New life is coming to two failed downtown businesses — the sports bar that was once Hero’s/Austin’s and the nightclub that used to be 2039.
What’s interesting is that the new owners of Hero’s and Karma — the new name for 2039 — both have experience running downtown businesses. Will that be the difference that leads to success this time around? Only time will tell.
These new leases on life for these two places, which are only a block from each other, register as two reasons I’m excited about downtown Fresno in 2011. For my Friday column in The Bee, I put together a list of 11 reasons — and both Hero’s and Karma (the new 2039) are on it. Here’s more about what’s planned at each business:
KARMA RESTAURANT & LOUNGE
- Location: Karma takes over the Kern Street space that used to be 2039 Ultralounge, near the Fulton Mall and Chukchansi Park. The building has had many lives. Before 2039, it was Fagan’s Irish Pub, Diamond Sports Bar and Bunz. As Fagan’s and 2039, the space could fit almost 500 people for concerts.
- The Plan: Karma will be a restaurant and nightspot, serving up Korean barbecue and seafood during eating hours. After dark, it will turn into a nightclub, hosting DJs, comedy shows and live bands, says owner Morgan Doizaki, 30. He’s installed a new dancefloor and is waiting for final approval of his liquor license before opening as a nightspot. Currently, Karma has been open for about a week, serving lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu includes barbecue short ribs, salmon fillet and lobster. Once his liquor permit get final approval (which could literally be any day now, Doizaki says), he hopes to stay open until 4 a.m., as part of the recent rule change allowing downtown nightspots to stay open past 2.
- Downtown Background: Doizaki is no downtown rookie. His family owns popular downtown mainstay Central Fish Co., he also manages the old Gottschalk’s building on the Fulton Mall and he’s been a board member of Chinatown Revitalization Inc. “Understanding the beast that is downtown is hopefully going to give me an edge,” Doizaki says.
HERO’S SPORTS LOUNGE & PIZZA CO.
- Location: What was once Hero’s (820 Van Ness Ave.) will become Hero’s once again. The slick sports bar opened in early 2009, but by the end of the year had changed ownership twice. It became Austin’s in December 2009 and that lasted until the end of summer. Now, a new set of owners are going back to the Hero’s name and trying again.
- The Plan: Club One Casino owner Kyle Kirkland heads the new Hero’s ownership group with longtime partner Dana Messina. Their strategy is pretty simple: Make Hero’s what it should have been all along — a downtown sports-themed eatery with good food and consistent service. Service had been complaint at both Austin’s and Hero’s, but Kirkland says his experience at Club One will help keep things up to par. “We’re in the food and beverage business,” he says. “We do it 24 hours a day.” Hero’s won’t stay open that late, though. Current plans call for it to stay open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Kirkland, however, has no intention of trying to make Hero’s a nightclub. He’s adding some billiards tables to the second floor of the restaurant, though. The new Hero’s should be open by mid-February, Kirkland says.
- Downtown Background: Kirkland is obviously very familiar with downtown and with Van Ness Avenue. He’s owned Club One since 2007. Hero’s is just two blocks away from Club One (Karma is between the two). Given the proximity, he’s hoping to shuttle customers back and forth from the casino to the sports lounge, plus help downtown businesses like Karma in the process. “Anything that we do downtown that creates activity helps all of us,” Kirkland says.