Updated April 7, 2021 - 1:41 pm
When the Beastie Boys played the Huntridge Theater in 2004, they performed to a jam-packed, sold-out crowd.
J Dapper, then 26, was in the audience, taking in one of many concerts he saw at the historic Las Vegas venue. Today, the Huntridge is run down and a regular gathering spot for homeless — and Dapper, its new owner, wants to bring the long-shuttered theater back to life.
Dapper, founder of real estate firm Dapper Companies, closed his $4 million purchase of the World War II-era theater March 31, in a deal facilitated by city officials. His firm said it will spend the next three years renovating the place.
In a nod to a Beastie Boys hit song, Dapper bought the venue through a limited liability company called Brass Monkey, property records show.
Buying and reviving the Huntridge is no simple task. The city helped clear a path for the sale after it intervened in litigation against the former owners, and the venue, which needs renovations inside and out, is on government registers of historic places, limiting the construction Dapper can do.
On top of that, Dapper completed his purchase more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, which left performing-arts venues dark in Las Vegas and around the U.S.
‘Much bigger hill’
Dapper, 43, owns other commercial real estate near the Huntridge and has said he tried on and off for the past decade to buy the venue, located at the southeast corner of Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway.
Closing the purchase feels like pedaling to the top of a big hill, enjoying it for a moment, and knowing there is more to climb ahead, he said.
“I’m ready for that much bigger hill,” he told the Review-Journal during an interview inside the theater last week.
The Las Vegas City Council approved a plan in 2019 to help sell the Huntridge from its longtime owners, the Mizrachi family, to Dapper, who said it was hard to “stay steadfast” with the deal after the pandemic hit.
However, he’s setting out to revive a building that many locals care about and one that he’s been passionate about for a long time, he said.
Dapper has estimated that it will cost around $10 million to renovate the theater building and $5 million to $8 million to fix up the adjacent retail space. If he thought he would spend more to fix up the Huntridge than it would be worth one day, he wouldn’t have bought it, he said.
“I’m not doing this to lose money,” Dapper said.
From bands to blight
Built in 1944, the Huntridge showed movies for decades and was a top concert venue by the 1990s. The Mizrachi family acquired it in 2002 and closed it for renovations in 2004, but amid escalating construction costs, owner Eli Mizrachi said the next year that he and the building were in “limbo.”
Multiple efforts to revive the venue have since come and gone. In 2007, for instance, a bill in the Nevada Assembly proposed spending $8.5 million to buy and restore the Huntridge as a cultural and performing arts center, and in 2013, three downtown businessmen banded together to try to buy and renovate the theater.
Former Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic, who worked to facilitate the sale to Dapper, said that he is “ecstatic” the deal closed, and that it’s “heartbreaking” to see old buildings such as the Huntridge fall into disrepair or worse in Las Vegas.
Whenever he’d see a plume of smoke rise from the downtown area, he prayed it wasn’t the Huntridge sign going up in flames, he said.
Jerbic said the property has been a regular gathering spot for homeless — he saw some hypodermic needles out front just three or four months ago — and he also worried the pandemic would derail Dapper’s purchase.
“He never backed down,” Jerbic said.