To be successful in Hollywood, a nightclub must operate like a 6-foot-tall, 118-pound model with a D-cup bra and a cultivated disinterest in the hordes of would-be lovers falling at her feet. In other words, the more beautiful and inaccessible the club, the more people will want in.
It's a formula aspired to but rarely realized, which accounts for the many failed clubs that appear and disappear on and around Hollywood's Walk of Fame each year. It's also why club-watchers have their eyes trained on the latest big opening to hit Tinseltown: Las Palmas.
Owned by nightlife veteran Loyal Pennings' h.wood Group, with partners John Terzian and Brian Toll, Las Palmas represents the second coming of one of Hollywood's most legendary clubs. Originally opened by Pennings in 1998 in what was once a low-rent Mexican restaurant, Las Palmas became the place to be if you were hip and famous. And as such, it became notorious for its iron-clad door policy.
"It was the first club I ever went to and didn't get into," said Terzian.
In 2003, Pennings closed and completely remodeled the space, reopening it as a club called LAX with the late DJ AM as co-owner and erstwhile spinmaster. Since then, he, Terzian and Toll have experienced success with the h.wood club near Hollywood & Highland, and especially with its tiny, uber-exclusive inner sanctum, the Tea Room.
Now they hope to restore the remixed Las Palmas to its former position as the crown jewel of the boulevard. If the Tea Room's track record is any indication, the h.wood boys are uniquely poised to do just that.
While the seasoned Pennings acts as the man behind the curtain, Terzian and Toll, both 30 years old, are the h.wood Group's public faces. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the two have cultivated a coterie of attractive, artistic, often famous patrons who are devoted to the duo's endeavors.
At the club's packed Cinco de Mayo opening party, Terzian joked with Lindsay Lohan, while revelers including Taryn Manning, Evan Ross and Matt Dallas enjoyed a boisterous dance floor, a digital Cinco de Mayo-themed photo booth and free-flowing cocktails, including the club's signature tequila-infused tea.
Tiny dresses, perfect teeth, impeccably coiffed hair and designer jeans were abundant. As was a distinct feeling of insider intimacy. The night unraveled much like a fancy house party, with those in the crowd seemingly part of the same upwardly mobile social scene.
"Everyone is interrelated," said Terzian. "The most important thing is to attract a crowd where people can meet others with the same mind-set. People doing well with their own businesses and their personal lives. It's the age-old thing of social networking, and we're trying to create the best environment for that."
Operating much like a modern-day salon for entertainment and fashion-industry elites, Las Palmas also attracts a fairly artsy crowd, an avant-garde component that is important to both Terzian and Toll.
"Since we grew up here, we have contacts in the art world," said Toll. "We're a bit more cultured than other clubs. Drai's is making a ton of money, but they're going after big table winners in Vegas. We cater to a different crowd; our guests would not feel comfortable there."
To that end, Terzian and Toll design their clubs themselves using the help -- and art -- of friends. The main light source in Las Palmas is a chandelier composed of 500 wired-together light bulbs in a cloud-like mass. It was designed by Terzian and a friend named Jake Hooper. A brass elephant head near the entrance was created by a sculptor friend.
The club is basically one large room, split into three distinct parts: a bar area, a sunken dance floor and wide-open hangout space with a tiny stage for impromptu performances.
There is also an outdoor patio where skinny types suck down cigarettes.
A high ceiling with dark wooden rafters, Spanish-style arches and tile and a glowing jellyfish tank behind the main bar (the one feature left from the original Las Palmas) round out the scene. As does a tiny taco stand attached to the club that opens onto the street and serves passersby.
"It's supposed to be the In-N-Out of taco stands," said Terzian. "It's the contrast of things, you have this taco stand up front and this elegant club in the back.
Will the club serve the tacos inside?
No, said Toll. "The club would end up smelling like tacos, so it's not a good idea."
But hey, if you end up standing in line all night trying to get in, you can always settle for some fame-adjacent carne asada.
Where: 1714 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.
When: 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Wednesdays
Price: Cocktails, $11 to $15; tacos, $3
Contact: (323) 464-0170; www.laspalmashollywood.com