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THE GUIDE : NIGHT LIFE

To party like a good neighbor

Versus seeks to raise downtown's fun level while pledging to keep the noise down.

October 10, 2008|Charlie Amter | Times Staff Writer

For the better part of a decade, downtown L.A. real estate agents have been enticing residents to buy or rent lofts with the promise of real night-life options "coming soon."

This fall, it looks as if "soon" is "now."

Though plenty of bars have sprung up in recent years downtown, a different kind of night-life experience, a three-story club called Versus, will open at 6th and Spring streets inside the old Los Angeles Stock Exchange building next week.

But not everyone is happy about the sprouting of night-life options -- especially about Versus, which lies in the heart of downtown's loft district.

"There's a lot of concern among residents in the immediate area, because downtown's track record with clubs hasn't been so great in the past," said Rich Alossi, founder of the downtown-centric blog Angelenic.com, via e-mail. Alossi, who lives just down the street from Versus, has received more than 40 comments on his blog from residents concerned about possible noise.

"The [Stock Exchange] building is now surrounded with residences and a strong, close-knit community feeling," he said. Comments on Angelenic range from giddy ("I'm excited about the new venue and watching Spring Street come to life after dark," wrote one poster) to angry ("I don't care for this place at all," fumed another).

Versus' representatives said they are going to extraordinary lengths to reassure those in the area that their venue, which was once a Saturday night dance club simply called the Stock Exchange, is sensitive to noise issues.

"We're not a club like the Avalon," said Nico Bacigalupo, Versus' director of marketing. "We're providing a space for the whole community.

"We're not just doing dance music or R&B here," he continued. "We're doing cultural events. We're doing jazz and plays. Older crowds [in the neighborhood] are definitely welcome to come, and we want them to feel welcome here."

Residents have been invited to a VIP preview of the club Monday, a Fashion Week after-party featuring DJ Red. At the unveiling, crowds will probably swoon at the 1,000-plus-capacity space, with its 40-foot-high ceilings and modern design elements that have been grafted onto the Art Deco building. They include Brazilian walnut floors and a ground-floor smoking lounge with fountains.

The club's general manager, Mez Ayvatyan, said that Versus is working with the community to minimize the effect on those who live in pricey lofts nearby.

"The walls are not made out of paper," he said while gesturing toward the thick concrete that lines the club's wraparound, mezzanine-level balcony reserved for bottle service. "The sound from our system won't escape outside. . . . It will be contained to our central dance area on the second floor. We are only using, at the most, 30% of our [Martin Audio] system's capacity."

Although some loft-dwellers may not believe that quiet can be kept, examples of major clubs thriving while being good, relatively quiet neighbors do exist in downtown areas around the country. For example, San Francisco's Ruby Skye, an analogous club inside a similarly sized historic building in a densely packed part of downtown, has found a way to peacefully coexist with neighbors over the past decade.

However, a quick look at Versus' opening schedule reveals not a lot of jazz or plays this month or next. Instead, a slate of opening parties runs the gamut from rock to house music. The grand opening is Oct. 25, with Dave Navarro and DJ Skribble among the evening's notable performers.

Oddly enough, Navarro's first performance with DJ Skribble was at another, now-closed downtown club just last year. That club, Crash Mansion, which opened in June 2007, is now finished, with a suspended license, a disconnected phone number and a Board of Equalization tax hold.

Versus, with its stunning interior and more centralized downtown location, seems to have better prospects -- or at the very least, bigger plans.

"Downtown is just developing, and we're an entertainment venue that will bring true value to the neighborhood like the Edison has," Bacigalupo said, referring to the swank bar on 2nd Street. "We're going to be doing concerts, we're going to be doing fashion shows, and we're going to be opening up a restaurant upstairs probably in the next four or five months. There is simply nothing else like this space in all of Los Angeles."

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charlie.amter@latimes.com

Versus, 618 S. Spring St., L.A. Grand opening, 9 p.m Oct. 25. No cover, RSVP only at www.versusla.com. (213) 489-1555.

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