Norm Clarke is a legend in Las Vegas journalism circles, so it was only a matter of time before we sat him down for a nice, long chat.
We have proudly been stealing Norm’s scoops for years.
Clarke began his “Vegas Confidential” column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1999, then departed in 2016 citing health concerns.
During his time as a “man about town” columnist at the Review-Journal, Clarke set the standard for shaking stories loose, building a network of inside sources and maintaining a singular reputation for accuracy and integrity.
A pair of robotic bartenders have created some serious buzz since a new bar, Tipsy Robot, opened inside Miracle Mile Shops at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas resort.
“Kuka” is a German word meaning, “Bow before your new robotic bartender overlords.”
Tipsy Robot is billed as the “first land-based robotic bar.” There’s another pair of robot bartenders on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas cruise liner, but these are infinitely better, because Las Vegas.
You can’t spell “tipsy” without “tips,” and, ironically, robot bartenders don’t accept those.
As marketing gimmicks go, this is one of the best we’ve ever seen, and crowds were gathering to watch the robots mix drinks even before the venue opened to the public.
We were utterly mesmerized as the dynamic duo deftly delivered drinks. See for yourself in our hastily slapped-together video.
That adorable little dance, though.
So, here’s all the Tipsy Robot skinny.
Guests place orders via one of 33 tablets. There’s a robust list of 18 signature cocktails, but guests may order custom-built drinks, too.
Park it at a tablet and make some mechanical mixology magic.
For an existing drink, it’s just a matter of making a selection and providing a name and e-mail address.
For custom drinks, guests can choose from virtually unlimited options, from the kind of liquor (Tipsy Robot boasts 172 bottles, or 59 different brands) to exact proportions of liquor and mixers and ice.
There are 14 “portions” in all. For example, we ordered a rum and Coke with two parts rum, six parts Coke and six parts ice. We really like ice.
Tipsy Robot serves Captain Morgan Silver. We’re trying to get past it.
Once an order is placed and paid for with a credit card (drinks are $14 for a standard drink with one shot of alcohol), it goes into a queue. That’s a fancy European term for “line.”
The robots take anywhere from a minute to 90 seconds to prepare a drink, so the virtual line moves quite quickly.
A fun part of the process is that video displays keep track of where your order is in the queue, and you can tell when your specific drink is being made.
Analytics! See where you are in the queue, the most popular drinks being ordered and trends related to the consumption of various drink categories. You are officially a world-class nerd.
While a drink is being prepared, an e-mail is sent to the address given when the order was placed.
The e-mail contains a QR code which, when scanned, “unlocks” the drink. This ensures nobody can abscond with a cocktail.
Set your drink free with your QR code. QR codes are like bar codes. Emphasis on “bar.”
The robots prepare drinks element by element, grabbing ice from a dispenser, extracting liquor from bottles hanging overhead, slicing fruit, shaking up the drink and pouring the cocktails ever-so-carefully into plastic cups.
What don’t the robot bartenders do? They don’t take breaks, they don’t accept tips and they don’t provide straws.
There are attendants in space-aged uniforms to handle the straw thing.
The robot helpers are called “Galactic Ambassadors.” Just play along.
During our visit, we chatted up Rino Armeni, owner of the 2,500-square-foot Tipsy Robot and Chairman of Robotic Innovations. He said, “I’m very proud that Las Vegas finally has something different, new, and most importantly, ahead of its time.”
Armeni is a charismatic Italian whose enthusiasm is contagious.
“In food and beverage,” Armeni says, “I think we’ve been asleep at the wheel lately. It’s been a matter of recycling, rather than being inventive.”
Yes, he actually said “sleeping on the wheel,” but we know what he meant.
Armeni continues, “We want to be almost like the fountains of Bellagio, the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign. We want people to come and experience this kind of entertainment.”
Owner Rino Armeni greets Tipsy Robot guests, assuring them he’s never heard the word “Skynet” before.
Armeni is careful to point out he considers the robot bartenders entertainment, rather than a replacement for actual bartenders.
In fact, Tipsy Robot has a “Human Bar,” with humans serving up the libations.
The robot bartenders aren’t fully autonomous, of course. A human being is still tasked with replacing the liquor bottles.
When we asked an insider how much the robots cost, the answer was along the lines of “a metric ass-ton.”
Humans and robots have many things in common, including an ongoing need for lubrication.
Tipsy Robot is looking to crowdsource the names of the robots. Siegfried and Roy leap to mind. Find out more on the Tipsy Robot Facebook page.
Tipsy Robot is open from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10:00 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Here’s another look at these modern marvels. You may not be able to tell these robot bartenders your problems, but you’ll always know the precise size of your pour.
It came in with an “Aaargh!” and went out with barely a whimper.
The Zombie Apocalypse Store, a quirky Las Vegas retail store and attraction, has closed.
Ah, the memories. The Zombie Apocalypse Store is currently pushing up daisies.
The store called it quits with zero fanfare or news coverage in May 2017 after a liquidation process where fans could purchase zombie and doomsday-inspired tchotchkes at garage sale prices.
Here’s a look back at the Zombie Apocalypse Store.
We’re saddened to learn of the passing of the Zombie Apocalypse Store, an undeniably memorable destination for “biter” fans and hardcore survivalists.
Here’s a photo from 2013, long before the Zombie Apocalypse Store apocalypse.
The store housed a wide variety of zombie-related merchandise like emergency water filtration systems and food supplies, ammo, stun guns and roamer-killing weaponry.
Not gonna lie, it got a little awkward.
The Zombie Apocalypse most recently hosted a 3-D zombie photo studio and zombie shooting gallery. See more.
After a little more than five years of operation (the store opened in November 2011), the once-brisk zombie business began to decay, so the store’s owners decided to pivot to the booming Bitcoin business.
That’s right, the Zombie Apocalypse Store has risen from the dead, becoming Bitcoin Central Las Vegas.
Bitcoin, of course, is what’s known as an alternative currency, or digital currency. Bitcoin got its start in 2009 as the first decentralized cryptocurrency. There’s been a lot of buzz about Bitcoin recently as the digital currency’s value has skyrocketed.
As with so many things in Las Vegas, we didn’t realize how attached we’d become to the Zombie Apocalypse Store until we learned it was gone.
Part tongue-in-cheek, part deadly serious, the Zombie Apocalypse Store was a singular Las Vegas attraction.
Zombies in Las Vegas aren’t going down without a fight, however.