Jonathan Fine’s business plan begins simply enough: design a space where Jonathan Fine would want to hang out.
“If I am going to be here 80 hours a week, I have to like it,” Fine says as he settles onto one of the heavy metal bar stools at the new Rockhouse at Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes. “I need to enjoy myself when I’m here. I need to have my friends here and know they are enjoying themselves.”
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The stool clunks and clanks as Fine moves it into place; in the background, construction workers haul cases of Dos Equis, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Heineken. Around the room, dozens of blue-vinyl chairs are lined up in orderly fashion; the mechanical bull is dusted and ready for action; and beer pong tables are being moved into place for the “ultra dive bar” set to open just hours later.
Unbridled fun at a fair price is what Rockhouse—and Fine himself—is all about. A Vegas native who says, “I have seen everything open and close two and three times,” Fine has a reliable feel for need. He believes he has hit the spot with the latest incarnation of Rockhouse, which sits on the second level of the Grand Canal Shoppes just across from First Food & Bar. Pedestrians ambling through the glass doors leading into that entrance are almost involuntarily funneled into Rockhouse.
“I don’t have a gimmick to get people in,” Fine says. “I don’t have to have $100,000 cocktail tables that change colors and light up and are interactive.”
That was the idea in 2006 when the original Rockhouse opened at Imperial Palace with Jeff Beacher in partnership with Fine as chief investor. After four months, Fine bought out Beacher and turned the business into a multimillion-dollar moneymaker, despite some structural obstacles that would curtail profits at any nightclub.
“There was only 2,300 square feet at Rockhouse (compared to 9,000 at the new place), and there was no bathroom,” Fine recalls. “It was 200 yards to walk to a bathroom.”
But the cost-efficiency of Rockhouse is unchanged. It’s the spot where you can buy a beer for $5 and play darts and shoot pool. The menu is laughably simple: tacos and hot dogs. But they are great tacos and hot dogs. Hanging all around the club are 85 flat-screen TVs.
“It’s the same idea as before, as an economical alternative,” Fine says. “But we’re servicing a different clientele. There are plenty of places inside the Venetian, Wynn, Treasure Island and Mirage. Plenty of nightclubs, but there’s no comfortable, fun bar to go hang out in and play pool, play darts, play beer pong and not break the bank.”
Fine also operates PBR Rock Bar & Grill at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood and owned Ranch House Kitchen at Town Square, which closed recently and will be developed into something else. Fine is now turning his attention to Linq, where he plans to open a venue of between 31,000 and 67,000 square feet by year’s end.
“It’s going to be a bar, a lounge, an experience—a music experience,” Fine says. “The working title right now is the Rock Hall.”
Fine pauses, then laughs. “By the way,” he says, “it’s the last project I’ll ever do with the name ‘Rock’ or ‘House’ in it.”
That name, he expects, will stand alone.