Can History Make A Restaurant Succeed?

Music execs make a go of it at the Rainbow

Richard Abowitz

"I was a drummer at 13 and did some records when I was young and then went on to join Atlantic Records. No one ever thinks of drummers. Drummers never get their due," Jerry Greenberg says. And so he had the room we are sitting in at the Vegas Rainbow Bar and Grill designed as a tribute to drummers. The light fixtures are in the shape of drums. And for those with long memories, photos of famed drummers flicker on the wall via a screen slide show: How many people in Las Vegas can recognize the shot of the very '80s- looking Cozy Powell?

But only a small part of the drum room pays tribute to drummers. Indeed, only a small part of Jerry Greenberg's career was as a drummer. "There are a lot of memories on these walls," says Bob Greenberg, his brother. He says it without nostalgia, his tone matter-of-fact. Bob and Jerry Greenberg may be novice restaurateurs in Las Vegas, but every inch of wall space testifies to the brothers' history together and apart as music industry titans. One half of the room is dedicated to memorabilia from Jerry (Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson, etc.) and the other to framed photos and gold discs from the more than 40-year career of Bob (Alice Cooper, Tom Jones, LeAnn Rimes, etc). Then there is the stuff near the middle that seems to represent their common experiences (Rolling Stones and Yes).

It's funny that they're old-school enough to be touchy about their ages. But Jerry looks to be in his 60s and his brother maybe a half-dozen years older. You can do the math because a framed clip on Jerry's wall in the drum room comes from a 1974 newspaper that memorializes how at 32, Jerry had just become president of Atlantic Records; at the time, the article's headline makes clear he was the youngest person to ever head a major label.

That's probably why when I get to there, the brothers are still connected enough to be working at arranging a visit from "those sweetie girls" from Destiny's Child to the Rainbow after the trio's appearance at Mandalay Bay. In fact, just before their publicist departs, she shows the Greenbergs their picture with Robert Plant (taken with the former Led Zeppelin singer during his visit to the Rainbow after a Vegas show at the Hilton) in a recent Billboard, as well as the same photo in another music trade journal. Another photo that has gotten a lot of attention shows Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas at the Vegas Rainbow.

So why have these music industry legends chosen to enter the restaurant business in Las Vegas and why a name as famous as the Rainbow Bar & Grill, a legendary LA hangout?

"I can summarize why we did a Rainbow in Vegas in three words: You needed it," Jerry says. "We really felt there wasn't a 24-hour place here that would cater to rock and roll music and cater to the locals and be a place where musicians and artists coming through town could hang like the Rainbow in LA, which has been around for over 30 years. And there wasn't a major act from the Stones to the Beatles to Ozzie that wouldn't come through LA and not want to go to the Rainbow, because Mario (Maglieri—owner of LA Rainbow) was a great host, the food was fantastic and the vibe was right. Everyone knew they would run into celebrities, but celebrities always knew they would be hanging out with some great people. Vegas needed a good hang. Every week someone has come up to either Bob or myself to thank us for opening this kind of place in Las Vegas."

So while the Red Room in the Vegas Rainbow is an exact replica of its LA counterpart (from the booths to the artwork), the Greenbergs didn't simply create a franchise of LA's Rainbow. They remained faithful in spirit, but the drum room—officially called the Green Room—in addition to being a rock voyeur's dream is all about their very personal addition to the Rainbow legacy: This is the Vegas Rainbow, with the Greenbergs' personal stamp.

So far it's all been good buzz and it would be hard to name a better location for the Rainbow than next to the Hard Rock. But truth be told, restaurants, especially outside casinos, are a risky enterprise, and the Rainbow Bar & Grill is run completely on the Greenberg brothers' own money. They will not tell me how much they have invested; it is certainly in the millions. Jerry Greenberg says: "We are either going to win big or lose big." He says this without the slightest trace of anxiety because it's old news, of course, just like another day in the music business.

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