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Desert Companion

Profile: Derek Stonebarger


Derek Stonebarger
Photo by Anthony Mair

Derek Stonebarger

A skin cancer diagnosis was bad enough. Far worse was that it spread to his throat. Doctors had feeding tubes in his stomach, but the chemo-induced regurgitation still took its traditional route. After surgery to remove cancer-infested lymph nodes, this was tremendously painful. But in the middle of that, Derek Stonebarger had a bit of a revelation: Sign a lease now, and what’s the worst that can happen?

Lot of upside there, really. So, in the midst of treatment for cancer that saw him go to UCLA on a day’s notice in September, Stonebarger got his plans on lockdown for ReBar, a new spot on Main Street where everything is for sale, from the glasses you drink out of to the décor on the walls to the stools you’re sitting on. Just, uh, don’t take that too far. We’re pretty sure it stops with the girl at the end of the bar.

Stonebarger helped turn Atomic Liquors from historical down-and-out watering hole to historical hipster spot in 2013. But the idea for ReBar had always been with him, starting from the revelation at 14 years old that he could fix up old cars and flip them for profit.

“I’ve always done that with antiques,” Stonebarger said. “It’s always been a side project of mine. I’ve flipped stuff, and I love the bar business. I spend a lot of money myself when I get drunk, so I figured other people probably do too.”

Support comes from

Stonebarger signed the lease on the former Amberjoy’s Vintage Closet location in November, smack in the middle of chemo and radiation. Let it never be said that your Saturday morning housecleaning with a hangover is that productive.

Some of the stock in the joint goes way back — there are light fixtures from the Riviera and buffet booths from the Silver Slipper. It’s a Craigslist Chic aesthetic, but there’s still quite a bit of forward-looking planning going into the operation. The cocktail menu will be limited to a handful, but each one will be tied to a local charity. The Preservation Press, for example, will kick a portion of the proceeds to the Nevada Preservation Foundation.

When the call came in from UCLA that they wanted to start treatment the next day, Stonebarger had to drop everything and get out to Los Angeles. That is, as one would imagine, more than a little spendy.

“In order to do that, I spent a substantial amount of money, but who cares, I’m about to die,” Stonebarger said. “With what I had left I said I’m going to throw it all at this idea. I’ve wanted to do this forever. I don’t want to wait another moment of my life to do it. It was like, I’m going to get this place open, even if this cancer is going to beat me. I think of things differently now. I think I’m willing to take more risks, and do what I’m really passionate about with the rest of my life, no matter how long it is.”

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