Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

You review: Club Imperio opening weekend

imperioOn Friday, I wrote this piece on Club Imperio, the new nightclub that opened at Granite Park over the weekend.

The venue (which once housed Cabo Wabo) has seen little more than lawsuits and bankruptcies in the last half-decade. Pino Borrelli is looking to change that with his new club.

He isn’t reinventing the wheel, here. The high-end Vegas-style- dance-club thing has been done before. It can be a success with the proper owners and management, Borrelli says.

Is he right?

If you were there Friday night (or on Saturday) for the club’s grand-opening, I’d like to know your thoughts. Were the lines as long as Borrelli promised? What about the $500,000 in renovations? Is there any resemblance to the old Cabo/Wabo/Club Rome/Club Eva space? How about the entertainment? Borrelli says he’s looking to bring in bigger acts and better DJs. How was the overall vibe? More importantly, does this seems like a place with staying power?

This again?: Club Imperio to open at Granite Park

club-imperioIt’s another night club for the old Cabo Wabo venue at Granite Park. According to this story from the Business Journal, Club Imperio will be opening in the 15,000 square-foot space next weekend.

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard any news out of Granite Park, the commercial complex — on Cedar avenues near Shields — that was home to the ill-fated Cabo Wabo night club in 2008. If you remember, the center got a TON of buzz when it was originally developed, especially when rocker Sammy Haggar came on board with his tequila-themed night club.

Of course, that venture quickly fell apart.

The space has never found its footing. Several businesses have tried in a series of re-openings (as The Edge, Club Rome and most recently Club Eva). Mostly, the businesses have flown under the radar if not floundered altogether.

Here is a handy info graphic.

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Can Club Eva exorcise the ghosts of Granite Park nightclubs?

Club Eva is the latest incarnation of Granite Park’s oft-troubled nightclub. What started as Cabo Wabo, once hosted Kim Kardashian as The Edge and eventually became Club Rome, is now its sixth club in less than five years.

Eva has been in “soft opening” mode for a couple weeks now, mostly catering to the Hmong New Year crowd and hosting a New Year’s Eve party that got scathing reviews on Facebook. But Saturday night is the club’s “premier,” and with Roe now closed, Eva certainly has opportunity.

We’ll be watching to see if Club Eva can make things work in a space — a very nice space, mind you — where so many other clubs have failed. Until then, let’s all reminisce about the Granite Park nightclub failures with this handy infographic.

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Fres-Know: A natural thrill of linky proportions

WATCH THIS: Nice video/doc about local band Natural Thrills. [Dead in 60 Years]

NEWS: The future of Granite Park = wakeboarding and wall soccer? [The Bee]

REACTION: Fresno gun dealers see high demand for semi-automatic weapons. [The Bee]

DID THEY JUST SAY FRESNO? Yes, Adam Carolla on his podcast. [Ace on the House]

NECK TATTOO OF THE DAY: This dude, shot and killed by Fresno PD. [The Bee]

BOOKMARK THIS NOW: Madera Mugshots. Yessssssssss! [Madera Mugshots]

WHEN WILL IT END? Still even more Fresno Gangnam Style. [YouTube]

WATCH THIS: Parker prepares for end of days. [YouTube]

FROM THE BLOGROLL: Farewell to Fresno Foodie. [TasteFresno]

READ THIS: The Cured Ham’s week-long look back at Fresno food. [The Cured Ham]

IT’S OFFICIAL: Popular conservative talkers going to 96.7 FM / 1400 AM. [The Bee]

ALSO: ESPN 940 soon to be new home of Fresno State football, men’s hoops. [The Bee]

WOOT! Taco Truck Throwdown 2 gets Best Game Promotion honor. []

KNOW THIS: The Giants’ World Series trophy is coming to the Valley. [The Bee]

(DON’T) LISTEN TO THIS: Mega-cast featuring local podcasters, me included. [Dorktown]

ANGRY YELP REVIEW OF THE WEEK: “The worst restaurant in the world.” [Yelp]

WTF FRESNO: Punch, kick, splish, splash. [YouTube]

LAST MINUTE: Unordinary gifts from local shops. [The Bee]

So long Victory Grill, hello Me-N-Ed’s take on Mexican food


Despite all the other turmoil and chaos at Granite Park, we could always count on Victory Grill.

