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GOING OUT | A NIGHT AT ROKBAR

Rock 'n' roll all night

The sister club to a Miami hot spot pulses with music. Its celeb vibe is good too.

August 18, 2005|Heidi Siegmund Cuda | Special to The Times

IT'S not what you know, it's who you get to invest in your nightclubs.

The rest you can figure out along the way. Case in point: Rokbar, a 6-week-old club that's right on time.

As Hollywood Boulevard hustles and bustles with the kind of nightly action you'd find on the Strip in the '80s, Rokbar has positioned itself for a nice run. Situated on Las Palmas Avenue just above the boulevard, the club has a hot location, an enthusiastic staff and the cachet of being the sister club to the original Rokbar in Miami. Oh, yeah, and those stars.

Owned by Meridian Entertainment (the folks behind Table 8 on Melrose), the club's celebrity investors include DJ Paul Oakenfold and such rock icons as Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro, who each showed up for opening-night nuzzling in photo ops with their respective squeezes, Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra.

What makes Rokbar an early hit is its functionality. Neither retro nor uber-modern, it's simply a practical space, with some nice homages to rock and a chameleon-like atmosphere that makes it easy to dress up or down for special events.

"Rather than building nights around promoters, we're building an organic crowd," says Reid Strathearn, Meridian's director of marketing. "It's about people who love rock music and want to enjoy it in an upscale bar rather than your typical rock dive."

"I find the bar really refreshing," says Erinn O'Brien, a twentysomething scenester who crashed a recent X-Games post-party at the bar in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Navarro. "It's really comfy but not over-the-top."

Upon entering the black-on-black space, you're greeted by a large photograph of a rock 'n' roll scenester flippin' you the bird (a manner of "howdy" in some circles). The second point of interest is a wall of block-letter song titles paying homage to rock and punk. Among the titles are Sublime's "Badfish," the Clash's "London Calling," the Doors' "L.A. Woman," Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and Hank Williams Jr.'s "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound," each indicative of what you might hear at the bar.

Additional touches include deep-purple faux fur that lines the top of all the seating areas, psychedelic vintage music videos projected on the walls, dozens of dangling ceiling lamps that change colors to the beat, a roomy smoking patio overlooking Las Palmas and an upstairs area where rock royalty can see and be seen.

And there's plenty of ogling to go around. Among the faces in the crowd have been drummer Matt Sorum, guitarist Tom Morello, pop star Jesse McCartney, actress Marisa Tomei and such pro athletes as Tony Hawk and Rick Thorne.

"It's about time there's a place where you can rock out to AC/DC one minute and the Sex Pistols the next, where the chicks aren't haggard," Thorne says.

"This is a place where stars can feel like freaks, and freaks can feel like stars," adds Navarro, who's even taking a hands-on interest in design. "I want to put stripper poles in here for public use so if any girl wants to get up and dance, she can."

Rock 'n' roll fantasies aside, Rokbar waitress Lyndsay Haldorson says the best part of her job is rocking while she's walking.

"I literally sing while delivering drinks," she says. "You can't help but bounce to the beat."

Dressed in slinky and skimpy ensembles created by one of the bartenders, the servers add their own heat to the club. And owners culled the staff from some top clubland posts. Manager Bobby Montes comes from Prey and Shelter, and doorman Shayne Anderson was a fixture at Las Palmas. In addition, the club had Table 8 chef Govind Armstrong create a bar menu allowing folks to swig and nibble with ease.

The club's drink specialties include the Cotton Candy (Jones cream soda and Grey Goose orange vodka) and Effen Blue Balls (Effen black cherry vodka and Jones' blue bubble gum soda).

"Prices are a little more than the Burgundy Room but less than the Mondrian," says Strathearn.

In other words, right on the money for a saucy rock bar.

Heidi Siegmund Cuda can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

*

Rokbar

Where: 1710 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood

When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays

Price: No cover. 21 and older (unless accompanied by adult)

Info: (323) 461-5600. Dinner and bottle service reservations available.

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