Stuck between Midtown and a place called Hard Rock

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Last Christmas I visited the Downtown Plaza. I figured it wouldn’t be as hectic as other places, but as I walked around trying to find gifts, I realized it wasn’t just slow, it was a ghost town.

My biggest surprise, however, came when I happened upon the Hard Rock Cafe at the mall’s east end.

The shock? That it was still there, still open.

As I hurried past its deathly quiet doorstep—seriously, it gave me the creeps—I thought, who even eats there, let alone sees a show there?

Now with news that Hard Rock Cafe will finally close after 13 years, anyone with half a brain is saying the same thing:

It’s about time.

Hard Rock has brought absolutely nothing to local music, dining or culture since it first opened in 1997. I’ve been to the local Hard Rock a couple of times over the years and can recall absolutely no distinguishing features. Inside, it’s as if you could be in any Hard Rock from here to Hawaii—sure, each location has different pieces of rock memorabilia, but when you’re eating in a place that’s so devoid of any Sacramento-centric personality, does it matter?

Hard Rock did little to promote local music. Hell, it didn’t even bring in good national acts capable of drawing buzz or, for that matter, a crowd. So as the rest of the area struggled, the franchise’s presence here was a colossal waste of time, money, space and creativity.

In contrast there is Midtown, where over the last two decades artists, entrepreneurs and—most importantly—patrons have transformed the grid from a sleepy neighborhood into a hotbed of retail shops, galleries, venues, restaurants and, yes, even tattoo parlors.

(Confidential to Sacramento: I don’t hate or disapprove of tattoos. I’m just annoyed by a culture that promotes ink as a substitute for—instead of a supplement to—actual character and personality. Seriously, chill out already.)

Meanwhile, downtown struggled and the Hard Rock was just another brick in the wall that defined the area as a place void of personality, energy and potential.

Now there’s word that the CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based developer, is making proposals with the intent to revitalize the K Street corridor. OK, maybe a little outside help (and money) is needed, wanted even—but if people who actually live in Midtown were able to renovate their neighborhood into a hub of activity and creativity, then certainly downtown can find new life as a place for locally generated commerce and art.

Whatever you think about the Sacramento Kings and the endless arena debate, at least it can be reasonably argued that a new arena might actually convince people to spend time downtown participating in activities that reflect Sacramento.

Tear down the Hard Rock guitar and replace the empty shell of corporate rock ’n’ roll with Sac-centric retail shops, galleries, venues, restaurants and yes, even tattoo parlors.

Make it a place where people who actually live here would want to go and could actually take pride in. Is that really so hard?