Fast Draw Coming to a Bar Near You; Hawaii in Vegas; What’s Next for Downtown?


Tactical fast-draw could bring gunfights to a bar near you





Later this month, two guys plan to walk into a North Las Vegas bar and shoot each other.

The combatants will be wearing ballistics-grade head and body armor, carrying dinner plate-sized forearm shields and modified police-issue 9 mm Glocks.   They will be standing at opposite ends of a 30-by-8-foot steel cage — fully enclosed, UFC-style — in the middle of what used to be a couple of stage-side tabletops at Whiskey Dick’s, 2750 E. Craig Road.

That’s where a new sport, known to its North Las Vegas-based creators as tactical fast draw, is set to make its Jan. 31 debut.   “You’ll get two points for a head shot and one point for anything to the (body) vest,” fast draw inventor and former bounty hunter Nephi Oliva said. “You can score a maximum of 12 points, but there’s no time limit, so it’s almost like a boxing match with bullets.”

Oliva has been kicking around the idea of starting a fast draw league for years but had to wait until this month to get a firearms instruction certificate needed to handle “Simunition,” the plastic-tipped, paint-filled training ammunition to be used by fast draw’s gunslingers.   Simunition rounds aren’t as loud as a standard 9 mm round — and can’t be fired out of a regular gun barrel — but they’re built around a regular 9 mm casing and travel at a velocity much higher than paintball guns.   A round hitting an unarmored fast draw gunslinger might not break the skin but is sure to leave a nasty bruise. The Simunition website says that wearing head, throat and groin protection is mandatory and calls the cartridges “nonlethal.”

It “strongly recommends” that shooters stay anywhere from 1 foot to 6 feet away from each other, depending on the type of ammunition used.   Oliva, the founder and owner of North Las Vegas-based Nevada Pigeon Control, recently invested $6,000 for a dozen Simunition-modified Glocks to help get fast draw off the ground.   He and three business partners at the American Gunfighter Association, the fledgling sport’s sanctioning body, expect to earn that seed money back quickly, explaining they are already in talks to install fast draw cages at several bars around the valley.

Fast draw’s appeal, according to its founders, lies in its accessibility.   To Oliva, the sport isn’t a barroom gimmick or a claustrophobic take on indoor paintball. It is a complete entertainment experience, a gender-neutral mix between mixed martial arts and video gaming, featuring disc jockeys, ring announcers, nicknamed gunfighters and just about everything else short of a fog machine.   But beneath it all, he said, fast draw is just an especially flashy way to teach people how to use a gun properly.

“Training for firearms is relatively boring,” Oliva said. “Ultimately, we are a firearms instruction company, and we offer training through sports to make it more appealing.   “People will ask, ‘Aren’t you promoting violence?’ My answer is that people like George Zimmerman existed because something like (fast draw) didn’t,” he said.   Zimmerman’s trial on charges of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 sparked protests around the nation with discussions of “stand your ground” laws. He was acquitted in July.

For Whiskey Dick’s owner Rich Tyson, fast draw is good business.   Tyson, who helped found the bar in 2010, said at first he was a little wary about taking on the sport.   Then he started to imagine all the bar’s booths and stools filled with fast draw spectators, its most prominent gunslingers donning a Whiskey Dick’s-sponsored protective vest.   From there, he was just about sold.

“Our biggest concern was obviously safety,” Tyson said. “But they’re going to be in this cage that’s lined with Plexiglas, and I know (Oliva) has been working with the cops to make sure everything is safe.   I’m not really a big gun guy, but I think the idea is pretty neat. I’d wanna come over and watch it if I didn’t own the place.”

North Las Vegas Police Department spokeswoman Chrissie Coon said police are “looking into the (sport’s) legality.”   “We’ve always taken the stance that guns and alcohol don’t mix, but there’s still a lot to review with the city attorney before we take an official position,” she said.

Contact reporter James DeHaven at or 702-477-3839.



hawaiian food

Hawaiian Chefs Get Cooking in Vegas


By Cathay Che

Las Vegas—the “ninth Hawaiian island,” visited annually by as many as a quarter-million people from Hawaii each year and at one time home to 80,000 former residents of the state—is ground zero for the burgeoning phenomenon of Hawaiian-style dining. Dozens of Hawaiian restaurants are bringing the bold hybrid dishes of Hawaiian Pacific cuisine, as well as a taste of island hospitality, to the desert.

I’m a native of Hawaii myself, and our family’s tradition of the Vegas vacation began with my Japanese grandmother, who loved to play the slots. The last trip of her life, in a wheelchair, was to the California Hotel & Casino—her favorite because it served familiar comfort foods like eggs, rice, and Portuguese sausage that could be doused with the ever-present bottle of Kikkoman. Aloha Specialties (12 E. Ogden Ave., 702-385-1222) continues to deliver on the hotel’s old “Aloha spoken here” slogan with salty, savory dishes you would find locals eating in Hawaii, like chicken adobo or kalua pig and cabbage.

Oahu-based chef Chai Chaowasaree, of Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu, says that when he visits Las Vegas, he enjoys fare like chicken katsu loco moco and lau lau (steamed taro leaves wrapped around chunks of fish and pork) at Island Flavor (8090 S. Durango Dr., Ste. 103, 702-876-2024). Another go-to for Chai, who is also the executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines: the oxtail soup at Kauai Cafe (10140 W. Tropicana Ave., Ste. 122; 702-754-3559).

