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LA Live lights a tiki torch

A new Trader Vic's restaurant signs up to take the last available space in the project being built downtown.

September 05, 2008|Cara Mia DiMassa and Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writers

The developers of the massive LA Live shopping-and-entertainment complex announced Thursday that they had leased the last space in the $2.5-billion downtown development -- to an outpost of the fabled tiki restaurant chain Trader Vic's.

Southern California has been without a Trader Vic's restaurant since its Beverly Hills location, the legendary Rat Pack watering hole that helped launch a national tiki-bar craze, was closed in April.

By signing Trader Vic's, LA Live owner AEG, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Co., has leased all of the rentable space in the 4-million-square-foot complex under construction next to Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center, AEG said.

The first phase of the project -- an outdoor plaza and the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre -- is already complete.

Among other businesses that have agreed to locate at LA Live are Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes and Lounge, a 14-screen Regal Cineplex movie theater and broadcast facilities for ESPN. The music industry's Grammy Museum will be there, as will the Conga Room nightclub.

About 165,000 square feet of office space will be occupied by nutritional supplement marketer Herbalife Ltd., law firm Holme Roberts & Owen, ESPN Radio and AEG itself.

Most of LA Live's restaurants -- including the Farm of Beverly Hills, Katsuya, Lawry's Carvery, Yard House and Rock 'n' Fish -- are scheduled to open late this year. The movie theater would open in 2009 and the project's two hotels, a JW Marriott and a Ritz-Carlton, would open in 2010.

Representatives from the Valencia Group, which owns the Trader Vic's chain, said the restaurant would open next year with Polynesian dancers, tiki-style drinks and what they described as Island-Asian fusion food.

When the Beverly Hills Hotel location closed last spring, all that was left was a poolside tiki bar that served some of the same signature drinks, and tiki aficionados complained bitterly.

Meanwhile, with the last tenant in place and LA Live gearing up for its opening, AEG is trying to work out how to best move people to and from the project just south of the downtown office district.

Beyond looking at ways to ease traffic flow around the project, representatives from AEG, which owns both LA Live and Staples Center, have also been talking with city officials about extending the hours of the downtown DASH shuttle bus to provide service on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Most of the downtown DASH service ends at 6:30 p.m. City officials are also considering extending the shuttle's hours on weekend nights.

AEG spokesman Michael Roth said the city's transportation department also was exploring the possibility of a public-private partnership for the service. Under such an arrangement, downtown business owners could contribute to the cost of running the extra buses.


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