Old Town Pasadena is getting a gift this Valentine's Day: a brand-new concert venue, located in Paseo Colorado, in the sprawling space once occupied by a Gelson's. Named the Rose, it's the latest nightspot from Sterling Venue Ventures, the company behind the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills and the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
The new venue will have a capacity of 1,300 and feature a mix of dinner seating and some standing room, with two full bars and a raised VIP area. It will also house the L.A. area's first CaliBurger franchise (a chain that, despite its name, has up until now mostly operated in Asia and the Middle East), a separate dining and bar area called the Pasadena Room, and a restaurant concept called the Chef's Gallery, where diners can sample food from a rotating cast of up-and-coming local chefs at various serving stations.
Folk icon Judy Collins will open the new venue with a Feb. 14 show. Other confirmed performers on the Rose's calendar include Rickie Lee Jones, The Tubes, Three Dog Night, Lou Gramm ("the voice of Foreigner"), and several big-name tribute bands, including Led Zepagain and the Peter Gabriel-approved Genesis reenactment, The Musical Box.
Regular Saban and Canyon Club attendees have probably seen many of those names on their preferred venues' calendars, which is by design. Owner Lance Sterling hopes that by operating three venues in the L.A. area, he can compete more effectively for big-name talent against the region's two dominant players, Live Nation and AEG/Goldenvoice. Lou Gramm, for example, is playing the Rose on March 18, the Canyon Club on March 19, and the Saban on March 25 — a more profitable play, in theory, than a single night at, say, the Live Nation-operated Wiltern.
After opening the Saban in 2013, Sterling says his team almost immediately began the search for a third venue. They also frequently partner up on bookings with the owners of the Coach House in Orange County, giving touring artists potentially four different places to play in the Greater L.A. market. "We realized that to top it off, wouldn’t it be great concept for a band to come into town, work Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday — so they could literally stay in the same hotel for a week?"
Booking the same show at multiple venues is also good for the fans, Sterling adds. His audience base, older and more affluent than the crowd you'd typically see at a concert in West Hollywood or Echo Park, likes to experience live music (on average, he claims, they go to two shows per month) but doesn't like to drive across town to see it. At the Canyon Club, "I think it was 85 percent of people came from within seven miles of our building," he says, citing customer data from American Express.
An older audience means that nostalgia is an obvious driving force behind Sterling's bookings, but he insists that he listens to all his regular attendees' feedback ("I receive between 400 and 800 emails a day") and tailors his venues' calendars to suit their tastes. "I’ll book anything one time. I just did a Snoop show; one of the best shows I’ve ever seen." Even the 50-year-olds, he says, were still jumpin' by the set's end; "I literally had to pry them out of the building at midnight."
Sterling, who prior to opening the Canyon Club in 2001 managed the expansion of the House of Blues chain in the '90s, likens opening a new venue to childbirth. "Every single time, it sounds like a good idea, and then when it’s time to give birth, you’re like, ‘Please let it be over.’"
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Still, he says the Rose is on track to be ready in time for its Feb. 14 opening date. "Luckily, doing House of Blues, I made every mistake it’s possible to make," he says with a laugh. "The second we get through plan check, we’ll be up and running."
For more information on the Rose, go to roseconcerts.com.