Q&A with CHRIS CORSO
Developer, majority owner/partnerCGS Group
What clubs are in the CGS Group portfolio after the Park Street Patio, Saloon and Social sale?
"We currently have the Pint House at 780 North High Street. We opened that up in April. That's a restaurant and beer garden in the Short North. Then in June we opened a facility on Long Street called the Garage. That was a long-standing gay bar that we'd purchased in 2000. We made that into Long Street Entertainment, and then we just reopened the Garage this year. We also reopened in December our very first nightclub, which was Red Zone, down on Front Street. That's where we do all our large DJ shows and concerts and stuff. We still own Cantina which is on Park Street."
When did you begin in the nightclub business in Columbus?
"We began in 1996 and the first club was called Mecca nightclub. That (was) back where the Buggyworks building is behind the baseball stadium."
Do you own the Park Street Complex buildings?
"We bought all those buildings--we bought that whole block up--back around 2005. We bought Cantina, that whole block there going north. We've got Cameron Mitchell's offices. We've got Saloon, Social and Patio. So we acquired that and the entire block behind us as a development project."
Did Jimmy Woodland buy the buildings, too?
"Jimmy's company came in and bought the businesses. I'm still the landlord. They are really, really strong band promoters, so they're going to kind of take Park Street Patio and Saloon and do a lot more bands than I ever did there, a lot more festivals and stuff.
"It should be a good fit for the street and the long term development. For me, I think they're great operators, and to have Mikey's Late Night Slice down there as a permanent location I think really is good for the neighborhood, too. That crowd that goes out, they love to eat that pizza and see live music and drink craft beer. So I think they've got a great combination brand there that works for them and works for the street."
You and your partners in CGS Group are responsible for the growth of and are still heavily invested in the Park Street neighborhood-what does the sale to Jimmy Woodland means for the entertainment district moving forward?
"I think it just solidifies the area as the premier entertainment district in Ohio. There's long term viability down there, there's a nice mix of tenants and entertainment options for people that want to go out and have a good time."
How did the deal come about?
"I've been watching Jimmy for a while now. I've been very impressed with events and festivals that he does down at Woodland's Tavern in Grandview--some weekends he'll have ten or 12 bands. That's really about connections and hard work. To be able to book bands like that, you've really got to be in the scene. I finally went to him and I said, 'Hey, I'd like to have that specialization down on Park Street, I think it will be great.' And he said, 'Well, I can probably also bring Mikey's pizza,' I said 'That'd be even better!' So we just started talking and made the deal happen."
Q&A with JIMMY WOODLAND
Owner/operator Woodland's Tavern and Woodland's Backyard and recently acquired Park Street clubs
Chris Corso said he's been impressed with your work and approached you about purchasing the Park Street bars-from your end, how did this deal come about?
"Being in the industry, if you don't know Chris Corso you're living under a rock. He kind of has set the standard for nightlife in this town and the bar scene. I've known Chris forever; my partner has known Chris on a business level, my partner, Ed Hastie, in the deal. So you know, just through that relationship it kind of evolved. We've been working on this deal for the better part of the summer."
In addition to the Park Street acquisition, you recently expanded with the opening of Woodland's Backyard. How are you going to keep it all under control?
"To be honest, a solid management team. I feel like we have surrounded ourselves with some really good people. I'm not going to claim to know everything about the bar business but I want to put people in place who know what they're doing and are passionate about what they're doing. I really look for people that really want to make waves in this business. I think it's just having a good, solid management team."
How many employees are on your payroll with the new bars?
"We have probably 45-50 current employees and then …I was told 60-80 (added with the Park Street purchase). I think we're going to be doubling our employees, going from 50 to about 100."
What's your vision with the rebranding? Obviously you'll be putting a heavier emphasis on live music.
"Correct. We've been going down there for many years. Recently we've been going down there more frequently. And you know, what they're doing is working.
They've got a young nightlife that is thriving, but that's only (for) a short period of time-it's only (open) three days a week. We feel like with our brand, we can bring some good quality entertainment in terms of music and other things to kind of fill in the holes--one being happy hour. There's a lot of people down in that area. I feel like the happy hour and the bands have not been that present. I feel like that's something we can kind of interject. You're going to see our brand, in terms of music, the $2-happy hour. We'll be bringing Mikey's Late Night Slice down, who have an excellent reputation in town and that we've had a solid business relationship with at Woodland's Tavern.
You're not going to see a lot of physical changes right away. I think after the first of the year we'll be redoing Saloon, giving that a new brand, a facelift, really focusing on the music in that particular location."
This move pairs well with the business and residential growth the Arena District will see in the next few years-do you see your business as taking Park Street entertainment to the next level?
"Oh, for sure. We just want to expand everything and take it to another level in terms of growth down there. I feel like Park Street has always been a unique block, and not only does it bring value to us, but our brand, I feel, brings value to the street as well."
(Photo courtesy Ben French Photo)