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Beers, Bagels and Zombies: Surviving Las Vegas with Bitcoin

Sunday 05th, January 2014 / 08:54
Beers, Bagels and Zombies: Surviving Las Vegas with Bitcoin

Whether you’re in Las Vegas, Nevada for the annual Inside Bitcoins Convention or just traveling for a legal way to party Silk Road-style, this desert boomtown is sure to tap your wallet with its world-class destinations that indulge any and all passions.

Now, you likely know the big attractions – Caesars Palace’s opulent Roman architecture, the Bellagio’s serene fountains, but Vegas is also home to a burgeoning underground bitcoin community that is just as happy to empty your digital currency reserves.

Even better with gift card providers like Gyft offering access to merchants, retailers and daily deal providers on their networks, you can craft a whole vacation around your coin expenditures – even if you need to find some creative hacks to really do Vegas right.

Need more proof? CoinDesk sent its experts to put the City of Sin on a 48-hour joyride. Here’s our multimedia play-by-play to inform your next Vegas retreat.

Start with bacon bagels

9:30am Brooklyn Bagels

It’s not New York City, but 2,000 miles west of the Big Apple, it’s doubtful you’ll find a better bagel ($2.99 with schmear). A 20-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip, Brooklyn Bagels is a bit of a journey, even for a town where four-lane highways are the norm, but the food is well worth it. The bagels crackle on the outside, and lack the starchy taste of store-bought imitators.

Owner Paul Schloss took us on a personal tour of his kitchen and chatted at length about his bitcoin use, showing off old transactions that have now quadrupled in value.

Schloss told CoinDesk:

“A lot of wouldas and couldas are sitting on the sidelines. I look at old texts and I’ll see ‘Can you believe it’s at $200!’ If it drops to $180 I’m jumping in again!”

Despite these missed opportunities, Schloss is still on the bitcoin bandwagon. He’d love to own an ATM machine one day, or create a Coinstar-type machine that can help encourage new users to get involved with bitcoin with low risk.

Note of caution: make sure you’re headed to 10604 S. Eastern Avenue before you work up an appetite. There are two Brooklyn Bagels in Las Vegas, only one of which accepts BTC.

High fashion

10.30am Sears Discount Outlet

Okay, so we didn’t bring club-approved shoes, and a quick scan on the Gyft network didn’t exactly leave us feeling glamorous – our options were Sears, Target and Banana Republic.

Still, Sears stores in Vegas pretty much have everything a vacation could need. In addition to our buy-one-get-one knockoff wingtips ($30) and patent leathers ($1), we picked up some other vacation essentials, Crown Royal ($27), a Vegas-themed flask ($10) and fingernail clippers ($1).

Even better, we were able to purchase a Sears Gyft card with bitcoin only a few minutes before checking out, even if our point-of-sale experience required manager assistance.

Healthy lunch

12pm Zikiz

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After some regrettable purchases, don’t you want something you’ll actually feel good about?

Zikiz promises fresh and simple food and delivers with its wraps ($7.99+), rice bowls ($7.99+) and salads ($7.99+) packed with quality ingredients like off-the-spigot Angus steak. It stopped experimenting with bitcoin tips in November and is now taking bitcoin for all purchases.

Owner Eddie Rizk Jr. told CoinDesk it was his customers that convinced him to go all in on bitcoin. Today, Rizk is bullish on the value of bitcoin, choosing to keep his coins rather than sell them immediately, but that wasn’t always the case.

“I kept on looking at it, and following it a little, and we thought it would be a good investment for us,” Rizk said. “We have about 12 to 15 customers that come in repeatedly because we accept bitcoin.”

Rizk described the interest level of customers as “mostly intrigued.”

“They want to understand it better, they want to know more about it, [but] they don’t understand how to get it, how to buy bitcoin,” Rizk said.

For 12pm on Saturday, Zikiz was sadly a bit on the empty side, but we recommend any and all bitcoiners in the area show it some love. Pro tip: just don’t eat too many bagels before.

Prepare for the worst

2.30pm Zombie Apocalypse

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The owners of Zombie Apocalypse put all their profits back into their store, and it shows in the loving details.

From the Cold War-gone-wrong imagery that adorns the entrance – complete with zombie soldiers atop a derelict troop transport – to the detailed animatronic dogs that will rip through a back wall for $1, Zombie Apocalypse is definitely an attraction that’s worth the trip.

