A revival of sorts is underway in El Cajon after a deal was made to reopen the performing arts center in the heart of downtown with a major concert promoter at the head.
This week the El Cajon City Council approved an agreement with Live Nation so that the events company can manage the El Cajon Performing Arts Center (ECPAC), and hopefully breathe new life into a venue that has been shuttered since 2009.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells called the agreement, “a game changer for downtown El Cajon and the entire community.”
The cluster of shops and restaurants in downtown El Cajon, often lifeless on what should be busy weekend nights, is optimistic about what the reopening could mean for their future.
Franci Santana, the current owner of Por Gavor Restaurant in downtown El Cajon, said the revival will give their restaurant a shot at, “More people, more profits — a chance for our family business to grow.”
“I mean people don't really think about El Cajon, right," Santana said. "They think about North Park or South Park or Encinitas, but East County has a lot of great things to offer,” Santana said.
Owner of the Downtown Café Gabriel Marrujo chose to open his restaurant in El Cajon because of the ECPAC.
“A concert on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday would make it a Friday night for us. It would be 2-3 hours of people coming in and leaving and then coming back after the concert,” Marrujo said.
But since its closing in 2009, business has been slow.
“I mean it's just dead,” Grant Kirby of Nicolosi’s Italian Restaurant said. “It’s just something that needs to be filled… It’s a big building, I don’t know why it’s been empty for so long but I’m glad something is coming in and taking its place.”
The ECPAC may reopen under the new Live Nation management as soon as spring 2019, and in its first year will hold at least 50 events, according to the agreement.
"To actually revitalize El Cajon — it's going to be a great thing," Santana said.