Kiss co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are partners in a restaurant called Rock & Brews, which on Wednesday will open its third location, on PCH in Torrance.
“Often this idea of themed restaurants means that it's an excuse for crap food,” self-described “foodie” Stanley tells us on-site, as power tools fizz and pound around him in the airy building jutting into a busy intersection. “The idea here is not crap food. It's craft beer; it's artisan pizzas; it's food, arguably, that you couldn't serve at home, but wish you could.”
In partnership with concert industry veterans Dave and Dell Furano, and restaurateur Michael Zislis, Stanley and Simmons opened their first Rock & Brews restaurant in El Segundo in April 2012, and another in Los Cabos, Mexico, in March. Rock & Brews LAX is set to open in that airport's Delta Airlines Terminal this summer, followed by an Agoura location in the fall. Locations in Maui, Hawaii and Kansas City, Missouri are also scheduled.
In its unfinished state, the 5,400-square-foot Rock & Brews PCH recalls a Hard Rock Café or similar rock 'n' roll-themed eatery. Bold prints of music icons (including Tom Petty, AC/DC, Bob Marley and, yes, Kiss) enliven dining room and patio walls, while a trio of guitar necks, presumably intended for display, lay stacked on a table.
“It's like being backstage at a rock concert and it's also like being in your living room,” says Stanley, who is 61. “Never kid yourself — everybody wants to be a rock star!”
In the restaurant's main dining area, rectangular, 8- or 10-person wooden tables with attached are were organized in rows, cafeteria-like, beneath an exposed, warehouse-y roof. As well as an 81-tap bar (including local beers Eagle Rock, Monkish and Strand), private tables in the 21-and-over lounge area will include self-service taps monitored though new iPad software.
“Look around — you can see every section of this place,” says Simmons, in a suit and wearing dark glasses. “That's the philosophy of every Rock & Brews: communal … If you come here alone, you're going to walk out with new friends.”
Rock & Brews also welcomes dogs (it provides patio water bowls) and is kid-friendly (a “Yellow Submarine” play set sits beneath a Beatles print outside). The menu at its El Segundo store includes “London Calling Calamari,” burgers and sandwiches, and specialties like “Mosh Pit Mac 'N' Cheese” and “Red Hot Chili”.
“During the day, you can have your whole family [here],” Stanley goes on. “And in the evening it becomes more of a social place for couples; for you to get together with friends.”
Rock & Brews' homage to popular music is historically nuanced, continues Simmons, who is 63. It celebrates what he described as the “timeless” artists of 1958 through 1982, including Elvis Presley, The Doors and Rufus Thomas.
“From '82 'til today … name rock stars — not somebody who's famous, [but] iconic,” he posed. “Not doing too well, are we? We're fucking pathetic, actually! We celebrate that [1958-82 era].”
“I remember the days of going to the Fillmore East [Manhattan rock venue, 1968-71). It was like church,” Stanley says. “It was Steve Marriot and Humble Pie getting on stage and testifying to rock 'n' roll; to the all-powerful and all-mighty rock 'n' roll.
“That's what we're steeped in…The passion and belief that rock 'n' roll is holy!”
But why unfashionable Torrance instead of, say, Beverly Hills or Hollywood?
“We don't subscribe to the clichéd notion that London and New York and L.A. make something 'cool',” said Simmons. “We're going to show the world that you make your own 'cool' wherever you go.”
Our interview over, the bassist insists this chain is just getting warmed up.
“This is just the beginning,” he booms. “You'll see a hundred [Rock & Brews] stores popping up!”
Rock & Brews PCH is at 6300 S. Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance. VIP tickets for the May 8th grand opening are $250 per person, which includes food and beverage, and a private reception with Stanley and Simmons. Proceeds will benefit the Torrance Education Foundation.