Are African Americans welcome to shop but locked out of Ownership?
Billed as “Downtown Comes Alive – Times Square of the West,” Anschutz Entertainment Group’s (AEG’s) L.A. Live has opened up a dazzling district of sports and entertainment venues that includes Nokia Theatre, the Conga Room, Starbucks, Levy Restaurant and a host of businesses without majority African-American ownership.
It has been described as the world-class entertainment district in the City of Angels newest star when it comes to music, dining and sports in downtown – a 4-million square-foot, $2.5 billion mega complex.
However the only Blacks involved in ownership at the sprawling complex are producer/rapper Will.i.am, Clippers basketball star Baron Davis, and Lakers standout Trevor Ariza who share minority interest in the Conga Room.
This past July, the Sentinel reported that AEG invited Harold & Belle’s, one of the premier African-American dining spots in Los Angeles, “to open a restaurant in its new facility.” After issuing a letter-of-intent to Harold & Belle’s, AEG apparently received a better offer and reneged on the deal. In an effort to smoothen things out, AEG met with Harold & Belle’s and its attorney, Rickey Ivie, of Ivie, Mc Neill & Wyatt and both parties appeared to have been satisfied with the outcome.
However, the deal for Harold & Belle’s to open a restaurant at L.A. Live never materialized because AEG recently rolled out the red carpet for its grand opening and save for the Conga room, there are no other African American owned business on L.A. Live’s radar.
In July, Michael Roth, AEG’s vice-president of communications, told the Sentinel, “We believe Harold & Belle’s would clearly be an asset to the downtown community and are already working to set up meetings with their ownership and other nearby developers. We’ve had a very productive meeting and are moving forward to try to locate some appropriate properties nearby or adjacent to L.A. Live that will be suitable for a location.”
At that time, a representative from Harold & Belle’s said that was not feasible since they were only interested in the L.A. Live project because it was happening now, not in the distant future.
The Sentinel called AEG’s executive offices and left messages for executive president, Ted Tanner; the managing director of L.A. Live, Lisa Herzlich, and vice president of administration, Kevin Mc Dowell.
While neither of them had responded by press time, Roth did call and mentioned there were African Americans involved in the partnership of the Conga Room, but at the time he was not sure of any other African American-owned businesses in the complex.
Although the Conga Room is featured in many of L.A. Live’s promotional brochures, there is no mention of its Black ownership partners.
Despite this, L.A. Live has brought substantial economic and entertainment appeal to downtown Los Angeles. In reference to its economic potential, Councilman Bernard Parks (D-8) said, “L.A. Live is a great project for the city and I know they went through a great deal of effort to hire and insure during the construction, there were people of all ethnicities, and when they open the Nokia Theatre, they hired a large number of minorities as employees. I think as far as a business, it’s inexcusable that there is not representation as we relate to the diversity of this city, and we talk about it as a strength in our community. I think it has to be represented at all levels – not just as the entry-level employees or as parking lot attendants. There has to be considerable effort to make sure there are businesses that represent each ethnicity, to reflect the melting pot that everybody wishes.
Councilman Herb Wesson (D-10) said, “In these troubled economic times, it’s encouraging to see a major economic development project like this nearing completion. Reviving the local economy and providing needed jobs is very important.”
The “nearing completion” aspect of the development most likely refers to the unfinished Ritz Carlton Hotel, which has an African-American developer, and the many other businesses, which are scheduled to open in 2009 including Trader Vic’s, Rosa Mexicano, Rock ‘N Fish and Katsuya.
None of which are owned by African-Americans.