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Catering to the Average Joe

Lucky Seven, a new supper club in Hollywood, aims to be a friendly neighborhood place.

January 15, 1998|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The canyons of the Hollywood Hills are populated by people who eschew the conspicuous consumption of the Westside and who consider Valley living some sort of death march into stuccoed suburbia.

Fair enough, to each his own and all that good stuff, but here's the thing: Traditionally, there hasn't been a whole lot to do in the immediate area when night falls. Aside from a popular stretch of Franklin Avenue, which features such low-key restaurants as Birds, La Poubelle and Prizzi's Piazza, the folks didn't have a properly upscale bar to call their own.

These canyons aren't filled with Hollywood Hill-billies but with a savvy, moneyed grouping of actors, producers, directors and the like, who love the charm exuded by that real estate sign on the hill but who could use a little more spice in their night life.

This is what makes Lucky Seven such a smart roll of the dice. The new Hollywood late-night supper club and bar, at the old site of the Vine Street Grill jazz club, is a good addition to Tinseltown after dark.

These days, Hollywood's been bustling with activity, what with the splashy opening of Garden of Eden and the neighborhood's thriving live music venues. The only thing missing was a suitably swanky joint where everybody knows your name.

"We cater to 'Joe,' " says Craig Trager, a principal owner along with Will Shamlian. Trager, a former agent and casting director who began promoting clubs with Brent Bolthouse in the early '90s and who was a partner in Babylon, isn't angling simply for celebrities, who adopt and drop a venue more quickly than you can say, "flavor of the month."

"If we're holding a table for three William Morris agents, it's a put-off to our regular customers, the bread-and-butter of a club," Trager says. "You have to make everyone who comes in here feel like it's their home."

He and Shamlian, who was the general manager of Mezzaluna in Brentwood (yes, he knew Nicole Brown Simpson), make it a point to introduce Lucky Seven's bartenders to the customers for just that reason.

"We built it from the ground up," says Trager, who began the transition three years ago and quickly learned he'd opened a Pandora's box. Before its run as the Vine Street Grill, the spot was Hattons, a club from the '40s. Though it had the appropriate cachet for Lucky Seven's vintage look and feel, it also had such less inspired features as rotted plumbing and poor interior maintenance.

"Will and I were there every morning at 7 a.m.," Trager says. "Each time we found a problem, it would lead to another. It was pure pain."

Once they fixed the mechanics of the place, however, the fun began. Using a less-is-more approach, Lucky Seven's highlights include its low-lights--strategic dim lighting, smooth round curves, spacious booths and a late-night dinner menu serving such comfort food as meat loaf and pork chops.

If you examine the space a little closer, you'll find it lives up to its name with some Las Vegas whimsy. Shamlian's father lives in Las Vegas, and the partners asked him to make a few phone calls to see if someone in the city brokered old casino wares. Sure enough, the calls led them to a toupee-sporting fellow named Happy Harry.

"Happy Harry had everything we needed," Trager says. "We drove to Vegas in a rented diesel truck in 120-degree heat and came home with carpeting from an old casino and chairs from a vintage Vegas steakhouse."

These elements added the appropriate spirit, which was felt in full force on New Year's Eve, when actor Jeff Goldblum's jazz band performed to a capacity crowd. The event was casual good fun, and those who missed out should keep their eyes open for more unannounced shows by Goldblum's band.

Keeping in sync with the mood of the venue, Dean R. Miller--also known as Mr. Phat's Sultan of Swing at the Viper Room on Thursdays--will be playing deejay at Lucky Seven and sponsoring music events, and the plan is to stay with the jazz and swing feel from the place's past incarnations.

Besides Miller, Lucky Seven's extended family includes L.A.'s top caterer, Jeffrey Best and partner Ken Jones, as well as fund-raising support from Jerry Trager, Craig's father. "I couldn't have done it without him," Trager says.

In addition to its lucky location--either up, down or around the corner from such popular live music clubs as Jacks Sugar Shack, the Opium Den, the Palace and Three Clubs--Lucky Seven also has a celestial family watching over it. "Right at our front door, you can find the stars of Clark Gable and Cary Grant," Trager says. "There's a lot of good ghosts here."

BE THERE

Lucky Seven, 1610 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (213) 463-7777. Mondays-Saturdays 21 & over, no cover. Closed Sundays.

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