Roy Yamaguchi, the longtime ambassador of Hawaiian-style eating, offers a foodie-friendly version of local cuisine, including misoyaki cod and his own signature blackened ahi, at Roy’s (620 E. Flamingo Road, 702-691-2053). His other favorite spots for a taste of home are Bachi Burger (two locations), owned by Lorin Watada, and Island Sushi & Grill (9400 S. Eastern Ave., 702-221-1600), where he can “talk story” with former Roy’s Las Vegas chef Brandon Konishi.

Also highly rated—the Hawaiian answer to Chipotle—is Braddah’s Island Style (2330 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-222-0767), which churns out burritos, tacos, and bowls with fillings such as pulehu steak and huli huli chicken. If you like sushi, note that Hawaiians express their devotion to raw fish through the staple known as poke—marinated raw tuna and other seafood, served over rice, over salad greens, or by itself—available at Hawaiian Style Poke (3524 Wynn Road, 702-202-0729). And no Hawaiian would skimp on dessert. Sno Shack Hawaiian Shave Ice (1717 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-321-6466) serves up finely shaved snow cones—with delicate fruit syrups, condensed cream, or ice cream—that are as refreshing in the desert as they are on the beach.


downtown lv

As 2014 begins, what’s next for downtown Las Vegas?


By Joe Schoenmann

By the end of 2014, parts of downtown Las Vegas will look much different than they do now.   Old motels and hotels surrounded by Keep-Out fencing will be refurbished and transformed for new uses. Ground is expected to be broken on much needed mid- and high-rise residential projects. Developers, triggered by Zappos’ move into old City Hall and the Downtown Project’s recent property grab, will likely move into parts of the neighborhood that barely got a look before.

On the flip side, while redevelopment will continue, it might not come as quickly as some might expect.   Dan Palmeri, an office specialist with the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield Commerce, fields calls from businesses that want to move downtown to get away from the blandness of the suburbs. But their office space needs are larger than anything available in the area.   Large contiguous tracts of land around East Fremont Street have been purchased by the Downtown Project, but the developers don’t appear to be interested in raising office buildings.

“I love what the Downtown Project is doing, but there’s going to come a point that what they’re doing with the available land is not conducive to creating a true, urban environment,” Palmeri said. “You need to build up and go vertical, because there are only so many parcels.”

If Fremont Street redevelopment slows a bit, however, that could bode well for less-publicized efforts in the Arts District, roughly a mile to the southwest. If Fremont Street gets locked up, developers hellbent on pursuing projects downtown are expected to head west.   Several projects already have been proposed for the Arts District, including a movie theater and a mid-rise residential-office building complex.

Terry Murphy, owner of Strategic Solutions consulting, seconds Palmeri’s feeling that the Arts District could be the next frontier.   “I think that’s where you will see more commercial activity and retail,” she said.   She also believes Commerce Street will get more attention.   Guest gamble at the craps table during the opening of the Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Sunday, October 27, 2013.   “You’re going to see the seed of a very interesting little district — more entertainment-related — because of the buildings, which are warehouses and that kind of thing,” Murphy said. “There might even be residential over there, if it’s far enough away from the railroad.”

Murphy also expects 2014 to be the year the city delves more seriously into a downtown master plan that considers connectivity, public spaces and zoning.   Brand Wiegand, a broker at Focus Commercial Properties, said residential development downtown would be great, but maybe not yet. Developers still have to figure out “how to get something out of the ground that makes sense,” Wiegand said. “Rents have to be higher to make that work.”   Will people pay $2 a square foot to rent an apartment downtown when they can get similar space in the suburbs for $1?

While downtown is the second-densest employment area in the valley — the Strip is the first — Wiegand isn’t sure that a 20-minute drive from Summerlin or Henderson is so daunting that people will pay more to live there.   That’s why the Downtown Project’s efforts to bring in bars, restaurants and retail plazas like Container Park are so important, he said. Creating an environment that’s lacking in the suburbs could help tenants overcome wariness about higher rents.

What else is on the horizon for 2014?

• A downtown developer expects about 1,000 new residential units to be built over the next 24 months. Offerings will include high rises, mid-rises and micro-apartments. They will be aimed at locals, not tourists, unlike the high rises of the early 2000s.

• The Downtown Project’s march eastward on Fremont Street is expected to include repurposing the Ferguson Motel, 1028 Fremont St.; the John E. Carson hotel, 124 S. 6th St.; and the Eden Inn, 120 S. 6th St. The motels will be transformed into bars, galleries, restaurants, offices and retail space.

• A flurry of entertainment venues are anticipated for the area near 10th and 11th streets.

• Expect the return of the Bunkhouse before the middle of the year. This bar-club was bought by the Downtown Project, which expected to reopen it within weeks. But it had so many structural issues, developers had to gut and rebuild it. It is slated to open in the second quarter of the year.

• A long-awaited grocery store is planned for an empty storefront on Fremont Street between 6th and 7th streets near El Cortez.

• There’s talk of a trolley that would travel from Las Vegas Boulevard to Maryland Parkway.

• PublicUs, a “fresh American” restaurant at Maryland Parkway and Fremont Street, is expected to open in the coming months.

• Banger Brewing is scheduled to open in Neonopolis, and another brewery is planned for farther east on Fremont Street.   Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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