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Entertainment visionary Costa vows to ‘bring Vegas back’ to off-Strip venue

Updated June 9, 2023 - 4:32 pm

Damian Costa remembers the days of Commercial Deli. He hung out at the Cue Club as a teenager.

“I grew up here,” Costa said. “My uncle, Larry Hartman, was a musician who was in the first graduating class of Valley High School. He would load us into his Dodge Colt. We’d head to the Commercial Center, and if you wanted to shoot pool, buy musical instruments or grab a sandwich.

“It’s place you went if you grew up in Las Vegas.”

So Costa knows what is now called the Historic Commercial Center. He’s getting to know it a lot better today.

Costa and partner Nick Cordaro of Pompey Entertainment are opening The Composers Room Showlounge & Restaurant at Commercial Center. The company plans to open with live entertainment and food service by the end of July. The space takes over the recently closed and oft-troubled Coop’s Cabaret & Hot Spot venue.

Before that, the 7,000-seat space was The Nevada Room, La Cueva del Pirata restaurant and club, and — generations ago — Commercial Deli.

That restaurant was a hang for such legends of the day, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the like. Costa’s kind of vibe, in other words.

“We intend to bring Vegas back to the Commercial Center,” says Costa, an Vegas native and veteran entertainment executive. “This is a new venue. We’re not taking over another concept.”

Costa’s company plans to present performers with some identifiable Vegas panache. He says to think of Commercial Center as a kind of moat-less, Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace, which he envisioned during his years as an official with Caesars Entertainment. Or, from earlier in his career, Costa points to Grandview Lounge at South Point.

Those venues brought in popular Vegas entertainment acts. Costa sees The Composers Room as a version of that vision.

“At the Grandview, we had Wes Winters tearing it up on piano,” Costa says. “We had great one-man shows at the showroom. I see this as a place where I find Travis Cloer, and see what his latest project is.”

Costa has build a deep network and amassed invaluable business knowledge in his time as a Vegas entertainment executive. He was with Caesars Entertainment from January 2013 though September 2021. Prior, he spent nearly four years at South Point. The Barge (since closed), and such enduring ventures as the “Dirty at 12:30” Friday night comedy show at Grandview, were initiated under Costa’s tenure.

Costa’s company operates The Duomo at Rio, with its adjoining arcade and Cupola Cafe; Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at Linq Promenade, which is adding a sports theme to its ground-level bar; and has several shows at The Venue at The Orleans. ”Late Night Magic” has just opened this month.

The Composers Room will also involve some sort of display art, and live-art, component, keeping with Costa’s vision of multiple entertainment options in a single venue.

The space The Composers Room is taking over has shown potential as a performance space, in both The Nevada Room and Coop’s Cabaret incarnations.

But Coop’s, which opened with a chic pink-black-turquoise design in February, was undercut by several operational miscues. Chief among them, performers have complained about not being paid on time, or at all, by former proprietor Chris Cooper. Popular drag performer Jimmy Emerson blasted Coop’s on Facebook on Tuesday, saying he’s been paid 15 percent of what he is owed for his “Roxie’s Big Bingo Bash!” shows.

And, the chef hired in April to steer Coop’s culinary program, Matthew Underwood, died suddenly May 23, leaving the club’s food service in disarray. Cooper has not returned messages for comment since canceling what would be the final scheduled show, Keith Thompson’s “Piano Party,” on May 31. Cooper was reportedly dealing with exhaustion as he shut down that show.

But the new guard at The Composers Room is interested only in its future, and that of the Historic Commercial Center. Costa, who has had the lease all of four days, says the venue was conceived, in part, to honor his family’s start in the entertainment industry. Both of his grandfathers were involved in Las Vegas show business

His paternal grandfather, Tony Costa, was a concert pianist and songwriter, along with performing as conductor for such iconic production as “Jubilee!” and “Gypsy” on Broadway. He was also the founding conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra.

“This is not a place where someone just puts on 90-minute show and sells tickets for anyone who is available,” Costa says. “This is all very well thought-out. We are bringing a piece of Vegas back to the Commercial Center.”

Cool Hang Alert

Country rocks the recently launched Stoney’s Rockin’ Country at Santa Fe Station at 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Rotundo is June 16, ” Take Me Back Fest” featuring Stephen Wesley & Friends is June 17; Kassi Ashton is June 23 and Jeremy McComb is June 24. Cover is $10 in advance for 21-over; $15 for 18-21, doors are at 7 p.m. The club also offers line dancing at 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Go to stoneysrockincountry.com for intel.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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