The Battle Of El Monte

A former promoter of a Southern California nightclub is proposing a 40,000-square-foot facility right across the street from his onetime employer that would incorporate a nightclub, restaurant, office space and studio – igniting a battle royale in the city of El Monte.

The proposed project would essentially duplicate the facilities of the Florentine Gardens nightclub on the city’s main boulevard.

Florentine Gardens owner Kenneth MacKenzie is fighting to prevent Joe Gomez, his former promoter, from opening the El Monte Expo Center directly across the street in an industrial section of the city, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Gomez told the paper that MacKenzie is “afraid of the competition.” Florentine Gardens GM Hector Sarinana said the proposed venue isn’t competition but redundant. “You are putting a McDonald’s in front of another McDonald’s,” he told the paper.

The rival buildings are a bit bigger than a McDonald’s, however. The proposed Expo Center would include two buildings totaling 40,000 square feet. Florentine Gardens converted a bowling alley into a concert and special events space in 1985.

The decision comes down to three commissioners on El Monte’s planning commission, which had to close a recent meeting to the public when Florentine Gardens supporters showed up to protest the project.

Some of the supporters accuse the city of “looking the other way” and Gomez of starting construction without environmental review or proper permits, according to the Tribune. When permits were produced, supporters accused Gomez of obtaining them with the help of a friendly police captain.

Gomez’s project includes a boxing ring already in use by a youth group the police captain is involved with, and it’s the boxing ring that his opponents say he’s using to grease the skids for the city’s blessing. “Everybody is using those kids to look good,” MacKenzie told paper.

Gomez told the Tribune that despite having much work ahead of him to convert the existing buildings on the property, he can complete the $2 million project in three months once he has the city’s approval.

MacKenzie isn’t about to give up so easily, however. “This is very important to me. This may be the last fight of my life,” he told the paper.