Small Business

Outrageous American Bars

Unbelievable Theme Bars

Most successful bars rely on a constant stream of regulars, who enjoy a place where they can count on the same familiar bartenders, drinks and clientele each time they go in.But for some patrons, it’s the thrill of a new experience or adventurous night on the town that draws them to a bar. For them, theme bars offer not just a place to sit and have a drink, but something akin to going to the theater, where patrons get to be a part of the play.These bars are defined by décor, the food and drink,
Photo: John Lund | Stone | Getty Images

It’s the weekend and you’re ready for a night on the town. So you might just go and pull up a barstool at your favorite local pub — like you do every weekend — and maybe that’s worked for you for a long time.

But like any good relationship, sometimes you need to spice things up with your nightlife. You need to go somewhere different. Somewhere outrageous. Somewhere you can you tell your friends about tomorrow.

What’ll it be tonight? Do you want to hop in your time machine back to the 1920s and sip absinthe? Or are you feeling like going to a place that’s been described as a “temple to rum?” Maybe you want to spend the night in an ice chamber. Or maybe you want to go someplace that’s as hot as “Heaven and Hell.”

Grab your wallet and your ID, we’re about to try something a little different.

Here are nine of the most outrageous bars across the U.S.

By Joseph O’Dell
Posted 18 April 2012

The Edison Lounge

Theme: Early 20th centuryLocation: Los Angeles, CASignature Drink: Edison 77welcomes you to turn-of-the-20th-century Los Angeles in a redesigned power plant in downtown L.A., conceived and designed by founder and owner Andrew Meieran. It’s a 14,000-sq-ft. salute to a previous era of technological innovation.The bar is an elegant marriage of architecture and entertainment, inspired by an early revolution in technology. You can watch avante garde films from the 1920s and 1930s while you sip on an
Photo: Scott Atkinson Newell

Theme: Early 20th century
Location: Los Angeles
Drink to try: Edison 77

If you’re inner-steam punk is dying to get out and you’ve got a taste for sipping absinthe tonight, the Edison Lounge is your bar. It’s like a trip back in time to the early 1900s. It’s the kind of place you could imagine the Great Gatsby hanging out in. Wet your lips with the Edison 77, a prosecco and absinthe mix that's named after the phonograph invented in 1877.

The Edison Loungeis set in an old power plant in downtown L.A. The massive 14,000-square-foot interior has much of the original equipment — vaulted ceilings, exposed light bulbs and steam-release valves — and leather couches for time-traveling in style. Creator Andrew Meieran said he got the idea from parallels he saw from the current technological boom and Thomas Edison’s era of endless creation.

With a mix of art nouveau and industrial gothic architectural styles, the Edison Lounge bills itself as an “Industrial Cathedral.” The Los Angeles Times said the Edison Lounge was “so cool it will rip your head off.”

There is a dress code — no shorts, jerseys, hoodies or ball caps. And if you show up with style and creativity fitting of the era, you’re likely to be more quickly accommodated, according to the web site. And, consider yourself warned: The drink prices are high. But c’mon, did you think the Industrial Revolution would be cheap?


Theme: AirplaneLocation: Miami, FLSignature Drink: N/AFly first class at the an airplane-themed bar made from an actual airplane! South Beach is home to one of the hottest nightclub scenes in the U.S., and the Skyline soars as a unique place for patrons to dance and drink. Curiosity brings customers in the door and the atmosphere keeps them in.DJs spin top 100 hits in the cockpit of the retired commercial jumbo jet, which faces the crowd. Complete with turbines – located behind the bar – and rec

Theme: Airplane
Location: Miami
Drink to try: Turbulence

Have a fear of flying? Start conquering it by grabbing a drink at the Skylinein South Beach, a bar built completely out of parts from a retired jumbo jet — seats, engine turbines, overhead compartments and all!

Airline seats are paired in twos and fours. The bar itself is the wing, with propellers on the wall behind the bar. If you feel a little turbulence after a few cocktails, watch your step — the nose of the plane juts out into the dance floor. First class? Right this way to the VIP section, which is actually made up of first-class seats.

Place your order with one of the “flight attendants,” for in-flight drinks such as Turbulence, Red Eye and Mile High Club. Hey, this is South Beach!

Insert Coin(s)

Theme: Video Games/ArcadeLocation: Las Vegas, NVSignature Drink: The DirtyNerds rejoice! If you have an insatiable appetite to play video games while downing a few, head to on the Las Vegas Strip. Insert Coins is a fully functioning video game bar featuring old-school arcade cabinets, tables with built in video game consoles, a wall of 14 HD TV’s, and a dance floor where top DJs spin everyone’s favorite tunes.With this much entertainment in store for customers, it’s no wonder the line to get in
Photo: InsertCoins | Facebook

Theme: Video Games/Arcade
Location: Las Vegas
Drink to try: The Dirty

If the blackjack tables of the Vegas strip are too grown-up for you, head over to Insert Coinsand play some videogames!

