Bob Shallit

Sacramento’s Pizza Rock goes to Vegas; mermaid bar next?

The Pizza Rock restaurant and bar has been so successful in Sacramento that owner George Karpaty has opened two in Las Vegas and plans to spread the high-glitz concept across the country.
The Pizza Rock restaurant and bar has been so successful in Sacramento that owner George Karpaty has opened two in Las Vegas and plans to spread the high-glitz concept across the country. lsterling@sacbee.com

Bay Area entrepreneur George Karpaty made a big splash in downtown Sacramento four years ago, opening the glitzy Pizza Rock restaurant and the adjacent Dive Bar featuring mermaids swimming in a huge aquarium above the bar.

Now the ripples from those ventures are spreading nationwide.

Along with partner and pizza chef Tony Gemignani, Karpaty has opened two Pizza Rocks in Las Vegas, one at the Downtown Grand and the other at the Green Valley Ranch Resort.

And, Karpaty reports, he’s in talks to bring the concept to Austin, Cleveland, San Diego and San Mateo.

“We intend on opening them across the country,” Karpaty said.

All will be similar to the over-the-top Pizza Rock eatery at 10th and K streets that features a DJ booth set in a Peterbilt truck cab jutting from a wall and a Michelangelo-inspired “Creation of Rock” ceiling mural.

But Karpaty said the new places will be even grander: “Like the Sacramento (location) on steroids.”

And the mermaid bar?

Karpaty said he’s in negotiations to open one in Las Vegas. “The location will remain a secret for now,” he said.

His Sacramento ventures, including the District 30 dance club on K street, remain “on fire” and inspired the rollout elsewhere. “Sacramento was a home run of a testing ground,” he said, adding that it “helped prove our concept and helped us perfect it.”

One Karpaty concept that didn’t pan out was Reunion, his El Dorado Hills nightclub that closed last month. “It was the wrong place at the wrong time,” Karpaty said, noting that he miscalculated the willingness of people to drive to the foothills for an evening out.

Wendy Hoyt, a consultant who has worked closely with Karpaty, said the Reunion failure was a “Karpaty anomaly.”

“Everything he touches turns to gold,” she said. “This one didn’t.”

Bucking the tide

Fair Oaks resident Roger Akers launched two venture capital funds in 2001 and 2004 during a period he calls the “worst time in history to achieve a return” on such investments.

In fact, he said, many of the VC funds that started up during those years did so poorly that they were unable to return anything to investors.

So with Akers now selling off the last of his holdings from Pac West Technology I and II, he’s happy to report a positive return. How good? He’s not being specific but called them “very positive” results that he said put Pac West in the top 3 percent of all funds started during those years.

“I’m kind of proud of it,” he said of the twin ventures that collected money from West Coast investors – including plenty from Sacramentans – and invested in West Coast tech companies. Among the more successful investments: CustomerLink Systems, a Roseville company that was sold last year to a division of Intuit Inc.

Akers said his days of starting funds are probably over. “I’m too lazy,” he said.

But he’s kidding about that. He remains active in the startup world as an angel investor and as a consultant specializing in mergers and acquisitions.

Another day in paradise

It was a grueling assignment, but somebody had to do it.

That’s how staffers from the local MeringCarson agency are describing a recent 13-day stay in the Tahiti islands. The agency, which specializes in tourism promotion, this year won a contract to develop a new global marketing campaign for the 118 islands halfway between California and Australia.

Naturally, some staffers had to travel to the South Pacific and spend time familiarizing themselves with the area and its people. Stops included a couple of nights at the St. Regis Bora Bora and the more rustic Marquesas islands, site of season four of the “Survivor” reality TV show. Overall, the three staffers – Lori Bartle, Greg Carson and Scott Conway – were awed by the beauty of the place, the friendliness of the people and the potential for seclusion.

“There are places where you can go and literally feel like you’re all alone,” said Carson, the agency’s chief creative officer.

There was one harrowing moment. The three were invited to go out on a boat and then swim with sharks and manta rays in the Rangiroa atoll.

No limbs were lost, but, Carson said, “seeing 50 sharks swimming around you is a little disorienting.”

Call The Bee’s Bob Shallit, (916) 321-1017.

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