After 16 months of being shut down by the pandemic, Club One Casino is ready to take a chance in a new part of town where other businesses have gone bust.
The cardroom will formally ask the Fresno City Council permission to move from its downtown location to Granite Park, near Cedar and Dakota avenues, in east central Fresno. A vote could happen on Thursday.
“The big vision for this is a modern entertainment complex for the city of Fresno that we can all be proud of,” Club One president Kyle Kirkland said. “We like being a destination for guests from out of town.”
Already, Club One is pouring millions into the new location, once home to the Sammy Hagar-themed Cabo Wabo nightclub and other unsuccessful ventures. Kirkland hopes he can pull off a full house.
“Unlike other businesses that could continue to operate, we went to zero. Where we’re located, downtown, we couldn’t move outside. We couldn’t capture and do some of the things other folks had done to mitigate the issue,” Kirkland said of the Club One hardships.
Purchasing a New Building
Club One is in the process of buying the entire 30,000 square-foot former nightclub property at Granite Park for $4 million from Omni Financial, LLC, a real-estate brokerage firm. In the meantime, it will lease the property as it renovates — adding another $8 million into the complex. Kirkland says the card room can move into a 13,000 square-foot space weeks after city approval.
Kirkland said private capital is helping fund the venture, although he would not offer specifics. The company has an option to purchase adjacent land, he said.
“It made good financial sense. It was an area that suffered neglect and I thought we could bring a lot of activity and vibrancy to it. There was an opportunity for us to grow,” Kirkland said.
Buying and renovating the new space made more sense than returning Club One to its downtown location at Van Ness and Tulare or purchasing the old Gottschalks building on Fulton Street — which Kirkland considered at one point.
“The project just became sort of bigger than I think we intended,” Kirkland said. A budget of $13-15 million ballooned to $20 million. “At that point, I think we just said, listen, there’s probably a better use of time and energy.”
When fully renovated, Kirkland plans to use the extra space for restaurants and entertainment. Asian and fast-food eateries are potential options. He anticipates up to 24 months for a full opening.
Kirkland says at one point Club One had 300 employees. They have about 30 now.
“We see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kirkland said.
City documents show Club One Casino contributes $1 million in tax revenues.
Another Pull of the Lever
The Granite Park building has not had a successful track record. Cabo Wabo lasted just two months in 2008. Club Rome came next; then Club Imperio, which closed in 2019.
But the property offers advantages over the downtown location — including ample and free parking.
“This, frankly, is more centrally located for us. Very easy get to from all not only all over Fresno, but from north and south. We bring guests from as far south as Bakersfield, as far north as Sacramento,” Kirkland said.
Plus, being in a single-story facility means no elevator problems.
Kirkland even plans to keep some of the Roman-themed artwork that remains. The hammer and sickle stone etching on the exterior of the building — a holdover from an ill-fated Russian themed club — is likely to go.
“It took someone some time to paint (the Roman motifs). So we’ll respect it. The hammer and sickle, probably not so much. I don’t know that that’s going to fit with a motif that we’re thinking about,” Kirkland said.