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Going Public

Las Palmas began with occasional private parties; now it's earning wider buzz.


I've always subscribed to the theory that limitations actually contain endless possibilities. In fact, sometimes great achievements are born out of sincere desperation. While flying by the seat of your pantalones, you truly have the wind beneath your wings.

That's precisely what happened to the principals behind Las Palmas, one of the hottest rooms on the T-town map, and it's barely even open. The new fly bar finds itself soaring among stiff competition, and it's sort of a happy accident.

Its three owners, Loyal Pennings, Chris Pike and Sky Reiss, began building the elaborately chic bar and restaurant last year. But, before completing it, they ran out of dough. Rather than hit up their investors for more money, they decided to throw an occasional private party. Its first, a New Year's Eve bash, was one of the few success stories on that grim Hollywood night, and it snowballed from there. Suddenly, the work-in-progress became one of the most sought-after locales in town.

The lesson learned? Never underestimate Hollywood's need for fresh paint and even fresher blood. Las Palmas represents young owners with new ideas and good timing. They turned a nasty old restaurant on Las Palmas Avenue, just north of Hollywood Boulevard, into a nouveau Latin-themed nightclub.

Pike, who designed the venue and also owns Sangria in Hermosa Beach and Side Door in Manhattan Beach, came to Hollywood "kicking and screaming." It's one thing to conquer the South Bay and another to play Hollywood hardball. Pennings, who'd worked in the bar business since his teens and most recently was a general manager at the Garden of Eden, where he met Reiss, convinced him that it would work.

So far, so good.

First off, Pike deserves credit for the venue's stylish look. The once truly dreary Mexican restaurant is now an airy, open and exceedingly useful space. The venue's narrow arched windows invite you in with glowing waterfalls, cascading down the panes. Step inside, and you land in an open space, with a glittery bullfighter's uniform as its centerpiece.

The main bar to the right of the entrance glows with a tank full of jellyfish, creating the surreal effect of a living lava lamp. Beneath the tank, a large statue of Our Lady of Guadeloupe pays homage to traditional Mexico, as do the bullfighting posters plastered on a portion of the ceiling. The venue's walls are made of small, stacked glazed stones, and padded in spots with blue shag carpeting. Somehow, it all works together.

It has not one but two large outdoor patios. Face it, Hollywood will go up in smoke before people stop smoking. Cigarettes' social possibilities are too useful for the singles set. Here, having two open areas to bum a smoke is a luxury.

With Hollywood undergoing dramatic renovations, Las Palmas has a jump-start on the private party biz. Celebrities (but of course) have already scouted it out. Although the club officially opened on Cinco de Mayo (with restaurant service slated to begin mid-May), the Wednesday before was a banner night at the Las Palmas. Its white booths were a who's who of hooligan-wood. While Tommy Lee kicked it with Kid Rock in one booth, a couple members of 98 Degrees were schmoozing in another. Also on hand to get his groove on was Rick James, who enjoyed the deejay's trunk full o' funk.

We're gonna keep our eye on this new blue nightspot, to see if it has the staying power Hollywood dreams are made of. Although it's anyone's guess, with Musso & Frank right around the corner, at least Las Palmas has a reason to believe.


Las Palmas, 1714 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood. (323) 464-0171. 21 and older. No cover.

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