HoB’s Tale Of Two Cities

Reports in two major newspapers of possible new sites for House of Blues venues might indicate expansion is in the offing in the post-acquisition era, but the political stars in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., would have to line up perfectly before the first shovel of dirt could be turned in either city.

Live Nation President/CEO Michael Rapino has stated his company’s intention, since the October purchase of House of Blues Entertainment, to expand the HoB brand into more cities.

But news of talks with officials in California and the District are not necessarily signs that he’s already put that plan into motion.

In Washington, a non-binding agreement was reached five months ago – long before the LN/HoB acquisition closed – between HoB and the city’s National Capital Revitalization Corp., which is negotiating to build a $120 million complex near the city’s new convention center, according to the Washington Post.

Like any urban development under consideration, there will be plenty of hoops for developers to jump through, in the form of zoning variances and other potential legal snags, before construction can begin.

And in Santa Clara, Calif., the possible move of the San Francisco 49ers to a site adjacent to the Great America theme park has seemingly raised the prospect of a HoB-run 7,000-seat theatre from the dead. But that, too, appears dependent on conditions beyond HoB’s control.

The San Jose Mercury News published what it said was a site design for a Santa Clara stadium and entertainment complex, including a 7,000-seat theatre, obtained two days before the Niners announced they were breaking off talks with S.F. over a new stadium at Candlestick Point.

After some noisy sabre-rattling from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 49ers officials agreed to come back to the table but made it clear that Santa Clara would continue to be their favored suitor for the near future.

The newspaper further reported that Santa Clara City Manager Ron Garratt and the 49ers have been in talks with contractors representing HoB about building on the Great America site.

Further muddying the water is the fact that Santa Clara County supervisors nixed plans in August for a similar HoB-operated theatre over financial concerns.

In Washington, the development project in question would include not only a concert hall but a hotel, retail stores and restaurants.

“We see this as an opportunity to create a destination location,” Kevin Warner, VP of investments and acquisition at the NCRC, told the Post. “This would not only be a tourist destination but also a business destination, as you think about its proximity to the convention center, Capitol Hill and the Verizon Center.”

Warner told the paper that the non-binding agreement between NCRC and HoB is similar to a letter of intent and added he expects a formal contract to be signed within months.

However, the development itself has yet to be approved by local authorities, and there appears to be some opposition to the plan. District councilmember Jim Graham told the Post he was concerned about the impact of the project on existing local businesses – not the least of which include the 9:30 Club and Black Cat concert venues.

Spokesmen from Live Nation and House of Blues didn’t return calls for comment before press time.

– Deborah Speer