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UP ALL NIGHT

Like 'Cheers,' but With Cooler People

October 02, 1994|HILLARY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Room is exactly what it claims to be. "It's a room," explains owner Jeremy. That's what his business card says--just Jeremy. The place is equally spare, four walls with an entrance off an alley. Inside are a long bar, some comfortable booths, low lights and a signed photo of Frank Sinatra.

"We have a huge party every year on Frank Sinatra's birthday, December 12th," says Jeremy's partner, Ashley. (The two also own the Burgundy Room.)

"Yes," Jeremy says. "and we invite him every year, but he hasn't come yet."

If he did, he'd probably enjoy himself. The Room manages to be hip and cozy at the same time, an unpretentious gem much beloved by a cast of regular characters who see the place as a welcome refuge from the theme-park ambience of most Hollywood hot spots.

"It's not a club," Ashley says. "It's a bar. We both grew up in England, in the pub culture, where you all go to the same place every night with your mum and your granny. When we got here we were totally alienated by what we found. It was so flash.

"Anywhere else this would be just another bar, but in Hollywood, it's different. People from New York walk in here and say, 'Wow, it's just like New York.' "

Standing outside the back alley entrance at 11 on a Friday night, Ashley and Jeremy are kissed with feeling by a steady stream of arriving regulars. "Why do you think we opened a bar?" Jeremy says, grinning,

On Friday and Saturday nights, The Room is packed, and the energy is warm and raucous. Any other night of the week, it's a quiet, casual place to meet up with old friends for a beer or cold martini. "Note the chilled glasses," Jeremy says.

"On Wednesday nights we set up some turntables and people come in with records under their arms," Ashley says.

These same regulars show up with bats and balls every Sunday afternoon at a park in the Valley to play softball, and they turn up for twice-yearly barbecues. A significant number of these are writers, which makes sense, because everybody knows writers make the best barflies.

Writer Nancy Rommelman is the only female on the softball team. She looks at Ashley and Jeremy with familial fondness. "These guys, they inspire affection," she says.

"No, we crave affection," Jeremy corrects her.

"Did you know that once Nancy baked us cookies in the shape of a keyhole, which is our logo? I couldn't believe it."

Before she can answer, Steve Schayer, another writer, bounds up and gives Jeremy a bear hug, almost lifting him off his feet. "I love this man!" he booms.

"The Room?" he says, when asked to describe it. "The Room gives you a sense of accomplishment. Going to a bar has a lot to do with simulating relationships that you don't have otherwise. The Room does that."

At which point Schayer grabs pen and paper, sits down in the middle of the alley, and copies down a poem from memory that he composed for Ashley and Jeremy, called "And No One Comes In."

Friends who know each other well

Shake each other's hands

Kiss each other's lips

Steal each other's cigarettes

I have come to reclaim my place

In rows, like cages--bars

Where no one comes in

You had preferred had not. . . .

*

Where: The Room, 1626 N. Cahuenga Blvd. (entrance in the alley); (213) 462-7196

When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly.

Cost: Draft beer, $3.50; bottled beers, $3-$4; well drinks, $3.50 and up.

Advice: There's a youngish crowd here, so if you're twentysomething, bring your ID. You will be asked for it at the door.

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