Atomic’s property sold to Hsieh’s Downtown Project — wait until you see the price

Onlookers gather atop Atomic. County records indicate that the bar was sold to the Downtown Project on Thursday, July 17, 2014.

Downtown Project made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

The owners of the Atomic, one of the businesses on east Fremont Street independently owned, have sold their property to Tony Hsieh's Downtown Project. The sale covers the building and the land below the Atomic, but not the tavern name.

"They're never going to own Atomic Liquors," said co-owner Lance Johns Friday.

Brothers Lance and Kent Johns, with minority partner Derek Stonebarger, bought the property for $500,000 in June 2013.

On Thursday, Atomic Cocktail LLC sold the property for $3.48 million to 100 10th Street LLC, whose managers are Downtown Project partners. Atomic Cocktail LLC, whose manager is Lance Johns, had been leasing the property to Atomic Liquors LLC, whose manager is also Lance Johns.

Now, Johns said Friday, instead of leasing from Atomic Cocktail, his Atomic Liquors will now be leasing for 10 years from Downtown Project partners.

He added reassurance that bar operations and The Atomic name remain his.​ Sitting at his usual bar stool Thursday night in the bar at 917 Fremont St., Kent Johns seconded that sentiment, saying the sale won't change the operations because he and his brother remain in control.

"We're still running the bar," he said.

Built in 1946, The Atomic is the oldest standing bar in Las Vegas. After its original owners, Joe and Stella Sobchik, opened it as a bar/packaged liquor store in 1952, customers would sit on the roof and watch above-ground mushroom clouds rise from the Nevada Test Site to the northwest.

The Sobchiks, married 68 years, died within three months of each other in 2011.

After the Johns purchased the bar, they put in a few new features — black-and-white video of atomic blasts play in the bathroom — found an old floor safe and soon became a popular downtown destination.

That is, despite its location in an area Downtown Project's redevelopment had yet to reach.

In an interview on the Joe Downtown Show, Kent Johns said he and his brother, a real estate lawyer, had long had interest in downtown Las Vegas, having previously owned a bar at Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway.

That changed somewhat last October, when The Atomic became home base for media outlets covering the Life Is Beautiful festival downtown.

Then in November, Anthony Bourdain's show, "Parts Unknown" on CNN held its season two finale there.

This story has been revised to clarify that the ownership of Atomic Liquors will not change.