Musician and pizzaiolo best friends ‘dive’ in, reopening the 60-year-old Hard Hat Lounge with respect for the past and an eye toward the future
On Saturday, October 15, the downtown Las Vegas bar, Hard Hat Lounge, celebrated its grand reopening. The historic hangout was purchased by best friends and Las Vegas darlings: Frank Sidoris, a local rockstar, and Robby Cunningham, the brainchild and creative pizza chef of Guerrilla Pizza.
“We wanted to celebrate it as our 60th anniversary because Hard Hat’s been here since 1962. This is also a grand reopening under new ownership and Guerrilla Pizza’s second birthday,” says Cunningham.
The festivities took over both the inside bar and the parking lot-turned-events space, offering multiple musical vibes, food options, and carnival games.
Food and drink included Hard Hat’s own Guerrilla Pizza, a cart for hot dogs, a full bar, beer, and soft drinks.
Guests could purchase tickets for a High Striker strength game (bring the hammer down hard enough and ring the bell at the top of the tower!) as well as chances at dunking a man identified only as “Jimmyfnjack,” who would taunt and tease those throwing the sandbags. He was dunked often after fun banter with his opponents. An exhibition wrestling match held in a ring constructed for the event kept the crowd entertained and engaged.
historic Las Vegas business, Hard Hat Lounge, gets new life for the future
Frank Sidoris, a Vegas native and highly-successful musician, has most recently toured the world as guitarist for Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators and Mammoth WVH. His Vegas upbringing, his professional experiences, and his passions make this an especially personal choice.
“To own a bar in Vegas is something to be excited about, but to own a piece of Las Vegas history is something else entirely,” Sidoris said in a statement. “My partner Robby and I couldn’t be more motivated to maintain what makes the Hard Hat a staple in the Downtown Vegas community and accentuate its historical value.”
Frank Sidoris and Robby Cunningham have been friends since 2016; they met at Artifice Bar when Cunningham was a bartender there. “We just really hit it off,” says Cunningham. They bonded over music, among other things, and performed together.
Cunningham chatted with us on Saturday night about how two years ago he would not have imagined standing here today, and that he almost left Las Vegas.
Guerrilla Pizza—under the name of @freepizzadtlv—had gained a cult-like following and was a beloved mainstay downtown when it distributed free pizza and offered pop-up catering as a form of research and development in 2019.
It was, however, unsustainable. “I gave this place seven years of my life,” says Cunningham. “And I’ve tried and tried and tried, I’ve networked, I’ve tried to prove my value to a lot of local businesses, you know, people I’ve worked for.” He put in the effort, he told us, but he wasn’t getting the traction he needed to stay and build in Las Vegas.
”I ended up going on a road trip to California for about nine days. I said, ‘gotta get my last hurrah before I go [home to] to Michigan.’ Two days [into the trip], the Hard Hat reached me on Instagram [and the then-current owners said], ‘Hey, people have been talking about you in our bar [and saying] how great your pizza is. We need someone to take over our kitchen. Would you be interested?’”
He “jumped at the chance.”
Celebrating well-known Detroit-style pizza, Cunningham slings the square, crispy-crusted, and cheesy pies he honed in his free pizza days and over the last two years since he took over Hard Hat’s kitchen space.
All that work, says Cunningham, made it a “no-brainer” when the opportunity to buy the bar presented itself.
“When I got out of that meeting,” shares Cunningham, “I was like, dude, Frank, I have an opportunity to buy the Hard Hat. He’s like, ‘Are you serious?’ I was like, ‘Dead [serious]. We have to buy the Hard Hat!”
They worked on investments and financials, “and here we are!” exclaims Cunningham.
“We can’t wait to share what we’ve done with this iconic bar and our plans for it with our community,” said Sidoris when the reopening and new ownership were announced in September. “This is one of many block parties that will bring life to the lounge while maintaining its beloved charm.”
What to expect from the Hard Hat Lounge
“Respecting tradition and all of the little details that make Hard Hat Lounge a beloved piece of Downtown Las Vegas, Sidoris and Cunningham promise to keep the bar’s loyal fans happy while adding live music and fun surprises,” the company says in a statement.
The menu will offer classic Detroit-style pizza with all the traditional toppings (including a vegan option), as well as $7 warm bread options such as Wild Bread, Gorilla Knots and Hot Churros; $7 tater tots in Poutine, Parmigiana or Garlic Parm styles; and $10 wings with your choice of Salted, Frank’s Red Hot, Sriracha, Garlic Parm or Mike’s Hot Honey.
All beers, except specialty pours, will be served in 22 oz. mugs. Exciting activations will include A-list guest bartenders, tap takeovers, game nights on Tuesdays, and Karaoke on Wednesdays. Rocking live music inside, as well as big shows outside on a larger stage, are coming soon.
Ongoing specials include:
- Happy Hour daily from 1-3 p.m. and midnight to close with $1 off beers and call drinks
- Industry Night on Mondays with 10% off the tab for industry guests
- $1 off drinks for construction workers, all day, every day
Bar Address: 1675 S. Industrial Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89102
Bar Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays,
and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays