Night-life entrepreneurs routinely fixate on the details of their new clubs -- the lighting, the furniture, the vibe. But for the team behind new West Hollywood nightspot Voyeur, the details became something of an obsession. Take, for example, the uniforms worn by the club's cocktail waitresses.
"We thought it would be cool to have them all dressed like Natalie Portman from the movie 'Closer,' " said David Koral, a partner behind Voyeur. Dressed, meaning mostly undressed. Not that bare skin would be anything new at the Voyeur space, 7969 Santa Monica Blvd.; it was formerly Peanuts, a dance club that featured all manner of sexed-up attractions, and Grandville in the 1990s.
"We knew that this location and the licenses that we have would give us the opportunity to be more risque and provocative," said Koral, who had worked with legendary promoter Amanda Demme and knew he wanted to push the limits. "So once we came up with the name Voyeur, we decided to really go for it."
"David and I had just seen the movie 'Eyes Wide Shut,' and it all just kind of started clicking together," added partner Matt Bendik, formerly at the Las Vegas hospitality company the Light Group.
On the club's opening night, Oct. 8, that vision swam into view. The dark, leather-heavy interior is reminiscent of the masked orgy scene from the movie. The reference is taken a step further with impromptu bondage and S&M "scenes" being played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad performers throughout the night -- not presented as "shows," like they are in clubs such as Playhouse Hollywood. There is also a heavy net suspended above the club's lounge area where performers writhe above the heads of clubgoers. Even more provocative scenes are played out in an enclosed glass booth area adjacent to the club's dance floor area.
"It's pretty . . . intense," clubgoer Lee Stone admitted on opening night as one female performer with a horse's bit in her mouth was being strapped to the wall by another just behind the booth he was sharing with friends. His friend was more intrigued by the action. "I wonder if I would get in trouble for joining them?" she joked.
"Nick and I probably watched 'Eyes Wide Shut' 20 times back when we were developing this concept," said Koral. "That mystery and intrigue is what we tried to create with Voyeur. It's a combination of intimidation and sexuality."
Let's be clear, however: This is not a sex club but rather a high-end nightclub that boasts inventive cocktails (such as the watermelon-jalapeno and blueberry-mint shot mixes) and a menu developed by chef Micah Wexler, formerly of Craft.
The concept has definitely caught Hollywood's attention. An unusual cavalcade of celebrities bypassed the rope on opening night, including music impresario Rick Rubin with actor Vincent Gallo in tow. Reality personality Jack Osbourne, Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell and actor Gerard Butler also made the scene.
For now, the club will be open on Thursday nights. A Saturday night party will be added starting Oct. 31, when Voyeur hosts a Halloween event for "Project Runway" host Heidi Klum. Eventually, more nights will be added, including a Tuesday gay night.
"I'd like to think that we model ourselves after places like Teddy's at the Roosevelt Hotel and Chateau Marmont," said Koral, who worked with Demme when she hosted Teddy's. "We aspire to that sort of longevity and notoriety."
Bendik and Koral show off the club's features, including windows from the old New York Times building and a black leather drape adorned with thick metal rings that, according to Bendik, was inspired by a Gucci purse. While no cameras are allowed inside during business hours, there is a photo booth to capture images.
But for Bendik, the club's crown jewel is the private, easy-to-miss VIP room. It's an intimate, scaled-down version of the main lounge, with massive erotic photographs displayed behind fancy glass frames.
"I love it back here," Bendik said and smiled. "It's our calm oasis away from the chaos of the main room. It's also a really nice place to bring a lady."
Where: 7969 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
When: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays
Price: Cover depends on event; call ahead.
Contact: (310) 255-1111; www.voyeur7969.com