The store’s owners say it’s come a long way in a few short years, from splitting its showroom with an artificial grass store to incorporating a large show space with a slew of visual treats and even an arcade-style zombie shooting range.

Retail items include World War Z comics, joke zombie t-shirts ($16.50) and actual apocalyptic necessities like ponchos ($2.99), water filters ($23.97), emergency rations ($6.49) and stun guns ($45).

As for its bitcoin acceptance, while it was relatively recently announced, employees say this measured rollout ensured they didn’t turn any bitcoin business away. Cole Miller, the store’s resident bitcoin expert, says he sees bitcoin tying into the store’s survivalism theme:

“We’re very forward-thinking… so bitcoin, even if it’s not the answer, it is one step away from the Federal Reserve, it is one step closer to us actually owning and controlling our money. If anything is going to save us, it’s the Internet.”

Fancy dinner, thoughtful jazz

7pm The Crepe

Tivoli Village’s The Crepe began accepting bitcoin for payments in December. Although having known about bitcoin for three years, Alex Aleksander, who owns The Crepe with his wife Agnes looks back on his lack of involvement with regret:

“I think the most recent purchase I made was in March, and it was $1. About two weeks ago, I happened to open my bitcoin wallet and I saw that my $1 went to $48. So, I called [Julian Toss of BitcoinsInVegas.com] and told him that we just opened this place and that we wanted to accept bitcoins.”

Perhaps because of his initial reluctance, Alex says he’s keeping his bitcoin going forward. Further, he doesn’t expect many customers in the initial months, but says his acceptance is more to support the movement as a whole.

“It’s the future, but it’s going to take a while,” he concluded.

Those with some coin to spare will find the restaurant to have a cozy ambience and noteworthy attractions, including jazz on Saturday nights and Baroque brunches on Sunday.

Because it’s Vegas

10pm Elite VIP Tours

Our Elite VIP tour guide Xavier probably wouldn’t know a bitcoin from the latest turntable accessory, but that’s because he probably doesn’t know he accepted bitcoin for payment.

Available via Gyft and Groupon for under $100, this four-club crawl takes you deep into the Las Vegas night filled with pulsing strobe lights, complimentary drinks and limo transportation.

You might not remember all the details, but this is just about the hardest you can party on bitcoin in Vegas, at least yet anyway.

Lock and load

2pm Combat Zone Paintball

IMG_2443With four scenario fields layered with boarded bunkers, halved plastic barrels and stacked tires, Combat Zone Paintball isn’t exactly the place to find your bearings after a night out.

But, available through Gyft and Groupon ($55 for two), it’s a great way to get your adrenaline pumping while spending some coin.

Note to beginners: you’ll want to wear clothes that you don’t want stained. A key thing to remember is that paint is bad for clothes. Don’t worry, you’ll thank me later.

Wiener art

4pm Cafe Berlin

German food might not exactly be high on your list of ethnic foods to try, but Cafe Berlin makes the case that your list is wrong.

The menu staple according to the locals is the Jaeger Schnitzel ($16.99), which defies expectations with a light breading and a thick sauce that will have you looking for ways to wipe your plate clean.

Sebastian Bechtold, a German native and manager of Café Berlin, isn’t what you’d call a fanatical bitcoin enthusiast so much as an open-minded businessman.

Bechtold has been accepting bitcoin for about six months and favors it because of the regular business it provides through the local Las Vegas bitcoin mobs.

Bechtold recalled to CoinDesk:

“I guess there was a convention last time, we had like 30 people for dinner. It was crazy, the table was packed, everybody was paying with bitcoin, it was good business for everybody I guess.”

Because of the high-quality food, Cafe Berlin has become a staple of the local bitcoin lunch mob, who we caught up with later that evening for one of its regular gatherings. Topics included the best practices for mining, the deep web hotspot Assassination Market and the future of bitcoin.

Going out on top

6pm Forever Tours

Thanks to our trusty Groupon via Gyft hack, we scored this grand finale at a huge discount ($159). Forever Tours provides 20 unforgettable minutes hovering high above the Vegas Strip for a bird’s-eye view of a sea of flashing lights.

It’s the best and only way to see the local architecture – from the spires of New York, New York’s Empire State Building to the Luxor’s blinding pyramid light – on bitcoin or any currency.

View Beers, Bagels and Zombies: Surviving Las Vegas with Bitcoin on CoinDesk.

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