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House of Blues Plans to Open Nightclub in O.C.

Entertainment: The chain is negotiating a spot at the Irvine Spectrum Center. A local club operator vows fierce competition.

March 12, 1998|E. SCOTT RECKARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — House of Blues plans to open one of its restaurant-nightclubs in Orange County, prompting the operator of the competing Coach House and Galaxy clubs to promise an all-out entertainment war.

The West Hollywood-based entertainment chain has been negotiating with the Irvine Co. to locate the club at the Irvine Spectrum Center. No deal has been reached, officials of both companies said, and the club could wind up somewhere else.

"We want to be in Orange County," Jeff Lapin, director of development for House of Blues, said. "And we're going to be--either in the Spectrum this year or at another location later on."

Lapin wouldn't identify the second location under consideration. But Walt Disney Co. owns an 11% stake in House of Blues, making Anaheim one possibility. Disney spokesman John Dreyer declined to comment.

Richard Sim, the Irvine Co.'s executive vice president, said the company and House of Blues have been in negotiations. "We're talking to many people," he said. "They're among them."

House of Blues spokeswoman Sharon Liveten said a club at the Spectrum would be about half the size of the chain's West Hollywood venue, which accommodates more than 1,000 people.

That would make it about the same size as the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano and the Galaxy in Santa Ana, which are run by Gary Folgner, who has struggled in recent years to keep them both filled with customers.

Folgner said the county won't support another club of that size.

"If they come in they'll fail," he said. "We'll go to war with them."

Folgner, who also operates a club in Santa Barbara, said he plans to open three more clubs--two in Northern California and one in Utah--so he can offer touring acts package bookings. That would give him more leverage to sign rock and blues acts at better prices than the House of Blues, he said.

The Spectrum Center entertainment complex is at the El Toro Y, where the Santa Ana and San Diego freeways merge. It has 21 regular movie screens, an Imax 3-D theater, upscale restaurants, a high-tech game parlor, a bookstore and a food court on nearly six acres.

A House of Blues location would be part of a Spectrum expansion this summer that will double the space devoted to entertainment and food. The Irvine Co. plans to open a retail section later.

House of Blues has opened its Southern roadhouse-style nightclubs in West Hollywood, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. It recently began planning an expansion into hotels.

The chain was founded by Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Isaac Tigrett, who resigned as chief executive under pressure last October after a reported string of large losses. Its owners include celebrities Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Carly Simon, Isaac Hayes and John Goodman.

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