07/08/2015

KISS founders to open Rock & Brews in Oklahoma City

Rock & Brews, a national chain co-owned by rock legends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, is set to open in November near Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City, Simmons said in an interview that included his views on many subjects.

by Dave Cathey NewsOK

Fans of the rock band KISS will have a place to gather and "Shout It Out Loud" when Rock & Brews opens near Quail Springs Mall this fall.

That's because Rock & Brews is a national chain co-owned by rock legends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

And to hear Simmons talk about the food, you'd better brace yourself.

"When you wrap your lips around one our Godzilla-sized burgers, and that's not easy to do, or one of our gluten-free pizzas or regular pizza, you're going to have a hard time going anywhere else," Simmons said.

Simmons is particularly fond of laying one of the concept's signature beignets across his notoriously long tongue.

"It's a crispy little pastry about the size of a snowball, covered in powdered sugar and drizzled with raspberry sauce, and when you bite into it and your mouth is filled with chocolate sauce, it’s a good as sex," Simmons said.

For the record, the beignets are called "Purple Rain" Drops on the menu.

But Simmons said the experience is about more than food.

"You don't have to go to a restaurant to eat; you can eat at home," he said. "You want the whole experience. We're all social, all of us. You want to meet with friends or go on a date. It's about the vibe. When you’re walking into Rock & Brews you see classic rock, photos, videos, music playing. Music is all over the place. The stuff that you love — no Flock of Seagulls, no Men in Hats. I don't say that disparagingly. I say it as a statement of fact: You won't hear those bands at Rock & Brews."

Simmons said you will hear Rush, AC/DC, Bon Jovi and "maybe a little KISS."

He made it clear you never know what you might see.

"I performed a marriage in a Rock & Brews," Simmons said. "It's the only ceremony I ever performed, and it was because the couple insisted on having the wedding at Rock & Brews."

What to expect

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famers co-founded the concept in 2012 with restauranteur Michael Zislis and concert industry veterans Dave and Dell Furano. They opened their first Midwest location in Overland Park, Kan., with regional franchisee Kirk Williams in 2014.

Williams is the franchisee for Oklahoma City's location, which will be at 2737 Memorial Road. The two-story building that began as Don Pablo's boasts more than 7,700 square feet. It previously was home to Buddha Tao followed by its most recent occupant, Dan O’Brien's.

Rock & Brews Oklahoma City will feature casual American comfort cuisine, a full bar that includes a broad selection international and craft beers and premium wines, and an atmosphere reminiscent of a family-friendly music event, featuring concert lighting, multiple televisions and concert-style rock music videos.  Indoor and al fresco dining will be available.

With something for everyone, Rock & Brews Oklahoma City will offer a lively play area for children, and the patio area will be dog-friendly.  Ample free parking will be available.

Williams said what drew him to the concept was the commitment to high-quality food.

"People are going to love it," he said. "It's a lot of fun. It's the kind of place the whole family can enjoy, but the food is really great, and that's what sold me on it."

Heartland respect

Simmons has been vocal for years about his commitment to the military, and that will be borne out at Rock & Brews when it opens.

"We'll be there when it opens," Simmons said. "But on the first day we'll only be serving veterans — they'll be the only ones invited."

Simmons remains outspoken about military's place in culture and thankful for the role it has played not only in giving him the freedom to pursue his dreams but how integral it is in his existence.

"It's embarrassing that we have people who don't understand; without the military we might be speaking German or Japanese or even Russian in this country," he said. "My mother was 14 years old in a Nazi concentration camp when the United States got involved in World War II, so I'm obviously very thankful for our veterans."

When Rock & Brews opens in early November, it will mark the second location in the Midwest, places that were not chosen at random.

"We’ve just been told by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) that KISS is the No. 1 gold record-selling band of all time," Simmons said. "And it's not because of people in New York or Los Angeles; it's because of middle America."

Simmons said while people on the coasts are busy worrying about whether they should like something to remain relevant, people in middle America are embracing what they love.

"There's no pussyfooting around in the Midwest," Simmons said. "People know what they love, and they stick to it. We're very thankful they embraced us when they did."

"I remember playing in front of 9,500 people in Norman, right outside the university (of Oklahoma) on one of our first tours," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday."

Making it special

Simmons said he never thought about going into the restaurant business until it was presented to him, but that's always been his modus operandi.

"I never thought I was going to be a rock star, either," he said. "I was teaching sixth grade at the time. But if you get me pregnant with an idea, I will be the best father in the world. I will see the idea through. I will work tirelessly to make it a success."

His 41-year career speaks to the veracity of the claim. It includes movies, toys, television shows, merchandise and even a football team — the Los Angeles KISS, which competes in the Arena Football League.

As for the restaurant, Simmons said, "Interest in the concept is exploding, but we are taking things slow because we want to get everything perfect."

"We want the Rock & Brews in Oklahoma to be yours. We want it to be special for you, and we don't want to open another one until we get yours perfect."

Simmons said he's got plenty to do these days with KISS having just finished a global tour and the movie "Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery" due out this month on digital platforms and Blu-ray/DVD.

And although he's quick to share his political views, he said he has no interest in politics.

"It doesn't pay well enough," Simmons said. "I don't know how to say this without sounding cocky, but what the president of these United States of America makes in salary is less than half of what we will make with one of our shows — and we don't have to answer to Congress or any party. All we have to do is rock out."

To learn more

To get an advance look at the menu, go online to rockandbrews.com. To check out what Simmons is up to, go online to genesimmons.com or kissonline.com. 

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