Permit in hand for Vegas nightclub

May 23, 2003

Lolita Harper

He never left his post, kept feeding the machine and finally hit.

Nightclub owner James Raven received Thursday his long-awaited

building permit for the Vegas nightclub to be built in the basement

level of 1901 Newport -- the Spanish marquee building in the heart of

downtown. He plans to start construction in June.

"I am walking out of City Hall with my building permit in my


hand," Raven said. "I can certainly say I am very glad to have the

process over and I am really looking forward to completing the


Raven met Thursday with building department officials and has the

go-ahead to begin construction, with a few minor details that still

need to be ironed out, said Burt Morgan, the city's chief plans

examiner. Those details will have to be finished before Raven can

open his doors to the public, Morgan said.

"Work can begin, but not all aspects of the requirements for

construction are completed yet," Morgan said.

The permits come six months and thousands of design dollars after

initial approval by the Planning Commission. City Manager Allan

Roeder said an agreement was finally reached after carefully

balancing safety concerns and feasible project designs.

Roeder said there was a "disconnect between staff and the

applicant" as to where the safety exits should be. Roeder stepped in

and encouraged the two parties to find some common ground.

"We sat down and stayed at it until we could come to some sort of

agreement," Roeder said.

The compromise: One exit was moved about 20 feet, adding about

$100,000 to building costs.

The upscale nightclub, designed for professionals between 25 and

40, was approved by the Planning Commission in November despite city

planners' concerns about parking, noise and overall concentration of

various nightlife hotspots in the area.

Within a mile radius of the Vegas nightclub -- in the basement

level of the Spanish style 1901 Newport -- is the ever popular Yard

House restaurant, the Helm bar, Goat Hill Tavern, Players, Tony's

Place, Skosh Monahan's and Detroit nightclub. Farther away on 17th

Street are the Little Knight, Pierce Street Annex, Chester Drawers

and La Cave.

In earlier hearings, Raven distinguished club Vegas by saying it

was not designed for the younger, rowdier "MTV crowd." The

11,000-square-foot club will have an elite guest list, a cover charge

and excellent security. The club will not play hip-hop music.

While staffers saw the nearby entertainment venues as a

disadvantage, planning commissioners and City Council members said

the new club adds to the downtown synergy. Many officials are looking

to club Vegas -- another enterprises planned for 1901 Newport,

including condominiums -- to revitalize the downtown area.

Club Vegas is designed to entertain about 800 people from 5 p.m.

to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday

and Sunday.

Raven said he anticipates a grand opening by September.

"The bottom line is that I am content with the final plan and I

look forward to bringing the best nightlife in Orange County to Costa

Mesa," he said.

* LOLITA HARPER writes columns Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and

covers culture and the arts. She may be reached at (949) 574-4275 or

by e-mail at

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