Rock & Brews, Paia’s controversial new restaurant located in the old Jacques spot, promises more than good food. The place certainly has deep roots in the concert industry. Co-owners Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are original members of the band KISS. Their partners are concert industry and merchandising veterans Dave and Dell Furano and restaurateur-hotelier-brewmaster Michael Zislis. Maui residents and business-owners Mark and Chrystie Blietz are also part of the ownership team.
Dave Furano says he’s worked with Bill Graham, the father of the modern day concert business. He served as President of Bill Graham Presents as well as tour manager for some of the hottest acts of our time including the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, George Harrison and Bob Dylan.
Furano’s brother Dell brings more than 35 years experience in the music, entertainment, marketing and licensing industries to the project. He’s been credited with creating the first concert T-shirt, which has grown into one of the strongest money-making aspects of the concert industry. Dell says he’s worked with artists like the Beatles, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd and, of course, KISS.
While operating their merchandising business, a division of Winterland Productions, the Furano brothers began selling T-shirts to Peter Morton, who had launched the first Hard Rock Cafe in London. After selling Morton millions of shirts, Dave Furano decided that “when he grew up,” he wanted to open his own restaurant where he could sell his own T-shirts. Following a drastic change in the concert promotion landscape in the late 1990s, Furano began working on that goal.
He had an opportunity to open a site at Los Angeles International Airport, but realized he needed a real restaurant operator as a partner. He knew Zislis, who owned a popular Manhattan Beach restaurant called Rock’n Fish, and urged him to join the new venture. Zislis politely turned him down.
Then one night the Furanos invited Zislis to a KISS concert. They were standing backstage with the band and noticed that the two longest lines in the building were for T-shirts and beer. “I think it’s in the beer,” Zislis said. The partners–and the idea for Rock & Brews–clicked and they opened their first location in El Segundo, CA.
David Furano said his partner Zislis’ dedication to quality food is admirable.
“Gene and Paul, or Dell or I, we needed someone who really had passion for great food,” he said. “And Michael has that visceral passion–always wanting to make it better.”
Zislis said half of the menu at the new Paia location will be similar to their other locations. The remainder will represent local cuisine. They will offer Coconut Crusted Mahi Mahi Sliders alongside their signature Giant Soft German Pretzel. A Maui Onion Tomato Salad will join The Strawberry Fields Salad in the VIP Salads section. Specialties including the Mosh Pit Mac ‘N’ Cheese and Santa Maria Tri Tip Sandwich will share the stage with a Hawaiian Rib-Eye. The menu also will offer gluten-free pizzas and gluten-free beers.
R&B also plans to highlight local breweries, offering nine beers from Maui Brewing Company and eight from Kona Brewing Company.
The restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor dining in a family-friendly, concert-like environment. It will feature multiple big screens presenting historic concert videos ranging from Queen at Wembley Stadium to Rush at Rio. There are no plans to host live bands at the location, which is set to open mid-February.
The partners also said they worked hard to honor the culture with the restaurant’s ambiance, art and charitable efforts.
“We don’t come in and establish a restaurant in a neighborhood without being sympathetic to the community,” said Paul Stanley. “Besides being rude, it’s stupidity. Hawaiian people are proud–and rightly so–of their history and their heritage. And to incorporate it… makes our restaurant here much more immediately a part of the community. Whether it is helping schools or local charities, that’s your obligation. If you want to set-up shop and be part of the neighborhood, you have to contribute.”
For that reason, Rock & Brews presented $10,000 to the Paia Youth and Cultural Center at its Sneak Preview event on Jan. 26. During the event, they had a traditional Hawaiian blessing, showcased the island art that graces the walls and offered a sampling of the food.
“Before there was opposition, we blessed the site,” Zislis said, addressing skeptics. “We had a blessing before we demolished the building; we had a blessing when the roof went on.”
Stanley seconds the respect for the location. “What a great little town this is,” he said. “Sure, you can go to Front Street, you could find some place in Wailea, but we wanted to find a place that was a little more intimate. There’s a warmth and there is a sense of community here. I understand people’s concern because when you love your community, you don’t want it changed. And we have no desire to change something that is perfect. Why would we change Paia? It’s so unique. We are just thrilled to be there.”
As for Simmons, he said he is very proud of the restaurant but it was obvious that his passion is fueled by his palate. When he spoke of his favorite dish–the “Purple Rain” Drops dessert–it was as though he was speaking of his notorious sexual appetite.
“There is something called a beignet,” he began, speaking in a near-hushed voice. “It’s a little crusty on the outside with caramel sauce and powdered sugar. When you bite into it, either hot caramel sauce or hot fudge squirts in your mouth. It is sinful beyond anything. It is so good, you close your eyes to concentrate on the taste. You make a sound–mmmmm–like a woman in the throws.”
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.