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Now This Is Heavy Metal

A former bank building is an unlikely spot for a club, but Jillian's in Long Beach makes it happen.

May 15, 1997|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the 1920s, the stately structure anchoring bustling Pine Avenue in Long Beach was the national headquarters of Security Pacific Bank. Nowadays, it's home to Jillian's, undoubtedly one of the most architecturally interesting nightclubs in the sprawling Los Angeles scene.

Jillian's took over the historic building complete with concrete columns and marble trim 1 1/2 years ago under the condition that though the establishment would change, the structure would stay the same. With that, creative minds turned the teller window into a kitchen counter, the bank lobby with its ornate ceiling, shiny wood walls and wide windows into a pool hall and the vault into a dance club.

These days, denim-clad denizens hang upstairs jabbing their pool cues at the 16 billiard tables spread out around the room while lounge lovers take in the live blues Fridays in the space up front. Diners watch as their food comes up to the silver serving counter that once dished up dollars.

Meanwhile, slick scenesters groove down below in the Vault. The massive metal crank door that once led to the moola and safety deposit boxes remains in the backdrop. The brass gates that kept the storage area secured now lead to the bathroom. The granite ground where hundreds of customers once walked is now a place where dancing feet come to meet.

Of course, the owners did add a bit of their own character. Victorian velvet sofas stretch around the crowded dance floor, no doubt one of the biggest around. Even the bar stools go old English with their crown-shaped velvet seats. And a shiny disco ball is centered on the ceiling, surely to the chagrin of Wall Street.

Though it's no longer a bank, the banking presence at this 16,000-square-foot venue is ever eminent. "It's totally cool," says regular Craig Turner of Carson, sitting in the alcove behind the heavy vault door. "I dig this place."

Cool indeed. The clank of quarters has been replaced by Coolio and the artist formerly known as Prince. The solid ceiling that once separated millions of dollars from the cash customers upstairs now acts as a buffer between a decidedly young set of twentysomethings who opt for the dance floor and the much mellower group that hangs in the pool hall. The Vault is only open on Friday and Saturday nights.

It's truly an odd combination for Los Angeles. Most clubs in the Southland have a one-track mind, offering live entertainment or billiards, dancing or dining, but Jillian's offers a little bit of everything and something for everyone--something like the night scene in cities such as Boston and Chicago. Instead of catering simply to lounge rats or groovesters, pool players or diners, Jillian's tends to them all.

"It's totally diverse," said Jennifer Chow of Torrance. "You can go upstairs and play pool or come down here and dance. There's a lot to do."

Of course, the grandeur does have its drawbacks. General Manager Chris Walters says some folks look at the building (one of several Jillian's in a historic building, including the Champagne, Ill., locale situated in an old Coca-Cola bottling plant) and see expensive. Fancy.

In reality, it's a casual joint where nothing runs more than $10.

BE THERE

The Vault at Jillian's, 110 Pine Ave., Long Beach. (562) 436-1251. 21 and over. Cover: Friday, $6; Saturday, $10. Full menu.

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