No matter how much drama was at that nightclub, we always knew that the sporty Me-N-Ed’s offshoot would be there for us. Right, Victory Grill?


Sadly, not even Victory Grill — the longest-lasting survivor in the Mess That Milt Built — could be a winner at Granite Park. Though it made a good go of it. The Bee’s Bethany Clough reported on Tuesday that Victory Grill has closed and will be replaced next week by a new restaurant called Revolución Tequila Bar & Cocina, which opens May 5 from the same ownership group.

From Clough’s post:

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Rome Nightclub in for ‘drastic’ change?


Oh, Rome Nightclub, you’re always there for some good ol’ drama whenever I need you.

The latest: The general manager who recently took over is out, so he tells me. Further, the rumblings are that another “shake-up” in the works. So I called the club’s owner, John Janda, looking for answers.

This is exactly how the phone call went:

“This is Mike from The Fresno Bee …”

“Why do I want to talk to you?”

“Well …”

“If you are a spin doctor, I don’t want to talk to you. I’m going to do something drastic and you will hear about it.”


Wow. Not that I’ve never gotten hung up on before — but as far as characters go, Rome and Granite Park seem to have a never-ending supply. Janda eventually called me back and we had a more pleasant chat, though still totally unproductive. He didn’t hang up on me, but he also wouldn’t tell me what “drastic” change he was planning. So I thought it would be fun if we all guessed.

At this point, given that club’s tumultous history, what “drastic” change would work? What would surprise you? I say: He’s hiring Sammy Hagar as GM. *chuckle*

PREVIOUSLY: Yes, Rome Nightclub is still open — but for how long?

Yes, Rome Nightclub is still open — but for how long?


Amidst public speculation about its fate, the doors of Fresno’s popular Rome Nightclub remain open. There’s a new general manager in place who is stressing that Rome is still in business and moving forward. In fact, tonight, it hosts a concert with veteran rapper Spice 1.

Jered Brower, the door and floor manager at the club since it re-opened as Rome last year, is the new GM. He told me the club, “is all about moving forward towards a bigger and better future.”

Brower replaces former GM Pino Borelli, who had been in charge at Rome since its inception. He was fired over the weekend, prompting widespread chatter that Rome had, in fact, closed its doors.

Just how long Rome stays open, though, could depend on the fate of its liquor license — which is where things get complicated.

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Rome Nightclub closing? Not quite


Rumors are flying today about the oft-troubled Rome Nightclub at the oft-troubled Granite Park.

Hardly a surprise with that place and its history, but kinda surprising because it had seemed like things were going smoothly lately.

The big rumor: Rome is closing. Secondary rumor: The Kreayshawn show for Fat Tuesday is canceled. Rumor check: Multiple sources are telling me neither of those are true.

Here’s what people with knowledge of what’s happening are telling me:

  • The club’s GM and its owner had a falling out. GM Pino Borrelli isn’t with the club anymore — and deleted his Facebook page associated with the club.
  • The Rome Nightclub website and its Facebook page are also gone.
  • The Kreayshawn show is still going on — despite the ticket-selling site for the show getting zapped too. (So long as the show is happening, our giveaway will still happen too).
  • While Rome isn’t necessarily shutting its doors right away, don’t be surprised IF that does happen within a couple weeks.

Rome Nightclub gets busted, fires off ALL CAPS rant in response

UPDATE: Today’s Bee has a bigger story on Rome’s booze shenanigans. You should read it. The general manager drops a number of gem quotes. Among them, he blames people being on medication and antidepressants, and ladies not being able to walk in high heels. Can’t make this stuff up.

ORIGINAL POST: Did you notice that everything seemed quiet over at Granite Park’s Rome Nightclub lately? So we knew this was coming. It was only a matter of time.

CBS 47 reported this week that the club got dinged by Alcoholic Beverage Control. for a number of violations and will have to serve a 15-day suspension of its liquor license and two years of probation.

[T]he investigation into Club Rome’s possible violations began back in March, a month after it opened. It includes 16 allegations, like patrons fighting, urinating inside the club, vomiting because of consuming too much alcohol, and attacking a police officer. Fresno police met with the club owner to talk about the 42 times officers have had to respond to incidents.

