It was a huge bet for Alex Pusineri, the financial equivalent of threading an X-wing fighter through the Death Star’s thermal port. No one understood what he hoped to accomplish, especially his investors. Here was a motorcycle-riding, sci-fi-writing, pop-culture-crazed Frenchman with a background in documentary filmmaking. He possessed a desire to open a Downtown bar where basic amenities like Wi-Fi, gambling and smoking would be verboten, a bar where dressing up like an Imperial stormtrooper would be not just acceptable but encouraged.
“I made a promise to myself,” he says over bottles of Star Trek Klingon Imperial Porter, which his bar, Millennium Fandom, has been serving the last few weeks. “I promised I was going to make this about community. The money will come later.”
On this particular night, a Thursday, the customers are here, showing up 50 strong for “The Cosplay Improv Mashup Show” featuring sketch-duo Brent Mukai and Brandon Green, who offer what they advertise—a dizzying, hilarious blend of Arthurian legend, jungle adventure and Bigfoot. There is much applause as Fandom’s beautiful bartenders, attired as anime characters, take orders and deliver drinks in a moody environment saturated in geek-cult replicas.
I need to be my true geek self. If people come here and see the world I’ve created is legit, they will embrace us.—Alex Pusineri, Millennium Fandom owner
On the walls and mounted in display boxes are a Star Trek phaser and communicator, the Lemarchand’s box from the horror movie Hellraiser, Thor’s hammer, the Blade of Olympus from the God of War action-adventure video game and Captain America’s shield. Above the bar itself? A gorgeous and eerily lit print of the Hungarian version of the 1927 Fritz Lang sci-fi film Metropolis.
Pusineri’s passion is evident in his careful curation of decorative items and in his patient plan for success.
“If I had opened this place to make money right away, it wouldn’t have worked,” he says. “I need to be my true geek self. If people come here and see the world I’ve created is legit, they will embrace us. They will come back.”
Clearly they are. For the cosplay, comedy, themed brews and signature drinks. Oh, and for the tabletop board-gaming, since, at a nearby table, another group of customers is readying a game of Firefly, based on Joss Whedon’s space western TV series.
“[Millennium] is about reconnecting with people,” Pusineri says, looking on with approval.“I want people to come here and talk with a group of friends in a setting that’s almost a museum or a fandom salon.”
The British-educated son of a French CEO, who moved to Las Vegas 20 years ago to shoot a documentary, isn’t a snob who shows disdain for lowbrow culture. He doesn’t smoke or gamble or care about sports. Where do people like him go in Las Vegas? Millennium, which he opened a year and a half ago in the space formerly occupied by the Lady Sylvia cocktail bar.
“I’m a sci-fi guy and I love it in all forms—videogames, movies, books, comics. When you’re young, you don’t think you can make a living from being involved with the nerd community. You think it’s something you can only enjoy for fun, for pleasure, and not something you can build a business around.”
It’s tough keeping a Downtown bar alive and flourishing, even in a 24-hour town. He shutters the bar on Tuesdays and is launching themed weddings (“Wouldn’t you love to get married in the Predator’s starship?” he says) and Monday night movie screenings. Millennium is so cozy in its nerd-cool vibe it might not be long before he expands to seven nights.
The only thing that strikes me as odd is the Foo Fighters blasting on the sound system on board game night. Why not Vangelis’ Blade Runner score?
“Well, we don’t want people to fall asleep here,” he says, laughing.
Which launches a conversation about the forthcoming Blade Runner sequel. Before we know it we’re sucked into another round of Klingon porters.
Scotty, don’t beam us up quite yet.
Millennium Fandom Bar is located at 900 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Suite 140. For more info and a schedule of upcoming events, visit millenniumfandombar.com or call 702-405-0816.