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Gene Simmons’ Rock & Brews concept plans growth

Rock legend, reality television star and producer Gene Simmons is turning his classic-rock-themed restaurant concept Rock & Brews into a chain with global growth plans.

The craft-beer centric concept opened in Los Angeles about a year ago in a location “held together with duct tape and bungee chords,” said Simmons’ partner and restaurateur Michael Zislis.Rock & Brews was so successful, however, that the group decided to “invest real money,” Zislis said, purchasing the land and rebuilding the concept with plans to take it to other cities.

Three units are scheduled to open this year, including the reworked inaugural location in El Segundo, Calif., near Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, which is scheduled to celebrate its grand re-opening on April 3.

A second licensed location is scheduled to open later this year in the Delta terminal at LAX. A third licensed unit is under construction in Tokyo and is expected to open by the summer.

Six Rock & Brews restaurants are planned for 2013, including more company-owned units, Zislis said. The operating company is Rock & Brews Licensing, based in Los Angeles.

The rebuilt original Rock & Brews restaurant doubled in size, growing to 200 seats within 5,000-square feet.

The redesign aims to evoke being back stage at a rock concert, with picnic tables, concert lighting, large-screen TVs and projection screens with a 360-degree speaker system. The venue will show concert videos and live recordings of rock performances.

The music of Rock & Brews will not be focused on KISS, but aims for a broader homage to classic rock bands in general, Zislis said.

The venue features themed nights for fans of bands such as Grateful Dead, Rush, The Who or the concert film “The Last Waltz,” which concert tour producer Dave Furano co-produced.

“I can’t tell you how religious people are about music,” Zislis said.

The new-and-improved location also has a vastly improved tap system that allows for 52 craft beers, with varying temperatures specific to the style of beer. For “beer geeks,” Zislis said, cellar temperatures are preferred for certain Belgian-style beers, for example.

The menu includes “craveable” casual-dining comfort foods, from burgers and sandwiches to salads and pizza, with prices ranging roughly from $8 to $20 for a family-style option.

The venue is also designed to be family- and dog-friendly, with a playground for kids and an open-air area for dogs.

Simmons also designed a “Wall of Rock” collage, featuring artists from Elvis to Kurt Cobain.

Rock & Brews is one of a growing number of music-themed concepts.

In December, a restaurant based on the 1970s Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd opened in Las Vegas. And in 2010, a restaurant and lounge inspired by the magazine Rolling Stone opened in Los Angeles.

Simmons co-founded the rock band KISS, and more recently starred in the reality TV show “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.” He has created several other television shows and also has film credits as an actor and producer. Simmons also owns the record company Simmons/Universal Music.

Zislis founded the craft-beer-focused Manhattan Beach Brewing Co., as well as the Mucho Ultima Mexicana and The Strand House concepts, all in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

In addition, Zislis created the three-unit Rock ‘N Fish seafood-and-steak chain with locations in downtown Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach and Laguna Beach, Calif.

Furano joins Zislis and Simmons as partner. He was president of Bill Graham Presents, which managed tours for the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Led Zeppelin and George Harrison.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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