Rome’s response? An ALL CAPS rant that said it would serve the suspension in December and then said the club the victim in all this.

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Five things Barry Zito should do in Fresno


As any baseball fan has already heard by now, S.F. Giants pitcher Barry Zito is making a rehab start for the Fresno Grizzlies tonight. It’s a happy coincidence that this falls on the night of our Great Fresno Tweetup.

Since it’s not often we get a major leaguer as famous talented well-paid as Zito, we thought we’d offer some suggestions of stuff the quirky pitcher could do while he’s in town.

  1. Buy those fields at Granite Park — he’s making $18.5 mil this year, he can afford it — and turn them into the home of the Zito League, a new baseball league where all the pitchers only throw curveballs.
  2. Hit the Fulton Mall with his guitar and spend some time serenading the good people of Fresno.
  3. Get out his camera (yep, he’s also a photog) and do some street photography with Fresno sharp shooter (and Giants fan) Ryan C. Jones.
  4. Go hunting for teddy bears. Did you know that another of Zito’s quirks is his teddy-bear collection? True story. Dude can probably find some cool stuff on the Van Ness Ave. strip of thrift stores.
  5. Decide to stay. The Giants don’t really need him and Fresno would be happy to have him. Heck, someday he could probably become mayor. In the meantime he could get himself a downtown loft, open a wacky boutique and have his own ArtHop show. He’d be a legit downtown Fresno hipster in no time.

- Bring Zito to Fresno

What did you think of Club Rome?

With the long weekend behind us, hopefully people have had a chance to digest Club Rome, the new hotspot at Granite Park. Despite some opening-day chaos, the club opened its doors on Friday night and, from the look of things, had big crowds both Friday and Saturday. (If you missed it, here’s a good Bee story about the club’s opening, its ownership and how Kirk Vartanian swears he’s not a part of it.)

So what did you think about the new club? Was it everything it was hyped up to be? It already lasted longer than The Edge, do you think it showed more promise than Cabo Wabo? We’d love to hear your thoughts on Club Rome.

The celebrity guests on Friday night were rapper Traphik and “American Idol” contestant Andrew Garcia. Local celebs such as Kasey Kahl and Alicia Coates were there too. This coming Saturday, Justin Bobby from “The Hills” will be at Club Rome apparently. Club Rome will also have its first live music night on March 2. Details on that below.

Here are some photos from opening weekend by local photog Casper Munoz.


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Granite Park’s Club Rome opening tonight, despite arson attempt


Seems like you can’t have a Granite Park nightclub opening without a little bit of 11th hour chaos.

In the case of Club Rome — which opens tonight and takes over the old Cabo Wabo/Edge space — that came in the form an early morning arson attempt.

Here’s the news from The Bee’s Jim Guy:

A new nightclub in the troubled Granite Park development will go ahead with its debut tonight despite a bungled attempt to firebomb the building this morning.

Club Rome, which is opening at the site of the failed Cabo Wabo and The Edge nightclubs in east-central Fresno, was the target of an arson attempt about 4 a.m. this morning, according to the Fresno Fire Department. Firefighters found flames at the front of the building and heavy smoke inside.

Club Rome employees were cleaning up damage this morning and entertainment director Lewis Everk said damage was minimal.

“The fire did not stop us,” he said.

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First it was Cabo Wabo, then it was The Edge, now it’s … Rome Nightclub

New life is coming to the old Cabo Wabo that eventually became the one-night-only Edge nightclub. It’s called Rome and, according to this flier that started circulating on Facebook this morning, it opens next weekend. Here’s hoping it can be avoid being a complete disaster like that space’s two previous incarnations.


I’ll try to get more info on what’s planned for Rome Nightclub soon.

Sammy Hagar responds to Cabo Wabo Fresno lawsuit

Last week, Fresno’s failed Cabo Wabo and the fractured relationship between developer Milt Barbis and rocker Sammy Hagar was thrust into the spotlight yet again. Barbis filed a $589 million lawsuit against Hagar, blaming the club’s demise on the ex-Van Halen star.

