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Late-night dream: music, no cover

Veteran club owner goes to historic Hollywood and Vine with his new idea: Forbidden City.

August 14, 2003|Heidi Siegmund Cuda | Special to The Times

When Steve Edelson developed the concept for the Forbidden City, a new nightspot at Hollywood and Vine, he had one thing in mind.

"I wanted to give people value for their dollar," says Edelson, a veteran club owner whose properties include the rock 'n' roll hangs the Garage and the Joint, as well as the dance spots Lush, the Larchmont and El Cid.

"I thought if I came up with a plan that included $5 valet parking, no cover charge at the door and reasonably priced food and beverages, we could really add something to the neighborhood."

The Forbidden City celebrates its grand opening Friday night, and the red-hot Asian-themed venue is already causing a stir.

For the last two Friday nights, L.A. promoter Steve Dimon has hosted preview parties, and he says the feedback has been positive.

"We're the only restaurant, lounge and club serving late-night Chinese food and reasonably priced drinks," says Dimon, who has promoted at such nightclubs as Vertigo, Tripp's, Sanctuary and Bar One since the mid-'80s.

"And being at Hollywood and Vine, we have the best location in the city. You can come here, hang out and club-hop to all the neighboring clubs," he adds.

Cesar Hernandez, a club hopper who checked out the Forbidden City on a recent Friday, agrees: "You have so many choices in this area, but few places are giving anyone a break.

"I couldn't believe I didn't have to pay a cover. Most places, you're 50 bucks in by the time you've bought your first round."

On one of the preview nights, the place was sizzling with a party girl hanging over the banister as a six-pack of Asian strippers worked it to a 2 Live Crew remix.

With the neighboring competition including the White Lotus, Deep, Joseph's Cafe, Goldfingers, Concorde, Cinespace and such bars as Beauty Bar and Star Shoes, Edelson worked overtime on the Forbidden City.

The club owner, who came to L.A. in the '80s and made a splash at such spots as Glam Slam and Dragonfly, built a career devising ways to get people in the door.

His Lush discotheques in Glendale and West L.A. have no cover charge but offer first-rate live entertainment. With the Forbidden City, he's taking things a step further.

"I knew this area was hot, but I wanted to create something that hadn't been done yet," says Edelson. He took a cue from the location's past.

Situated across from the Palace on Vine Street, the Forbidden City was formerly the Sun Palace, a Chinese restaurant that hosted banquets and wedding receptions.

Edelson, who designed the look for Forbidden City, came up with a post-modern Asian concept that includes indoor and outdoor seating, four lounges and a patio that overlooks such Hollywood landmarks as the Capitol Records tower and the Knickerbocker building.

The patio also has a mezzanine VIP lounge. With red the operative color, the spot has an East-meets-Sin City feel to it, appropriate for a venue open till 4 a.m. on weekends.

While other clubs are shouting "last call," the Forbidden City still has a couple of hours left on its dance card.

At Friday night's grand opening, DJ Diallo will be loosening everyone up with rare groove and rhythmic lounge music.

Diallo, who will be the resident DJ on Friday nights, also works both of L.A.'s Standard hotels.

The venue opens at 8 p.m., and Friday night's host, Dimon -- who also runs D.A.S.K. productions, which throws annual New Year's Eve and Halloween events -- is putting together teams of promoters to fill out the club's other nights.

Judging by his preview parties, he's heading in the right direction.

Both bashes attracted boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer, "Baywatch" babe Traci Bingham and starlets from up and down the Hollywood food chain.

"This place is gonna be the new hot spot," says Hernandez. "The outdoor patio has a great flow, and you can't beat the view. When you look up and see the Capitol Records tower, it fills you with a bit of Hollywood nostalgia and romance."


The Forbidden City

Where: 1718 Vine St., Hollywood

When: Weekends 8 p.m.-4 a.m., Tuesdays- Thursdays 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Opens Friday

Details: No cover; $4-$5 valet parking

Info: (323) 461-2300

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