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L.A. can party big, too

GOING OUT | A NIGHT AT VANGUARD

It's time to join the other cities that like to brag about their huge clubs. Welcome to 21,000 square feet of action.

August 04, 2005|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

NIGHTCLUB people in other cities -- Las Vegas, New York, Miami -- will tell you there isn't a spot in L.A. that can compete with their top venues. The 21,000-square-foot Vanguard (the former Qtopia) aspires to change that.

"People's jaws drop when they walk in the room. This feels like a club in New York, Vegas or Ibiza [Spain], and in reality it's bigger than most clubs in those cities," says Scott Feiwell of Velvet Crossing, the group responsible for putting together the "dream team" of promoters that fill the spot on Saturday nights. "A venue like this doesn't exist in the pretty-people world of L.A."

Feiwell is right in one sense -- few venues could claim to offer both the vibe of a hot dance club and a swanky lounge, at least on this scale. In fact, the Vanguard's cabana-focused outdoor setting conspires with its indoor dance space to pose as two clubs in one.

On a recent Saturday night, the two worlds are hopping. Dancers fill the spacious cherry-wood dance floor beneath watchful eyes from the VIP balcony. And the Asian-inspired patio, with fountains and a giant Buddha statue, is thriving. Early in the evening, the outdoor patio, once a parking lot, outdraws its indoor counterpart, with patrons willingly forking over $300-plus a bottle for the comfort of a cabana. But by midnight the dance floor churns to a soundtrack of hip-hop and Top 40.

"I think with this patio, the way people socialize out here, this is one of our biggest attractions," says Pasquale Rotella, a general partner in the club. "It's all about people meeting."

Vanguard CEO Jordan Birnbaum, a onetime Internet executive at Juno Online Services in New York, wants his venue to be all things to all people. "What I want people to take from this is that any event can happen here, whether it's a fashion show, party, dance club or concert," he says. (Spaceland will be booking the venue's live shows.)

The involvement of Rotella, the man behind the annual Electric Daisy Carnival and Nocturnal Wonderland dance music festivals, almost dictates that Vanguard be a major player in that world. Marques Wyatt's long-running Sunday house-music night, Deep, already has a new home at Vanguard.

"One of our best assets that we have here is Pasquale Rotella," Birnbaum says.

ROTELLA, who lends credibility in the crowded L.A. market seeking A-list DJs, has spent a decade primarily as an event promoter. This project is his first with a club beyond various weekly promotions. "I've never met such a cool group of people that have such a positive outlook," Rotella says. "They're fresh, really excited about doing this and they want to show people a good time."

Birnbaum has been an investor since the Qtopia days -- before the club's $2-million makeover, it looked more like a warehouse. Now it boasts a Funktion One sound system (Ice in Las Vegas is the only other club on the West Coast with such a set-up), and its cavernous space is subdivided by staircases and design flourishes.

"The place is filled with all these little pockets that people can discover and all different environments for social interaction," he says.

Vanguard is not done. A full-service restaurant offering primarily comfort food, will open this month. One-stop shopping for partying? Maybe.

"I want people to have the primary feeling that this was a magical occasion," he says. "I want them to meet people and just have a positive association every time they hear about the place. That any time a show is here they'll be extra motivated to come. And when they don't know what they're doing that night their first instinct will be, 'What's happening at Vanguard?' "

Steve Baltin can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

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Vanguard

Where: 6021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Other nights vary; check schedule.

Price: Cover varies

Info: (323) 463-3331 or www.vanguardla.com

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