Today, Hagar’s business manager sent this following statement to The Bee:

Sammy Hagar statement to the Fresno Bee — 10-18-10

“At this time I can’t comment on any of the specific claims brought in the frivolous legal papers filed by Milton Barbis, but anyone who has followed the issues of mismanagement around the entire Granite Park development will not be surprised to learn that the accusations are unfounded. I had hoped that this unhappy experience for me and my fans in the Fresno area was put to rest quite some time ago, but Mr. Barbis refuses to accept this.

“I have no doubt that my fans in Fresno understand this situation and know that no matter what, I love this town and the people in it. It was a great feeling to be back a couple of weeks ago to rock again with all the fans!! I am anxious for the facts to come to light on this situation, so we can all put this behind us and get back to what really matters — keeping the party rocking in Fresno.”

Peace – Sammy

Barbis sues Hagar … for $589 million?!?


Thought we’d heard the end of the Fresno Wabo/Milt Barbis/Sammy Hagar drama?

Not even close.

A big headline from today’s Bee, plucked right outta ridiculousville, is that Granite Park developer Barbis is suing Hagar, the famous rocker and Cabo Wabo namesake. For how much you ask? Oh, only 589 million. Ridiculousville.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, names a few others too, but the main target is Hagar, who was just in Fresno last week, playing at the fair. According to Barbis’ lawsuit, everything that went wrong with Fresno Wabo (spoiler alert: A LOT went wrong) was Sammy’s fault.

It’s worth noting that we’ve see this kind of drama before — between Sammy’s previous suit against Barbis, Barbis’ bankruptcy and a Granite Park raid by the IRS and state department of insurance.

This new lawsuit does give us some more behind-the-scenes, soap opera-like, play-by-play. Here’s the juicy stuff, as reported by The Bee’s John Ellis:

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New Drinks, Eats: Yosemite Falls Cafe


Yosemite Falls Cafe is set to open its fourth location. After some private parties this weekend, it’ll launch Monday.

The cafe is part of the revival of Granite Park. Here are some notes from my column today:

… they’ve taken over the old Public House restaurant and renovated it into two areas: a traditional Yosemite Falls in the back and a sports bar in the front. The sports bar has booths and lots of televisions — including an 80-incher, co-owner Manny Perales says.
Overall, the new space has about 190 seats inside and 100 on the patio. Compared to some of the other Yosemite Falls Cafes, this one is a little smaller.
…Expect the same menu as the other restaurants, with some new dishes. Highlights are oysters on the half shell, oysters Rockefeller and filet mignon tacos, Perales says.
Sandwiches and burgers are about $7, while dinner entrees are about $10-$16, he adds.
Hours are 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 6 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call (559) 222-7800.

[photo credit: The Fresno Bee]

A few changes create new optimism about Fresno

It’s often the mantra of interior decorators: A few improvements can make a big impression. I think it’s true for cities too. I know my drive to work (Hwy 168 to 180 to Fulton St.) is much nicer because of few changes in Fresno along the way.

I used to get aggravated along the 168 because of the rows of rotting trees left for dead in the fields of Granite Park. Several weeks ago the city cleaned up the area (photo below) and it really made a difference. Now, I see groomed fields in front of the former Cabo Wabo when I drive by. It’s not perfect — I know the buildings are abandoned — but at least there’s a sense that something can be made of the development. There are even a couple new businesses there. These fixes changed my impression. I no longer think decay. I think hope.


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Concert News: Sammy Hagar is on his way back to Fresno

Sammy Hagar 2.jpg

This is not an April Fool’s joke. I swear to you it’s not. The Big Fresno Fair has announced a date with rocker Sammy Hagar to open this year’s run of the fair.

Hagar — the ex-Van Halen singer, known as The Red Rocker — will perform Oct. 6.

Hagar, of course, has a tumultuous history with Fresno. He partnered with Fresno developer Milt Barbis to open one of his Cabo Wabo restaurants at Granite Park in August 2008. Hagar played one concert there in October 2008, but soon after he severed ties with Fresno and eventually sued Barbis. Fresno Wabo’s failure was the first domino to fall for the now much-maligned Granite Park development.

No word yet on ticket prices, but they’re expected to go on sale this summer. For now, let’s all just wonder what Sammy’s gonna say when he comes back.

The Edge to re-open as … a French restaurant?


Apparently Fresno has gotten its fill of Las Vegas-styled nightlife, as Kirk Vartanian announced yesterday that The Edge space would be re-opening — but not as a nightclub, as a high-end French restaurant.

