An underutilized section of Cal Expo could get a big taste of Kiss if all goes according to plan.
The board of directors for Cal Expo and the California State Fair are considering a proposal to open Rock & Brews, a restaurant chain co-founded by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss, on the former site of Paradise Island, an amusement complex that closed in 2005.
The Rock & Brews chain includes 14 restaurants in the United States, and one in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The eatery is something like a TGI Friday’s with a rock ’n’ roll touch, offering an emphasis on craft beers and family-friendly dining. Locations typically are decorated with classic rock memorabilia and plenty of Kiss branding.
The Cal Expo proposal calls for the restaurant to be paired with an entertainment complex that includes batting cages, miniature golf and other activities. Rock & Brews would operate the complex.
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Representatives from Rock & Brews pitched the idea during an April 29 meeting of the Cal Expo and the California State Fair board of directors. Simmons and Stanley announced their support for the project in a video that was played during the presentation. The board of directors is exploring the proposal and will report back at a June 3 meeting.
“With any kind of project, you have to do the due diligence that the folks coming to us have a good plan in place and the financial resources,” said Jennifer Castleberry, marketing director for Cal Expo and the California State Fair. “It’s a fact-finding mission to make sure the folks proposing and executing the plan will work with our mission.”
Cal Expo has tried to court new business over the past year. In August, it released a “request for qualifications” aimed at developers interested in accessing space at Cal Expo, but didn’t receive any responses. Members of the Rock & Brews executive team later pitched Cal Expo representatives after learning about the opportunity from associates at Spectra, a food service company that oversees concessions and catering at Cal Expo.
“One of our goals is to look at underutilized spaces on the property that can help generate revenue for Cal Expo,” Castleberry said. “This particular opportunity came to us, and we’re interested in pursuing it and seeing if it’s a good fit.”
The proposed site of Rock & Brews at Cal Expo would be the southwestern corner of Exposition Boulevard, near Arden Way and Ethan Way. It previously housed the Paradise Island amusement park, which included laser tag, arcade games, miniature golf and more. After Paradise Island closed, the land was used for a homeless shelter, for storage and as the setting for “Fright Planet,” a Halloween-season theme park.
If the Cal Expo board of directors approves the Rock & Brews proposal, the project will move into a negotiations phase and a contracting process with the state, which owns the land. Kiss has not indicated to Cal Expo if the band would perform a concert to commemorate an opening of Rock & Brews.