Michael Sutton knows his audience. After more than a decade of successful forays into clubs, parties and restaurants around Los Angeles (including well-known spots the Lodge, Goa and Charcoal), the former soap opera star has his finger squarely on the pulse of L.A.'s night-life A-list.
"Make sure you refer to it as a bar-lounge," Sutton insists about Guys & Dolls, his return to the bar scene after a series of food-based ventures, including his Southern-styled Hollywood restaurant Memphis. "I started out with the promotion of bars and nightclubs. Bringing that to restaurants was great. But right now, the best move for me is to have a true lounge, a place to entertain. I'll leave the food and foodies alone for now," he adds, laughing, "until the next concept to be determined in a couple of years or so."
Sutton gets nostalgic discussing the location of Guys & Dolls, which for 15 years was Guy's Bar. "The space is special to me, since I promoted there on two different occasions. That was right before I started Xenii," he remembers, referencing his ultra-exclusive roving 2006 events that were always packed with power players, celebrities and models partying and making deals until dawn. Xenii garnered even more notoriety after "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul alleged that she was attacked at one of the parties.
"I have all the faith in the world in the location. What Guy Starkman did with the renovation is brilliant," Sutton says of his partner, the son of the owner of Jerry's Deli next door. "I tell people that Guys & Dolls is like Rose Bar in New York's Gramercy Park Hotel meets Miami. It has a very European sophistication. I'm hoping to make this an institution."
All of that was on display at the bar-lounge's opening party. There was the requisite scrum of eager party people mobbed around the velvet rope at the door. There were even a few paparazzi hanging out front (celebrities inside included Matthew Perry, Ryan Phillippe and Evan Ross). Once you squeeze inside, the door person has a friendly word of welcome: "Have fun, and good luck making your way to the bar through all of the beautiful women." It's no idle boast, as the dramatic, intimate space was packed with a crowd that looked to be a good 70% female, and mostly of the model/aspiring starlet variety.
"I want it to be an eclectic room," he says with a chuckle about his clientele. "I've always felt like the best rooms are a complete blend. Socialites, tastemakers, celebrities, artists and, of course, models. . . . The age range I want is literally from 25 to 65. That's what keeps it interesting."
The room itself is refreshingly simple. Large booths line both side walls, leading to the bar along the back, which is draped in Minimal hanging lights. Couches arranged in miniature living room settings take up the main floor area, leaving only the tiniest dance floor in front of an impressive LED-encased DJ booth that pulses in time with the music. There's a small patio out front for smokers, also lined with booths, but with the addition of a cozy fireplace.
"The energy was palatable," Sutton says of the launch party. "I want everyone to have a good time and leave their problems at the door when they come here."
Guys & Dolls also delivers a menu of services that Sutton likens to hotel concierge amenities. "I offer car services that will drive your car home at the end of the night if necessary and even private plane service. I don't think there's any other club in town that does that."
Sutton does concede that the current economic climate has affected even the A-list night-life set, but he puts it all in perspective.
"When the economy was better, people might have gone out three or four nights a week," he explains. "Now that person only goes out one night a week. But they want to make that one night really count. . . . It's not cheap, so I want to make sure my audience always feels like it's worth the money."
Guys & Dolls Lounge
Where: 8713 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays through Saturdays
Price: Varies depending on night; call ahead.
Contact: (310) 360-0290