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Chris Jones

Room for Another Restaurant?

22 June 2004

An already crowded dining corridor in west Las Vegas will soon have another big-name player on the menu, but the backers of Southern California's BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse chain claim they're looking forward to competing for patrons in Summerlin's potentially lucrative dining district.

"All of us in this business, the first thing we say (when considering new sites) is, `Who else is there?' " said Rob DeLiema, vice president of marketing for BJ's. "If we can open next to a Cheesecake Factory or a California Pizza Kitchen, we love it because there's room for all of us, especially in an area like" Summerlin.

Within a three-mile stretch of West Charleston Boulevard, local restaurant patrons can already pick from a global selection of popular chains that includes Claim Jumper and P.F. Chang's China Bistro to Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, Mimi's Café and Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine.

DeLiema said it's no secret why so many food and beverage companies have set up shop in Summerlin, and that same answer helps explain his confidence that BJ's will quickly find its own niche.

"We really look for areas where there are a lot of families," DeLiema said of the rapidly growing, high-demographics area. "There are just so many people out there near Canyon Pointe, and everybody else seems to be doing well in that area."

Bob Ansara, a longtime local restaurateur who is the state's representative with the National Restaurant Association, said so-called "restaurant row" and food court concepts are proven winners -- provided eateries are able to maintain the standards of their nearby competitors. He described the West Charleston area as the perfect locale for multiple eateries and said he believes it can easily support additional dining options.

"That corridor has received a ton of press of high-end projects like Red Rock Station, and it's anchored by some great developments like Summerlin, Canyon Pointe and The Lakes," said Ansara, who will soon reopen his Ricardo's Mexican restaurant chain at 4930 W. Flamingo Road at Decatur Boulevard following an eight-month hiatus.

BJ's has operated in Southern California since 1978, though the company has grown rapidly since its stock became publicly traded in 1996. Its Las Vegas site will be the chain's 31st location in states that include Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Texas.

"It's been gangbusters ever since (1996)," said DeLiema, who said BJ's expansion has been bolstered through the hiring of several executives who formerly worked for rivals such as The Cheesecake Factory, Chili's Grill & Bar and Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Bahama Breeze.

BJ's menu features more than 100 items, mostly classic American fare ranging from hamburgers and pasta to pizzas, salads, meatloaf and pot roast. Its best known offerings are deep-dish pizzas, house-brewed beers and the Pizookie, a pizza-shaped cookie dessert.

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse's first Las Vegas location is scheduled to open June 30. The 8,500-square-foot eatery is located in the Canyon Pointe shopping center at the intersection of West Charleston Boulevard and Pavilion Center Drive, one block east of the Las Vegas Beltway. The business is expected to employ about 125 workers.

DeLiema said the company hopes to open at least two more local eateries within the next year or two, including one in Henderson's Green Valley area.