Here are some details from today’s story by George Hostetter of The Bee:

Vartanian said the restaurant will be called Le Rêve — The Dream, in French — and will be owned and operated by Marty Krikorian, his nephew.
“I’m too busy,” Vartanian said. “I don’t have time to run a nightclub.”

Le Rêve should open in 45 to 90 days, depending on when it receives a state liquor license, Vartanian said.

Vartanian emphasized that Le Rêve, while it will have entertainment, is not a nightclub. He said the restaurant will be suitable for children as well as adults — “Anyone who wants a high-end meal.”

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What’s happening at The Edge? Are answers hidden in Kirk Vartanian’s Tweets?

You know how some people probably shouldn’t use Twitter? Would-be jailbird nightclub mogul Kirk Vartanian is one of them. Apparently something is going on with K-Vart and The Edge, but from reading his recent Tweets, we can’t figure out what it is:

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Kirk has experience with hilarious Tweets. This one above (notice he didn’t spell Edge correctly) he’s been posting for the last few days. He clarified slightly yesterday:

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How fast can you eat a Me-N-Ed’s pizza?


If your answer to that question is “really fast,” then consider testing your pizza-eating chops Sunday at Me-n-Ed’s first pizza eating contest happening at Victory Grill. It’s sorta like the hot dog eating contest held at Coney Island Grill in July — expect this is part of a big celebration for National Pizza Month, which is October.

Here’s more info from the Me-n-Ed’s peeps:

The contest will be held on Sunday, October 4, 2009, starting at 4:00 pm at Me-n-Ed’s Victory Grill. We’re taking the first 50 contestants to show us what they’ve got. That means YOU! So, act fast, time is running out for your chance to win the title of Me-n-Ed’s Fastest Pizza Eater of the Year and some great prizes. If you don’t think YOU can finish a whole pizza, recruit someone you know to compete and come support them!

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Kirk Vartanian’s arraignment photo — Blingee’d

Fresno businessman/Granite Park dreamer Kirk Vartanian was officially arraigned today on assault charges. The Bee’s Craig Kohlruss snapped this picture of Vartanian, who looked none too happy to be there:


No offense to Craig, but I thought the photo could be livened up a bit, so I went over to and came up with this:

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Weekend Rewind: Ohhhhhhhh Drama!

Vartanian Booking Photo.JPG

Here’s a recap of a weekend dripping with drama. Tell us about your weekend adventures in the comments.

I took on a last-minute DJ gig at Palomino’s, which wouldn’t have been all that noteworthy except the owner of Red Zone Sports Grill showed up to speak with me during my set. He was calm and apologetic, saying he had never actually heard the now-controversial ad until things erupted last week. Overall, there wasn’t as much tension as you’d expect — except for when his nephew came and told me I should do my “research” because Red Zone has two gay employees. I shut that down like Liz Lemon.

The big news on Saturday was that local businessman Kirk Vartanian (aka the guy who opened The Edge) had been arrested on Friday night. Vartanian (pictured above) even got a special Saturday press conference from Fresno PD to talk about the allegations of assault and felony domestic violence.

The Bee’s Tim Sheehan wrote a pretty thorough story on the arrest. Vartanian reached out to ABC-30 from jail to tell his side of the story, which included this choice quote: “I’m trying to help the City of Fresno. If I am going to keep getting negative things happening to me, I am not going to help Granite Park.”

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Weekend Rewind: The Edge, Patrick Contreras and more


It was a pretty huge weekend around Fresno — here are some updates. Where did your weekend adventures take ya? Tell us in the comments.


  • It took a last-minute, one-night-only liquor license and round-the-clock work, but The Edge pulled everything together in order to open Friday night as promised. I wasn’t there, but all reports say there was a good crowd. Kim Kardashian has pics on her blog and local photog Casper Munoz has loads on his site like the one above. Who was there? Was it worth what you paid?
  • On another Edge note: Owner Kirk Vartanian said on Friday that the club would be closed for two more weeks to finish the remodeling. Then on Saturday, he changed course and said it would be open Thurs-Sat as an 18-and-over, no-booze spot until the remodeling is done and the club gets its permanent liquor license. (Side note: Props to ABC30 for the funniest thing I saw this weekend).

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