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In the grip of disco fever

The Conejo Valley has just gotten a lot closer to the Hollywood scene.

April 27, 2006|Heidi Siegmund Cuda | Special to The Times

CHAPTER 8 is a disco that proves the adage: If you build it, they will come. Even, apparently, if you build it in the suburbs.

Located deep in the heart of the Conejo Valley, the venue seems as if it's miles from civilization -- at least in club terms.

Although the 8,000-square-foot Agoura Hills nightclub and steakhouse is pumping at high volume night after night, no one's complaining.

"All we disturb are the coyotes," says Paul Swigger, a manager who works the door. "Unless you happen to be sleeping in your car."

Chapter 8 was hatched by Brad and Greg Finefrock, twins who grew up in the area and were acutely aware there were no hip, high-end venues. So in 2004, they opened the Westlake Village eatery P6, and its success encouraged them to place their bets on Chapter 8.

"I love it because 250,000 residents in the Conejo Valley now have a cool place to hang, eat, drink and dance all under one roof," says Brad Finefrock, a former child actor turned financial wiz whose brother has also done well as an investor in Baja Fresh franchises. "It works to our advantage because the product we offer is unique ... as a result, there is not much competition."

But there seem to be plenty of takers. On a recent Friday, the club was loaded with revelers, many of whom seemed happy to shuck the drive to Hollywood for a venue in their own backyard.

"Growing up here, I never thought we could have something like this in Agoura Hills," says Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old from Calabasas. "A lot of the places in the area are low-key, but with Chapter 8, you can get the Hollywood experience without having to make the drive."

"It's very classy," says Cory Murchland, a 23-year-old from Westlake Village. "Word is spreading like wildfire and people are coming from all around to come and hang in Agoura Hills."

NOT only does it have the fun factor of a good Hollywood disco, but its over-the-top design takes its cues from South Beach and Las Vegas.

Seriously, if Tony Montana had gone through rehab and lived to tell about it, he might have moved out West and opened this club.

To wit, there's the Art Deco statue of a nude with arms raised in the air that greets you at the entrance to the dining area. You can almost hear her whisper, "The world is yours."

There also are the luxe red booths that look as if they came from a vintage dining car. Nagel-like paintings back the bar and a multitude of chandeliers hang throughout the venue. Chapter 8 is loaded with antiques scored from Palm Springs estate sales, and among the best are wall sconces from the '40s. There's also a touch of garish delights, like the gaudy Marilyn Monroe portraits that hang in one hallway and the urinals in the shape of ruby red lips that top off the club's unisex restroom. Which, by the way, comes with its own traffic cop, an employee who keeps the line moving.

Ultimately, Chapter 8 is a collection of contradictions: It's opulent, tacky and chic. It reminds you of discos you might have sneaked into as an underage clubber (they check IDs here, so fuggedaboutit).

On any given night, you'll find a pile of celebs dining on steak and lobster in the club's glass-encased VIP room, which is shrouded by a shimmery chain-link curtain which offers just a tease of obscurity. In an outdoor patio warmed by a fire pit, booths are lined with locals treating themselves to a hot night out.

The cave-like disco area includes an uber-red tunnel. Exotic dancers strut their stuff on a raised platform while hot Hollywood record-spinners like DJ Vice give them something they can feel. "It's actually nicer than a lot of the places on Sunset," clubgoer Jones says. "For it to be in our own backyard, I really never thought it could happen."

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


Chapter 8

Where: 29020 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills

When: 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Tuesday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday

Price: Dancing cover charge $10 on Thursday; $15 on Friday and Saturday. Valet parking, $5

Info: (818) 889-2088;

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