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View to Match Its Ambition

With a team of nightlife pros and a spot above Hollywood Boulevard, Highlands promises to be a major player.

January 24, 2002|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

They had me at the view.

Forget about the opulence and ambition of the new Highlands nightclub in Hollywood--its French stone floors, private parties and grand openings. Just consider the view: The club looks directly out over the new Hollywood Boulevard, and it's a sight to behold, a Vegas in miniature, with "bright lights, big city" written all over it in sparkly neon. At long last, the promise of revitalization is coming true, and the Highlands--a 25,000-square-foot, split-level space in the Hollywood & Highland complex--couldn't have made its debut at a more opportune time. Although it's too soon to pass judgment on the shopping and entertainment complex (where occupancy is about 75%), the Highlands nightclub is a strong component.

Its owners, L.A. nightclub impresarios Nick and Jim Colachis and Tod and Kenny Griswold, made some good decisions early on. The nightclub was originally divided into three separate, walled-off spaces, with no views. Nick Colachis had a better idea. Take down the walls, turn it into one club and extend an enormous outdoor terrace overlooking the boulevard. Voila, the view--the thing that sets Highlands apart. There have never been so many clubbing choices in Hollywood, and that's the edge Highlands needs to woo guests.

Wolfgang Puck created the menu, and the club scored some of its other key employees from a recent House of Blues downsizing. Its biggest coup is former HoB talent buyer John Pantle, who booked exciting, cutting-edge bands at that Sunset Strip nightclub for eight years.

Pantle's plans for the 1,300-capacity Highlands include biweekly live music bashes aiming for an upscale clientele. Upcoming shows include the Nortec Collective Feb. 7, John Waite on Feb. 21 and Andy Garcia with Cachao on March 7.

In addition, a favorite scene veteran, Glyn Samuel (Martini, Hell's Gate, Glam Slam) has been tapped to be the nightclub's general manager. By hiring familiar faces with good track records, the owners are taking shortcuts many new clubs don't consider or can't afford.

Besides the view, and the easy freeway access--right off the Hollywood (101) Freeway at Highland Avenue--the club has one more leg up on the competition: parking. There are so many levels of underground parking at the Hollywood & Highland complex that you might get the bends in the elevator.

Mainly, though, its strength is that the owners are pros. The Colachis brothers kept L.A. rolling in the '80s and into the '90s with downtown's Vertigo nightclub, which evolved into Glam Slam when they sold it to Prince in the mid-'90s. Partner Kenny Griswold owns ski resorts and Harry O's in Park City, Utah, and is a partner in L.A.'s Sunset Room. They've already come up with a club motto: Class at last. And in a visual sense, the class is apparent. Its seems they spared little expense to design a club that is both modern and warm. For every wrought-iron staircase there's a comfy couch.

The Highlands weekend deejays include Chris Paul from Sting Fellows in London, and such popular turntablists as Johnny Knight and Farouk, who battle it out to be top dog every Friday and Saturday. Adding to the fun are strolling violinists and magicians, as well as smaller jazz and blues combos playing in some of the club's dining nooks. For a club so large, there are plenty of places to get cozy. It's easy to find refuge from the thumping noise of the dance floor.

Hollywood Boulevard, with its funky mishmash of trash and class, may never be the Sunset Strip. But with the debut of the Highlands, it just got one step closer.

*

The Highlands, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Entrance on fourth floor. 21 and older, Friday-Saturday, cover is $15; Tuesday-Thursday, cover varies. (323) 461-9800 or (323) 461-9820.

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