Insert Coins is a nerd mecca combining two national pastimes — drinking and playing videogames. Make it a little classy by ordering bottle service while you’re in the middle of dishing out your favorite fatality in Mortal Combat.

If your thumbs start to cramp up from all the videogaming, shake it off on the dance floor. That’s right, this bar-arcade isn’t just a man cave. Everyone can get their groove on by dancing to such big name acts as De La Soul.

“I challenge you to go there and have a bad time — it can't happen!” one Yelp reviewer said. And my personal favorite: “You haven’t lived until you’ve played drunken Mario Kart!” another Yelp reviewer said.

Just remember to bring extra change for the cab ride home!

The Safe House

Theme: Spy/CIALocation: Milwuakee, WISignature Drink: The Great SpytiniDetails about the are kept hush-hush by the staff, all of whom are dedicated to the secrecy of the establishment. Even information on the origin of the nightspot is hazy. Chief (dis)Information Officer, Shauna Baldwin, informed CNBC that founder David Baldwin had “received an urgent message from Control with orders to install a spook's haven in MKE (Milwuakee)” and this was how the Safe House came into existence. Further inte
Photo: The Safe House

Theme: Spy/CIA
Location: Milwaukee
Drink to try: The Great Spytini

Would you do the chicken dance, or give your friend a full-body pat-down to get into a bar? Would you do it if you knew that everyone inside the bar was watching, on a TV screens airing your exploits? Surprisingly most patrons say “yes” at the Safe Housein Milwaukee — and some even leave the bar multipletimes just to earn their way back in all over again!

Of course, knowing the password allows you to sidestep the humiliation, but how fun is that? Once you’re past your first trial, the rest of the night is all about exploration — you never know which booth or picture on the wall may give way to a secret room, or who is behind the one-way mirror. Visit the interrogation room on your birthday for some special treatment, and stumble on spy gadgets while you’re getting lost in what one Yelp reviewer called “A playground for adults.”

But please keep this all a secret — the staff and owners are very adamant about that. First rule of the house: You don’t talk about Safe House. For instance when CNBC asked where the idea came from, CIO Shauna Baldwin replied with this origin story. “Legend has it our Station Chief, Dave Baldwin, a self-made multi-zillionaire at 16, was on R & R at his palatial Chalet high in the Swiss Alps when he received an urgent message from Control with orders to install a spook's haven in MKE. On Oct 8, 1966, a Safe House was clandestinely put in operation in downtown Milwaukee. The rest as they say is hearsay.”

That’s dedication!

Smugglers Cove

Theme: Pirate/TikiLocation: San Francisco, CASignature Drink: Smuggler’s Cove Rum BarrelLocated in San Francisco, Smuggler’s Cove mixes a tiki bar theme with a serious passion for rum. Owner Martin Cate said “Smuggler's Cove was born from the desire to do a great tiki bar, but to expand the idea to include the whole history of rum.”Anyone can do a tiki theme, but Smuggler’s Cove kicks it up a notch. The large – rum based – cocktail list was inspired by “rum's earliest history, through Prohibitio
Photo: Jennefer Yin

Theme: Pirate/Rum/Tiki
Location: San Francisco
Drink to try: Smuggler’s Cove Rum Barrel

Yar! Who dares enter ye Smuggler’s Cove?

Travel and Leisure describes walking into Smugglers Coveas “stumbling into a Polynesian ship wreck.” Each piece of the bar has some significance to the history of rum, according to owner, Martin Cate, from the tiki bars of the 1920s and '30s to Prohibition-era Havana. The décor is part tiki bar, part World War I and II memorabilia and part nautical salvage. The result of this rum-running time warp turns out to be something akin to a pirate ship.

With a choice of over 70 cocktails, most of which are in some way based around rum, Travel and Leisurecalled this place a “temple to rum.” Try a flaming drink – they’re a specialty here or the Smuggler’s Cove Rum Barrel, a secret blend of fresh juices, Caribbean spices, several rums served in a ceramic barrel you get to keep.

So when you first enter, scratch drinking rum on a pirate ship off of your bucket list, then order a cocktail in a bowl and watch the bartender make it go up in flames.

Fire in the hole!

Trailer Park Lounge and Grill

Theme: Trailer Park/TikiLocation: New York, NYSignature Drink: Margarita PitchersLocated in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the brings the simpler charms of trailer park culture to an otherwise chic location. The bar is known for both its bottom line beers and pitchers of margaritas, not to mention its atmosphere. When entering the bar – appropriately through a screen door -- patrons are immersed in kitsch, such as a pregnant, cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking mannequin, lawn flamingos and
Photo: Trailer Park Lounge and Grill | Facebook

Theme: Trailer Park/Tiki
Location: New York
Drink to try: Mangorita

Sure, you could go to a fancy Manhattan cocktail bar anytime. But how often do you get to go to a trailer park?

