Tribe brings bar into Highland
San Manuels look to expand businesses Andrew Edwards, San Bernardino Sun 06/06/2011
HIGHLAND - San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will attempt to create a new franchise when the tribe expands its SportsWatch Bar and Grill beyond its casino property.
A ribbon-cutting for the new SportsWatch restaurant is scheduled for Monday at San Manuel Village shopping center. The eatery's grand opening is set for the next Saturday.
San Manuel leaders are "trying to start a franchise niche with the SportsWatch Grill," tribal chairman James Ramos said.
The tribe, which runs San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, may establish additional SportsWatch locations if the Highland restaurant performs well.
San Manuel Village, part of tribal leaders' efforts to diversify their business beyond gambling, appears to be awakening from the comparatively sleepy pace of business during its first years.
Besides SportsWatch, the shopping center's recent arrivals include St. Bernardine Medical Center's second urgent-care facility and Mi Cocina restaurant, which moved there in early May.
St. Bernardine's urgent-care facility opened in April, and its dedication is scheduled for Wednesday. The hospital's other urgent-care facility is in Fontana.
"St. Bernardine Medical Center chose the city of Highland due to the fact that historically, it is part of the hospital's primary service area," hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Johnson wrote in an email.
San Manuel Village's key tenant, Hampton Inn and Suites, opened in September 2008.
The hotel is at about 60 percent occupancy, said Bryan Benso, the tribe's real estate division manager.
San Manuel Village also includes office space the San Manuels filled with their own employees and room for additional construction.
SportsWatch and the Highland shopping center are part of a broader economic diversification program that includes hotel investments in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and office property in Lake Forest.
The San Manuels had also run a bottled-water enterprise, but Ramos said they sold off their equipment about two years ago.
"This is really a whole education realm for the tribe ... for individual tribal members to see how business grows and how to get involved in the community," Ramos said in regards to the San Manuels' emergent business ventures.