Diviners of Delight
When Les Corieri first arrived in the Valley from his native Iowa more than three decades ago, it was 118 degrees outside and the Old Town Scottsdale drag was full of boarded-up businesses. “It looked like Beirut,” he says. “I loved it.”
Since buying his first Metro Phoenix bar – a college dive called Clancy’s in Tempe – in 1985, Corieri and his wife, Diane, have opened at least two dozen nightlife and dining venues in the Valley and beyond, and they’re credited with essentially jumpstarting the re-brand of Old Town, from a cow town full of sleepy art galleries and tacky gift shops to the Valley’s own little sin city. Some have been great successes – their longest-running venture, Axis-Radius, closed in 2013 after a vaunted 16-year stint serving up EDM and bottle service to the town’s beautiful people. Others, not so much. Livewire, a live music and concert venue that took the place of the aforementioned nightclub, closed this July after a run of less than three years.
But what might be a knockdown failure to some seems to hardly phase this duo. “No one bats 1.000,” Les says, explaining a new, “high-energy bowling” concept with virtual reality elements (and booze) that will take Livewire’s place.
“It feeds me every day. It’s exciting,” Diane says of dreaming up new entertainment ventures through their business, Evening Entertainment Group (EEG). For Les, whose parents were also in the entertainment industry and operated a fleet of restaurants in and around Des Moines, the nightlife business is in his blood; there’s nothing else he’d do. “I sincerely believe it’s the best entertainment district in the country,” he says of Scottsdale. “Well, besides Vegas.”
So how do two Boomers from the Midwest with five grown children keep abreast of a national nightlife landscape that includes Sixth Street in Austin, The Gaslamp in San Diego and Bourbon Street in New Orleans? “I give a lot of credit to our managers to keep us up on trends because, being older, we don’t follow trends – not like these younger kids do,” Les says. Diane protests: “I follow trends… and our kids are working in the business, too.”
What they’ve found is that people don’t change all that much, but fashion does. “Everything’s more casual [than it was 20 years ago],” Diane says. The shift in sartorial sensibilities has resulted in some acute public relations headaches for the Corieris, who earlier this year implemented a vast, two-dozen-point dress code at their new Bottled Blonde outpost in Chicago that some social media critics derided as “classist.” The code was quickly scrapped.
In recent years, the Corieris have diversified out of the nightlife minefield and ventured into more food-driven concepts outside the Old Town bubble, opening Stock & Stable and Casa Añejo on Seventh Street in Central Phoenix. Insiders say the restaurants have been Diane’s passion project, and proof positive that these Iowa carpetbaggers have fully gone native. “We’ve traveled all over,” Les says, gleaning what’s hot and not from other cities across the country. “But I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
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