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An older, more mature Hyde is coming back

Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and TMZ helped it become the hottest nightclub in Hollywood. It is reopening in its original spot, with an emphasis on high-brow cocktails.

August 19, 2011|By Matt Donnelly, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • After redecoration, Hyde Lounge is re-opening for business.
After redecoration, Hyde Lounge is re-opening for business. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los…)

Can a nightclub grow up? After-dark venues tend to be short-lived, exploding onto the scene as the hot place to be and then soon shuttered once the gimmicks have run dry or rivals spring up. But Hyde, a night-life institution that saw a feverish intersection of celebrity, exclusivity and new media consumption in 2006, is getting a second chance.

"When Hyde came around the first time, there was a market for a small place. Everything was hip-hop and I wanted to play rock music," recalls Brent Bolthouse, the night-life guru who teamed with SBE to conceive the venue.

The dream for that smaller, rock-centered watering hole exploded into a revolving door of luminaries that included Beyoncé and Robert De Niro, an iron rope policy around the entrance and the genesis of paparazzi saturation.

The offices of a then-fledgling TMZ, conveniently located across the street, shot the famous fish in the barrel nightly, splaying their stills and footage on the Web the following day with competing celeb publications following suit instantly.

The heat surrounding the venue propelled younger members of the Hollywood community to more and more outrageous behavior, and new blogs were only too happy to document their booze-soaked antics. Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan were Hyde regulars who revolutionized "women about town."

C- and D-listers unable to gain entry made headlines. Fender benders and star-on-paparazzo scuffles drew increasing attention from giggly-indignant media commentators and the LAPD. The notorious video of Brandon Davis insulting Lohan was captured on a block-long trek from Chateau Marmont to Hyde, Hilton at his side and obscenities flying all the way.

"It was the perfect storm," Bolthouse said.

But the clouds passed. As consumption of celebrity media has adapted so has the night-life industry. Large-scale venues now rule the marketplace, intensely focused on bottle sales, big name DJs and dining. Smartphones and Twitter have made citizen journalists of scantily clad partygoers.

SBE retained ownership of Hyde after Bolthouse and his partner, Jen Rosero, exited the company (amicably, Bolthouse insists). The duo moved on to projects like West Hollywood's lounge Trousdale and a stake in restaurant Il Sole. SBE honcho Sam Nazarian focused on expanding his empire — including the Hyde brand, with franchises in Staples Center and Mammoth. That crop of unruly famous youngsters went to work, the altar or jail. Repeatedly.

But what was to become of the original space, which in essence was Hollywood's neighborhood bar?

In short, it's coming back. A little older.

"I think the town has grown up," Bolthouse said. "We'd be kidding ourselves if we thought it'd be the old days, but we think there's a group of people who are tired of bottle service and [things] that drive the money, the money, the money.

"We're going to be selective, you have to be, but the thing about Hyde is that it's not intimidating."

Memories of that iron rope policy are intimidating indeed, but the team behind the revamp exude an infectious enthusiasm.

"It's time," said Costas Charalambous, director of night life at SBE. "These things move in cycles and now there's a more sentimental interest. Hyde was voted the most exclusive lounge in the United States, and it's time to bring it back. But relevant to 2011."

Given the simplicity and sleekness of Hyde's first incarnation, the task of updating the space is at minimum risky. The company's in-house culinary man Danny Elmaleh, behind Katsuya Hollywood and the Redbury Hotel's hit Cleo, has drummed up small bites with a global influence.

Tableside mixology will play a prominent part in Hyde 2.0, with high-brow cocktails a focus "over the vodka-sodas of the world," says Charalambous, "even though they're great."

"It's a more social experience," according to Charalambous. The sunken bar to the back of the narrow space will get a face-lift, as designer Gulla Jonsdottir brings in more prominently defined booths and an easier physical flow.

Founding DJs like Samantha Ronson will spin alternatives to the Top 40 that rattles neighboring shops.

"A Hyde night usually ended with a bunch of friends belting Elton John or something classic at the top of their lungs," Bolthouse said.

A soft open kicked off Wednesday and will run to Saturday. The brand will continue expansion to South Beach in the spring of 2012 and in Las Vegas' Bellagio hotel on New Year's Eve. But the iconic original spot is getting a second chance.

"The people guarding this little jewel box are very capable," Charalambous added, "and they're proud."

Hyde Lounge

Where: 8029 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

When: Wed.-Sat., 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Price: No cover, but reservations recommended

Info: (323) 525-2444;

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