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The Hollywood Roosevelt looks back as it looks forward

A lounge devoted to old-time games and another evoking a vaudeville-like aura are among current updates.

November 19, 2010|By Charlie Amter, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel has long been synonymous with glamour. The first Oscars were held there at 7000 Hollywood Blvd. in 1929. Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift were residents at the historic hotel in the 1950s. Aspiring rock stars began hanging poolside during the 1990s, and in the last few years bona fide celebrities have again been flocking to the place — especially since New York-based Thompson Hotels began managing the iconic 300-room property in 2005 — transforming it into a nightlife anchor for the area.

Recently, however, the Roosevelt's poolside Tropicana Bar and still-sizzling lounge, Teddy's, have been challenged by new rivals in the vicinity such as the tempting bars and restaurants of the W Hollywood and the Redbury Hotel.

In response, Roosevelt hotelier-in-chief Jason Pomeranc is doubling down on late-night thrills. The hotel owned by David Chang and Goodwin Gaw is being remade once again with two new bars: a new outpost from formerly Las Vegas-based impresario Jeffrey Beacher, and a new gaming-inspired lounge called the Spare Room.

"This is a sophisticated, elegant hotel with a unique, energetic nightlife undercurrent," Pomeranc said last month from inside the hotel's cozy Library Bar (one of three current bars at the Roosevelt). He notes that studios still throw many movie premiere parties at the hotel.

The 39-year-old co-founder of New York-based Thompson Hotels wants to make clear he's not sweating the competition.

"Though I observe what's going on in the marketplace, the choices that we make are solely based on our own strategy — we're not reactive to what anyone else is doing" in the area, he said.

Last month, Beacher and his new L.A. partner, actor David Arquette, began throwing parties in the newly remodeled Roosevelt sub-level space that once was the Cinegrill, now dubbed Beacher's Madhouse. "90210" actress Shenae Grimes, for instance, held an October birthday bash in the plush lounge with whimsical wax statues staring back at drinkers.

Beacher made his name in Vegas with a raucous show called Beacher's Madhouse, which toured nationwide last year. But his new venture at the Roosevelt is also benefiting from the latest city-wide revival in vaudeville-like entertainment. The room somehow fits the Roosevelt's curious blend of New York-meets-Las Vegas night life.

"The only other competition we have is the Box in New York," boasts Beacher. Soon, he says, the Roosevelt space will feature a "midget flying around the room suspended by cables dropping drinks off" to those who sit at tables.

That kind of scene, however, might not be the most audacious new night life initiative at the hotel. Come late December, the hotel will unveil the Spare Room, an early- to mid-20th century inspired, gaming-themed lounge, in a different area of the Roosevelt.

"It's an upscale gaming parlor that recalls the private basement bars people like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers once had in their homes," Thompson Hotels' director of entertainment Med Abrous explained amid construction in the new space earlier this month.

Formerly a storage space, the Spare Room features two vintage wooden bowling lanes, which Thompson sourced from a collector in Texas. It's a far cry from brash contemporary bowling alleys such as Lucky Strike, which feature synthetic lanes, blaring Top 40s music and bright lights. The Spare Room aspires to be the antithesis of what Lucky Strike represents — think pencil-scored games, dim lighting, leather couches and a hand patinaed antique brass bar top and "1920s design" overseen by Santa Monica-based design firm Studio Collective.

"We're paying incredible attention to all the old gaming aspects," said Abrous, who has been instrumental in keeping Teddy's a top draw in Hollywood over the past five years and is the heart of the Roosevelt's effortless New York cool (the 32-year-old worked at large Manhattan clubs such as Lot 61 and Life before arriving in L.A. to help Amanda Scheer-Demme launch the new Tropicana Bar poolside in 2005). The Spare Room will have not just bowling but also other "old school" parlor games such as dominoes for drinkers to play past midnight — and will forgo the velvet rope in favor of more accessibility.

The Roosevelt also plans a new restaurant, Public, directly beneath the Spare Room. Of course, heavy spending and unique design concepts are no guarantee that either bar will catch fire with Hollywood's late night set. However, those who know the Roosevelt's charm think both are winning concepts.

"Teddy's and the Roosevelt in general are special places," said Teddy's regular Noah Tepperberg, the New York-based co-owner and co-founder of Strategic Nightlife Group, which manages some of the country's most popular nightclubs, such as Tao and Marquee.

"They have managed to stay perpetually cool — longer than most hotels and lounges inside hotels do — by staying consistent," he said via phone from New York earlier this month. "I like the idea of both these new bars, but most important there's always a good cool crowd at the Roosevelt no matter what the night is. From my perspective, that's the key — maintaining a consistent crowd."

calendar@latimes.com

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Where: 7000 Hollywood Blvd.

When: Restaurant 25 Degrees, open 24-7; Bridge restaurant, open 5:30 p.m. daily; Tropicana Bar, open 7 to 2 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 to 2 a.m. Sun; Lobby Bar, open daily and nightly; Teddy's and Library Bar open nightly.

Info: (323) 466-7000; http://www.thompsonhotels.com

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