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Friday, Apr 19, 2024

Nightclub Owner Plans Asian Infusion in Gaslamp Quarter

Some say that the bustling Gaslamp Quarter has become saturated with nightclubs. But as far as Mike Viscuso, who owns two of the most popular , Belo and On Broadway , is concerned, adding one more is simply a matter of coming up with the right concept.

Well, maybe not that simple.

Viscuso, 50, who heads the San Diego-based Visco Entertainment Collection, says he expects to shell out as much as $5 million to transform Deco’s, a restaurant he has operated on Fifth Avenue for three years, into an ultra-hip nightspot that will target a demographic of Asians between the ages of 25 and 35.

“Deco’s, which was formerly the Redfish, was designed and built as a full-service restaurant and it had a big kitchen,” he said. “When I came in I did minor remodeling with a South Beach Miami flair, but I didn’t do remodeling like I normally do, which is to gut a place and create a clean palate.”

While Deco’s has been profitable, it could be more so as a nightclub with a higher percentage of alcohol sales than food sales, he says. Main Street & Main Inc., a Phoenix-based firm, owns the building and operated the Redfish, as it does the adjacent TGI Friday’s.

The new club, he anticipates, will generate sales of $10 million and a gross profit of about $3 million in its second year in business. It will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Catering To Asians

Viscuso, who formerly worked as a “concept developer” for a chain of Texas dance halls before moving to San Diego and opening E Street Alley in the early 1990s, says the idea for his yet-to-be-named establishment came from Long Beach, which has a large Asian population, including young people in careers with a high level of disposable income.

Viscuso owns and operates V2O, a nightclub on Queen’s Way Bay in Long Beach. He also owns JJ Steak in Old Town Pasadena and plans to open a club called Kress in the next three months in the historic Frederick’s of Hollywood building on Hollywood Boulevard that he likens to the Gaslamp Quarter. His ownership stake in his businesses ranges from 51 percent to 100 percent. He says he doubts he will take on a partner for the Deco’s transformation.

Projected sales for Viscuso’s 400-employee operation are $30 million this year and $50 million in 2008.

San Diego’s Asian population is growing, which is reflected in the student enrollments at local colleges and universities, he says.

While the club that replaces Deco’s would welcome all, he says he believes that there’s a niche to be filled locally for one that caters to Asians.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January and be completed by June. Pending city approval, plans also call for expanding the 10,000-square-foot interior to 22,000 square feet by adding a rooftop bar or bars and making use of its Sixth Avenue storefront, which is currently devoted to storage. To facilitate valet parking and make it easier for guests to come in and out, the club’s main entrance would also be moved from Fifth Avenue to Sixth.

Creating A Buzz

Well-known restaurateur David Cohn, who heads the Cohn Restaurant Group, which includes Blue Point in the Gaslamp Quarter and the Prado in Balboa Park, said Viscuso is smart to relocate the venue’s entrance because “the real energy” of the entertainment district is heading east on Sixth Avenue toward Petco Park.

As for downtown’s nightclub scene, he says there’s always more room for a good operator like Viscuso.

“San Diego is becoming extremely innovative and progressive,” he said. “But nightclubs tend to have short cycles, so when business tends to level off and the buzz is gone, you need to create new buzz, and that’s what Mike is doing.”

If Viscuso gets permitting to expand onto the rooftop of his new establishment, it would have six separate bars. If not, there would be four, as well as two dance floors, a banquet area and another devoted to full-service dining, he says.

But the cuisine, under the direction of Angel Guzman, currently the head chef at JJ Steakhouse in Pasadena, would emphasize Asian-style tapas, such as teppanyaki skewers served throughout.

Teppanyaki is a type of Japanese cuisine, including shellfish, chicken, vegetables and Kobe beef, prepared on an iron griddle that may be located in the center of the diners’ table.

In addition to three disc jockeys playing different styles of music, the club would likely be the first in San Diego with wall-sized video screens that would enable guests to “meet” via text messaging or play video games with competitors around the world.

Matt Higgins, regional manager for Visco Entertainment, says the Deco’s staff, including management and cleaning crews, numbers 45 people. When it is closed for remodeling, some would be transferred to work at other clubs the company owns, some would opt for vacations and others would remain on the job to help with planning.

“But we’ll need all of them back when the new club opens,” he said.


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