FOODIE EMPIRE: KISS' Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley will soon open Corona Rock & Brews
I don’t often receive calls from rock stars. In fact, I never do. So I was secretly thrilled while trying to be cool when I got a call from The Demon last week.
“Is this Laurie?” he asked in his deep, velvety voice. “This is Gene Simmons.” Yes, that Gene Simmons, bass guitarist and singer with Kiss, the rock band he co-founded with rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley in the early 1970s. So what did the alter ego of The Demon, he of the black-white-and-red makeup, platform shoes and Red Carpet length tongue, want to talk about with me?
Food and drinks and classic rock ‘n’ roll. Simmons, Stanley and three other business partners are opening soon a Rock & Brews restaurant at 3550 Grand Oaks, The Crossings in Corona. The location is in the 6,400-square-foot building occupied by former tenants Bubba Jacks and On the Border.
Simmons is confident that Corona’s R&B will be as wildly popular as the 15 other Rock & Brews he and his pals started opening in 2012. Within the next three to five years, as the quintet ratchets up expansion plans, Simmons said they expect to be a billion dollar company.
Whether in big cities or the heartland, every Rock & Brews they’ve opened has hit a homer, Simmons said.
So what makes Rock & Brews so successful? “It goes to the essentials,” Simmons said. “Nobody has to come. There are choices, so many choices.”
The biggest draw, he said, are the Asian chicken wings, “Godzilla-sized” burgers from fresh meat, homemade sauces, salads, including kale, pizzas full of gluten or gluten free, and humongous pretzels.
“You can watch your girlish figure or pig out,” Simmons said.
And although he isn’t fond of the smell or taste of alcohol, customers can indulge in 100 craft beers, many of them regional. At the grand opening this summer — a date has yet to be determined — you’ll probably find Simmons sipping a diet Snapple that’s half iced tea, half lemonade.
“People come because they like the experience,” Simmons said. “Our restaurants are a little bit different, reminiscent of beer gardens in Germany, wide open with long, communal tables. There’s not a sense of, ‘I’m a VIP and you’re not.’ ”
R&Bs are not sports bars, but as Simmons puts its, the vibe is “a little sexy,” great for mingling. At the same time, the joints are family friendly, filled with games, including ring toss, life-sized Jenga stacking blocks, beanbag toss. The Buena Park R&B, which opened this past September, even sports a beach volleyball court.
“At one end of our restaurants there’s a plastic toy area with padded floors, a secluded area for kids where they can put on Kiss makeup,” he said. “You can see the play area from everywhere in the restaurant.”
Along with displays of memorabilia, multiple televisions will play concert footage or music videos synced to the rock music playing on the speakers.
“Paul and Gene did not do this for the money. They’re very wealthy,” CEO and founding partner Michael Zislis said of the multi-multi millionaires. The Kiss frontmen helped design the logos, menu, ambiance and oversee the quality of food.