Tommy Rocker’s survived the dark days of the bar business in the mid-2000’s when many failed. And to the victor, goes the spoils.
“I am blessed we were able to make it through when others didn’t,” Rocker said at his Mojave Beach Bar & Grill (4275 Dean Martin Drive) just before taking the stage for his set of Jimmy Buffett songs and others that fit the Margaritaville genre.
“Our location allowed us to survive, being close to the Strip,” Rocker said. “We are a locals watering hole and get so much of our business from the after-work crowd.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have a recognizable name and being around now coming on 25 years. Rocker’s is established and versatile. They have killer burgers, a huge area that can handle outdoor concerts and events, not to mention top video gaming that features a rarity – $10,000 progressive for hitting a royal flush.
“Things started to change about six years ago,” Rocker said. “The after-work crowd is a big part of our business. Being in the public eye enough with me playing has helped.”
Rocker likes to say he didn’t choose Vegas, but that Vegas chose him. He also carries a cabaret license, though doesn’t feature strippers any more.
“We have a checkered history due to that cabaret license,” he said. “It was a way of testing the waters when other clubs closed and turned into Dotty’s. I would never get back into the cabaret thing. I have this joke…You have your pimps, hookers and drug dealers. And that’s just the bartenders. I wrote that joke.”
Rocker keeps the cabaret license to make the property more valuable. He also has The Black Mountain Grill, a more upscale place that his wife runs, in the Seven Hills area of Henderson.
“There it is more about dining than gaming, but that $10,000 progressive does attract a lot more $1 players,” he said. “Down here we generate a lot of business from having the City Center, Cosmopolitan and the Harmon overpass so close.”
In fact, his place on Dean Martin doesn’t really get rocking most nights until 10 p.m. when the swing shift casino workers get off.
“We carry the finest beers because that crowd demands it,” Rocker said. “We also do a lot of charity events and host an outdoor cooking contest when all the trucks come over each Saturday. We do get a lot of support from the hospitality industry.”
It was Rocker’s connection as part of the nationwide list of entertainers from what was Carlos Murphy’s that brought him to Vegas.
“It just clicked,” he said. “Just a matter of being the right guy in the right place at the right time.”
Carlos Murphy’s opened a place on Maryland Parkway in 1984 using Rocker. It lasted five years and Rocker eventually created his spot on Dean Martin.
“We’re the Denny’s of gaming, open 24 hours,” said Rocker, who keeps his ties to Buffett secure by appearing on his shows on occasion and hosting the Parrothead Club each Wednesday for the past 17 years.
“We will always be a Buffett bar, but now are very much a San Francisco 49ers home,” Rocker said. “We had the Miami Dolphins for a while, but they played a lot of morning games. The 49ers crowd approached us and we love being associated with them. They have a great following in Las Vegas.”
As for the future of Tommy Rocker’s, plans are in the works to expand the outdoor venue for larger entertainment shows and charity events.
“We can have another bar that offers a spectacular view of the Bellagio and Caesars,” Rocker said. “I wanted a place like Carlos Murphy’s with good food, gaming and entertainment. I love to perform and Vegas is definitely the place to be.”
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].