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Rooms With Two Views

Boardner's boasts a goth-friendly space alongside venerable hangout.


Club venues in L.A. have a form of multiple personality disorder. Bringing in outside promoters is the norm for most these days--Tuesday's gay dance club is a hip-hop hang on Wednesday and a glam-rock shindig on Friday.

It's easier for new venues--places without their own identity--to transform themselves each night. But imagine a 73-year-old bar trying to hold onto its long established reputation and atmosphere while seeking an updated, new image. That's exactly what the well-worn bar Boardner's seems to have accomplished.

What's interesting about the venue's current duality is that it's not just Boardner's personality that's split most nights, but the bar itself. While the older contingent, who have been going to the drinking dive since its Hollywood heyday, or its reemergence as a hot metal haunt during the '80s might think only of the original dark and cozy space that leads to the outdoor patio, Boardner's actually consists of two separate rooms that connect outside. Owner Dave Hadley acquired the bar 20 years ago from Steve Boardner and the second room--then a bookstore called Rick's--in 1989. He didn't fully realize its potential to host different promoters until current manager Tricia La Belle came on the scene a few years ago.

"Dave Hadley was in the process of selling the business because he wasn't making enough money to keep the doors open," says La Belle, who started as an outside promoter herself, with the gothic nightclub Bar Sinister. "Not long after I began the club, he saw an increase in business and decided not to sell."

La Belle was hired to expand the clientele at the old watering hole by adding promotions and giving a face lift to the adjoining space (called the Casablanca Room). "We installed a small dance floor, brought in all the sound and DJ equipment, the PA system and painted the room," she remembers.

Range of Styles at Home There

The changes paid off. Bar Sinister has been taking possession of the Casablanca Room and the outdoor area every Saturday night for two years now, and black-clad goths are still coming back like vampire bats to a blood feast. Next door in the original "main room," a less formal crowd (as opposed to Bar Sinister, which has a strict fetish/black dress code) sips brews and blabs in corners.

"It's cool how there's goth kids who would have never even heard of Boardner's on the one side and old Hollywood drunks going, 'Hey, look at them!' on the other," says the mohawked Peter Thomas, owner of the Melrose Avenue gothic/rock emporium Retail Slut and a longtime Boardner's regular. "Still, everyone's more accepting than they were back when it was a long-hair rocker hangout--back then, I'd walk in with my mohawk and get a lot of flack."

Today, Thomas' edgy style is just one of many on display at Boardner's. At the house music happening Freethinking from Dynagroove--held every first and third Friday--the look is comfortable trendy urban threads. On the second and fourth Friday, Discoelectric has a similarly unfettered vibe. Friday nights are free, which means both rooms are open to all.

The newest promotion is La Belle's own Flirt on Thursdays. She and co-promoters Lucky Thirteen, Zulu Tattoo and Riley Automotive created the club only a few months ago, and it's evolved from a rockabilly retro a go-go to a more traditional live music showcase of local garage-style bands that are swingin' (Champagne Velvet) and smokin' (The Lords of Altamont).

"We don't want to change Boardner's," says La Belle. "We just want to make it grow." With barflies sipping away like they have for years and a whole new group of night crawlers reveling next door, it seems the bar--like Hollywood itself--has begun a new growth spurt, one that should keep it feeling fresh for another 73 years.

* Boardner's, 1652 N. Cherokee Ave., Hollywood. Flirt, Thursdays; Freethinking, first and third Fridays of month; Discoelectric, second and fourth Fridays; Bar Sinister, Saturdays. (323) 462-9621.

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