Fox casts limelight downtown

Joshua Wilson | Special to Viewpoints

May 29, 2014

Fox Theater brings talented artists and shows to Riverside from Live Nation that pull surrounding businesses into the spotlight, boosting business and revenue for local restaurants and hotels.

Fox Theater brings talented artists and shows to Riverside from Live Nation that pull surrounding businesses into the spotlight, boosting business and revenue for local restaurants and hotels.

“Business as usual” is no longer a term the city of Riverside can use for the downtown area. Riverside has been experiencing an unusual change in the pace of business thanks to the arrival of Live Nation, one of the nation’s leading entertainment providers.

Live Nation was contracted by the city of Riverside last year to operate the Fox Theater and the Riverside Municipal Auditorium, and downtown businesses have felt its presence. Many locals have been able to see internationally acclaimed performers such as comedians Wayne Brady and Jerry Seinfeld or R&B singer Jill Scott without the travel to other metropolitan cities. This has stimulated more attention to businesses in the downtown area.

“We, the region, need better entertainment venues so that people don’t have to drive to Orange County or Los Angeles County, and we like the economic boost that it brings to the city,” said Mike Gardener, Riverside city councilman. “When people usually go to an event they will have dinner or have drinks. If they come from a far distance they’ll stay in one of the hotels. Even if they don’t, they may be walking around the downtown (area) and see something they like and say ‘we’re going to come back this weekend and we’re going to go to that store.’ ”

Many downtown businesses can attest to that claim. For instance, the historic Mission Inn hotel, home to Riverside’s largest tourist attraction the Festival of Lights, has profited greatly from Live Nation’s partnership with the local businesses.

“We’ve seen a big influx in business,” said Troy Sims, Mission Inn guest services manager. “Our occupancy here at the hotel has grown approximately 25 to 30 percent when there is a concert or some type of entertainment taking place at one of the locations.”

Some of the businesses in the area are becoming more visible because of the recent shows according to Jay Kourney, Hyatt hotel manager whose hotel has actually housed some of the performing talent from Live Nation.

“It’s good traffic,” Kourney said. “(Shows) provide more exposure to the local community.” Restaurant and bar ProAbition has received the business of many concert-goers before and after show nights.

“We have been noticing an increasing drive on performance nights,” said Jimmy Cheek, ProAbition manager. “(Shows) bring good crowds, good people. They just want to come, have a drink, have dinner, and then get to their show.”

The restaurant has been gaining a lot of popularity with the community, as the large crowds from show nights have been steadily coming through its doors. The bar also recently held an event featuring recording artist Wale, which was privately arranged. The event was a success with a turn out exceeding expectation thanks to recent exposure to the community.

“We had some people come” Cheek said. “That night in particular we had a $25 ticket fee, and they think ‘Oh my god… this is Riverside!’ Some people have a perception that Riverside is not an area for high-class entertainment. We’re trying to change that idea. We’re trying to bring a high class vibe to Riverside, and I believe that we are delivering on that.”

The presence of Live Nation continues to increase the appeal of the city, especially within the downtown Riverside business traffic. Business owners agree that the future of downtown Riverside, as well as Riverside as a whole, is looking bright.