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Nightclub Confidential

Follow Up: Did Fresno Make it Go? No.

July 9, 2009 By: Bryan Bass


The old adage goes that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When local auto dealer Kirk Vartanian announced plans to immerse himself in the revitalization of the failed mixed-use Granite Park development, a plan that would include a new Vegas-style nightclub, a steakhouse, a barbeque haunt and the re-licensing of a pub, the local populace was skeptical but anxious to see the city-backed project work. The second-coming was to begin with the launch of Edge Nightclub in the space that formerly hosted an outpost of Sammy Hagar’s popular Cabo Wabo Cantina, with an opening hosted by reality television mainstay Kim Kardashian. Fans lined up early, many forking out the $100 ticket cost for the chance to hang with the socialite, even as workers rushed to get furniture in the building and city officials approved last-minute, one-night licenses. The plan was to keep the opening date Vartanian had committed to and then take two more weeks to get the place up to tip-top condition. None of that seems to matter anymore.

Last week, even as workers neared Edge to completion, any future for Granite Park seemed to evaporate when Vartanian was arrested on felony domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon charges. Allegedly, the erstwhile nightclub owner beat his wife, smothered her with a pillow and held a knife to her neck demanding the return of a $135,000 watch. When police arrived on the scene and found scratches on the arms and neck of the woman, Vartanian was arrested.

That wasn’t the end of a bad weekend run for the Fresno businessman, however, as Las Vegas also came calling. It had nothing to do with his big dreams of replicating high-priced bottle service and star-studded events at his nightclub; instead, it was two big-time resorts backed by the Clark County bad-check unit that claim Vartanian passed several bad checks at both The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas resorts totaling more than $250,000. He had paid some of the debt, but still owed about $241,000. A bench warrant for his arrest in Las Vegas was issued on June 8, two weeks before he was to open Edge Nightclub — probably not the best time to make a publicity push.

On Tuesday morning, after the warrant for his arrest was dismissed, he got started on a debt repayment plan to the casinos, starting with a $60,000 down payment that was wired to Las Vegas. He also was released from jail in Fresno on the domestic violence charges after a bail bondsman paid $155,000 bail on his behalf.

With Vartanian in the throes legal trouble and no liquor licenses pending before the Alcohol and Beverage Control board for Edge, Red, Memphis Blues or The Public House, Granite Park is back to where it was a few months ago: a slight to local residents, a sore mark on the city’s balance sheet and an infamous legacy from which it may never recover. Lenders retook control of major portions of the mixed-use facility at a foreclosure auction that received zero competitive bids. OMNI Financial plans to meet with the city, which defaulted on a $5 million loan guarantee and is seeking partners or buyers for the land and facilities, which most certainly will undergo a name change. In the meantime, one restaurant not on the foreclosed section of land remains in business and doing fairly well, although that might not bode well or serve to draw other partners and investors to the project. What is the restaurant still operating near the now shelved Edge Nightclub? Panda Express.


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Bryan Bass


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