Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2020

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For ReBAR owner, pandemic closures were test of mettle

More Business Reopen in Phase Two

Steve Marcus

Derek Stonebarger talks about reinventing his businesses at ReBAR on Main Street Friday, May 29, 2020. ReBAR will reopen as a bar “Preview Thursday” on June 4, he said. Water parks, bars and gyms are among the business that were allowed to reopen Friday under the state’s Phase Two reopening plan.

Derek Stonebarger has reimagined how his downtown Las Vegas business looks and feels over the past two months.

Stonebarger, owner and operator at ReBAR and adjoining Davy’s in the Arts District, initially turned his restaurant into a bodega once the coronavirus closures started in mid-March. They sold items such peanut butter, cookies and over-the-counter medicine.

When Las Vegas permitted liquor sales, he added curbside alcohol deliveries. And when restaurants were allowed to reopen at a limited capacity last month during the initial phase of the state’s reopening, he began offering dinner and a show at the patio.

They were able to make about 90% of the earnings from before the pandemic hit, he said.

“I’ve never worked so hard to break even,” Stonebarger said. “We paid our bills, we paid our lease, we paid our rent, we paid the electric and we’re ready to move forward to whatever the hell the future holds for us.”

Usually, the busy season for the bar is from St. Patrick’s Day through Memorial Day, meaning they missed out on many customers. Still, he fared better than other businesses in the industry.

“But a lot of businesses that are going to reopen, unfortunately this summer is going to destroy a lot of them,’’ he said, expressing sadness. “Just because you can open your doors, it doesn’t mean you can survive.”

A cancer survivor who had a tumor in his neck removed around the time he opened ReBAR about four years ago, Stonebarger said he was more apt to take risks, although his main concern is keeping his customers and himself safe.

“I feel like I’m living on borrowed time,” he said. “I understand what it’s like to think that it’s the end, and I’ve never lived the same since.”