Friday, Feb. 6, 2004 | 4:43 a.m.
Feb. 7 - 8, 2004
In 1993 Eli Mizrachi tried to see hard rock band Tool at the Huntridge Theatre. On the way in, he was escorted off the premises by security.
"I had four tickets and it was just me and my buddy, so I was trying to sell the other two tickets for face value," Mizrachi remembers. "And security came up and threw me out."
Little did those security guards know that less than 10 years later the man they barred from the Huntridge would run the historic venue.
In January 2002 Mizrachi's family -- longtime owners of the adjacent Cima's Furniture store -- purchased the Huntridge and handed over operations to Eli, who was 29 years old at the time.
Under Mizrachi's supervision, the Huntridge has re-established itself as one of Southern Nevada's top non-Strip music halls, hosting around 130 concerts after reopening in November 2002.
Late last year Mizrachi revealed plans for a major renovation, which was set to begin around Jan. 1. Since then the 60-year-old facility on the corner of Maryland Parkway and Charleston Boulevard has sat mostly dark, awaiting its face-lift.
However, those proposed upgrades have been postponed until May at the earliest. In the meantime the Huntridge's concert schedule has begun to fill again after two months of relative inactivity.
The venue has several shows booked for the coming months, including Eve 6 on Feb. 16, Coheed and Cambria on Feb. 19 and a reunion by local band 12 Volt Sex on Feb. 26. A full schedule is available at www.thehuntridge.com.
On Monday Mizrachi, 31, chatted with the Las Vegas Sun.
Las Vegas Sun: You guys haven't had many shows since November. Do you think a lot of people still assume the Huntridge is closed?
Eli Mizrachi: A lot of people do, actually. We were hoping to close around New Year's, but we updated some things on the design and we needed more time to get the plans ready. I've pretty much set May 1 as a target date, reopening 4 to 6 months after that.
Then we'll have a big grand opening with some huge band that I'm going to pay entirely too much for.
Sun: Has it been difficult to book the place after essentially going dark for two months?
EM: We're picking it up again, but we've already missed out on some stuff that has gone to other places because they didn't know we were open. But I've done my best to get ahold of all the agents and get the word out that we are still open.
Sun: Describe the upcoming renovations.
EM: Bigger, better and nicer. It's been here forever and it's going to stay here forever. We're doing things to ensure that.
Sun: Such as?
EM: We got approved for a gaming license, which is going to help tremendously as far as revenue. And we're going to have a 24-hour bar and restaurant, a lounge area.
We're taking a part of the furniture store that's next door and attaching it on. That's honestly been the biggest headache we've had because the Huntridge was built in 1944 and a lot of it is really unknown as far as the structural stuff, what's really in the walls. Those two buildings aren't even attached (now). There's a little, 2-foot alley between them.
Sun: So the second room will house smaller acts in the lounge area?
EM: Right. We're going to have a stage in the restaurant.
Sun: There was some early discussion of balcony seating in the main room. Is that in the plans?
EM: We are going to have some second-story room. As far as how much and what it's going to encompass ... we're trying to keep some of this stuff secret. We're going to have some things up there that are unique to the Huntridge, so people will be wowed when they come in and see the place again.
We're also going to tier the main hall a little bit, make it more visually friendly.
Sun: Sort of like The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel?
EM: Kind of like The Joint. I've been to a lot of concerts at other venues and I've noticed what works best at each one. I've picked a little bit out of The Joint, the House of Blues (at Mandalay Bay) and some of the places in California that I've been to, and tried to incorporate them all into what I think will be the best place to watch a show in the whole city.
Sun: Is it tough to compete for acts with The Joint and the House of Blues, among other casino venues, so close by?
EM: The Joint and the House of Blues are great for the city, and they're going to have their niche. I'm not really trying to take any part of that. You're not going to get David Bowie to play the Huntridge.
But we're going to be more than just a concert venue. We're going to try to incorporate comedy shows and plays. We've talked to the Nevada Theatre Company. We're going to try to do as many things as we can in there, from city events to comedy shows to theater. If my sister and her school want to have their choir practice there, why not?
Sun: Do you think the Huntridge's location in an older part of town keeps some people from checking it out?
EM: People have been going to that spot (for concerts) since the early '90s, and they're still coming to that spot. The Huntridge is a brand here in Vegas.
We're going to have valet parking so people don't have to walk in the back and a lighted parking lot back there so people aren't scared.
We're also going to make some changes to the outside. We're going to put landscaping around the whole exterior, redo the marquee and the tower, repaint the whole place. We're not messing with the architectural aspect, but it will have one cohesive look.
Sun: Have you heard from local music fans who are worried the Huntridge won't reopen the next time it closes?
EM: I get e-mails threatening me (laughs). And it happens more than you'd imagine.
That's why we've added the gaming (bar-top video poker machines) because that will keep the place open. We won't lose on shows anymore, and that will help the place grow.
Sun: Is it strange to think that three years ago you were in the furniture business and now the Huntridge is your life?
EM: Totally. It's a whirlwind. It's totally consumed me, honestly.