If all of those high-brow places are making your collar itch and you’ve got a hankering for some kitsch, the Trailer Park Lounge and Grillis just the place.

As you walk in, you’re greeted by a cigarette-smoking, beer-swilling pregnant mannequin standing near a retro '60s-style trailer. And of course, it’s loaded to the gills with Elvis memorabilia and trailer park tchotchkes. The menu reads like a trailer-park barbeque, with a “double-wide burger,” “grilled fat dog,” sloppy joe, mac & cheese and moon pies.

The Trailer Park Lounge & Grill was voted one of the “Kitschiest Restaurants in America” by the Food Networkand bills itself as “The place to meet your next ‘ex!’”

And you can take a souvenir home from your trip the trailer park — everything from a T-shirt that says “I Met My Next ‘Ex’ at the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill” to trucker caps, stick-on tattoos and “nudie cutie pens.”

Yeah, you heard me.

ICEBAR Orlando

Theme: Ice barLocation: Orlando, FLSignature Drink: Penguin PissDon a winter coat and step into the a winter wonderland in Disney World’s backyard. The concept of an ice bar is simple: make sure everything is made out of ice. Because it is kept at a chilly 27 degrees Fahrenheit, patrons are only allowed in for 45 minutes at a time. Coats are provided for the many patrons that step inside from the Florida heat. After exiting Icebar, you can heat things up in the Fire Lounge, the adjacent night cl

Theme: Ice bar
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Drink to try: Penguin Pizz

The ice bar of all ice barsis located right in Disney World’s backyard. The largest one of its kind boasts an interior entirely made of solid ice, and it is kept at a chilling 20 to 27 degrees to remind you of that. The Travel Channelcalled it one of its top 10 “Extreme Bar Hopping” bars.

Giant ice sculptures adorn the surroundings, and one TripAdvisor reviewer went as far as to call them “epic.” Not only are they nice scenery but they can actually be a part of your drinking experience. The “Penguin Pizz” is vodka poured through a penguin ice sculpture from the, um, top down, and into your glass. (I’m thinking it gets less gross the more you drink.) Remember to save your glass for half-priced refills.

It’s so cold in here, they only let you stay for 45 minutes at a time. To help you stay warm, they’ll provide you with a thermal cape and gloves. Or, just head to the “Fire Lounge” next door. Though it is Florida, so you could also just go outside!


Theme: Dante’s InfernoLocation: Portland, ORSignature Drink: Flaming Coffee Shotswas named for the author of the 14th-century poem, Divine Comedy. The bar follows the themes of sin and decadence from the epic and translates it to the décor and entertainment in the bar.The bar is completely ensconced in red, and when it opened had flaming oil cans in the middle of every table to resemble the fires of hell. Times and fire codes have changed but the spirit of Dante’s remains intact, featuring sinfu
Photo: Dante | Facebook

Theme: Dante’s Inferno
Location: Portland, Ore.
Drink to try: Flaming coffee drinks

Don’t singe your eyebrows because you’ll need to keep them raised at Dante’sin Portland.

Named for poet Dante and his depiction of hell in “Divine Comedy,” this club is hot — and the bellowing fires contained within the bar aren’t even its hottest features!

There’s the Sunday night “Sinferno Cabaret” that features go-go, cabaret, and striptease dancers turning up the heat.

If that’s not enough, then embarrass yourself like a real rock star during Monday nights' “Karaoke from Hell.” This is no ordinary karaoke. You get an actual live backing band to slur your way through Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Dante’s owner, Frank Fallaice, suggests trying the flaming coffee shots to keep you sweating on those cold Portland nights.

Club Heaven and Hell

Theme: Supernatural planes of existenceLocation: Washington D.C.Signature Drink: N/Ais a three-tiered nightclub in the Adam’s Morgan district of D.C. It isn’t hard to discern the theme of this bar, but you may be surprised by what you find when you stumble in.The Heaven level plays top-100 hits, featuring the area’s finest D.J.s, and has the most inviting scenery in the club. It is adorned with white sheets, paintings reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel on the wall, and pew seating.If you were exp
Photo: Doug Duvall

Theme: Heaven and Hell
Location: Washington, D.C.
Drink to try: 666 Shooter

Are you going to Heaven or Hell?Well, if you’re in the Adams Morgan district in Washington, you don’t have to make that distinction. Try a little bit of both and see what you’re style for the evening is.

Heaven is a dance party jam — the club scene is big up there! Yes ladies, Heaven’s favorite era is also the 1980s, where you can dress up like and get down to Cindy Lauper. Every night is a thematic dance party in Heaven.

Head to the basement and things are a little different. For starters Hell’s got bare minimum in decoration. Just a bar and a pool table. The drinks are stronger in Hell and yep, you guessed it — it’s hotter down there! Yelp reviewers say go to Hell when you want good conversation — and stronger drinks!

Is it going to be Heaven or Hell? This time it’s up to you.