball, disco floor and 8 hours of old school funk and disco from my personal boogie down collection. We honor the Marines on the Marine Corp Birthday and pay tribute and give thank to Veterans on Veteran’s Day and then I fly to New York to be with my husband on our wedding anniversary just days before the annual Hogs & Heifers NYC anniversary party…22 this past November, followed by Thanksgiving for roughly 20 at my house. This year I had an added 60 hour whirlwind trip from New York to Vegas and back having been honored to be named The Special Ambassador for 2014 at the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation’s annual Profile’s of Courage Gala, which always takes place 2 days after the NY bars anniversary party and just days before Thanksgiving. It was a huge honor and an event I was humbled to even attend let alone be an honoree at and although the time frame was a tight squeeze, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Finally we come to December with the Hogs & Heifers Gary R. Memorial Toys For Tots Run in New York City on the first Sunday of the month, to benefit the Children’s Aid Society followed by the New York bars staff and H&H family Christmas party and then a fast turn around to be back in Las Vegas the next Sunday for the Annual Hogs & Heifers Miracle on 3rd Street Toys for Tots Run at Sunrise Children’s Hospital to benefit the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation followed days later by the Vegas bars staff and H&H family Christmas party and then I hustled my ass back to New York to spend the Holiday with my husband and our families. By New Year’s Eve I just wanted to sleep and this year, that’s exactly what I did, but only after spending an evening hosting my family for New Year’s Eve dinner and ringing in 2015 with my loved one’s whilst drinking fully loaded Egg Nog and Champagne.
So that’s my lengthy recap of 2014 (and I only covered Vegas which I know I will get yelled at for by the New York crew…rightfully so, but how much can I write and how much does anyone really want to read?) And with that said, I will be short on what’s coming for 2015 other than to say it’s gonna be another action packed year filled with controlled chaos and deliciously devilish mayhem but you can stay in the loop on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Hogs-Heifers-Saloon and on our website www.hogsandheifers.com where you can join our mailing list and be kept up to date on coming events.
Be sure to check back on the 1st and 15th of every month for the next installment of the Dell Tell Dive Bar Diary. I promise the next one will focus on the Hogs & Heifers Saloon NYC the OG!
Have a topic you want me to write about, send it to me at [email protected] . I’m not promising I will write about the subject you suggest, but if I like it I will, so make it a good one!
When you find yourself in New York City or Las Vegas head for Downtown, in either City, and have some fun with our shot makers and shot takers, heart breakers and ass shakers for an experience you will never forget!
Thanx for taking the time to read this edition of the Dell Tell: Dive Bar Diary
Your Evil Empire Empress, Mama D