Adrian Ramos,29, left, and Dillon Delacroix,28, both living in downtown… (Jay L. Clendenin / LAT )
In January 2010, after years of coveting an airy corner retail space at the intersection of 9th and Spring Street in downtown L.A.'s Fashion District, Eduardo Castillo signed the lease for Pattern Bar. To celebrate, he promptly started an entirely different nightclub.
For most of the last two years, L.A.'s experimental dance music fans have clawed each other to ribbons trying to figure out a way into Voodoo, Castillo's once-a-month private house party that's hosted some of the fastest-rising names in local and international electronica for about 100 hand-curated friends a night.
But after close to two years of renovations, the breezy, subway-tiled Pattern Bar had its soft opening last Friday. And it seems that a great way to get people excited about one party spot is to make your other one the stuff of invite-only, bleary-morning-after myth.
"Voodoo has been transcendent, and we wanted to build off that without prostituting it," Castillo said. "I've really been waiting on this. I want something people can walk into and feel a part of."
Pattern Bar represents a very different (and decidedly more populist) ambition for Castillo and his business partner and Pattern's cook, Alejandro Meza. They wanted to make a corner joint in a part of downtown that, bafflingly, didn't have one yet.
Broadway Bar and the Golden Gopher have Hollywood and USC-scene pull. But they felt a center wasn't holding for the neighborhood.
"I live a block away from here, and from 2nd to 6th street, it's bustling," Castillo said. "But the fashion district has no nucleus, it's a ghost town at night. I'm shocked no one's done this here before."
Pattern Bar is rooted in his affection for the classy but approachable SoHo and Lower East Side hotel remakes that marked New York City in the late '90's and early aughts. The walls are covered in the glinty white tiling of a just-opened Metro stop; the elevated booths and floor-to-ceiling windows are box seats to a runway's worth of sartorial lessons from (or caddish gazes at) the lissome students at the nearby FIDM.
Castillo's drinks (named after high-end fashion designers, which can make one feel self-consciously dandyish when ordering) are craft-y but unstuffy. The Chanel is a cilantro-flecked reposado mix with a Serrano pepper kick as addictive as a bad boyfriend; the Gaultier's mix of watermelon and agave evokes a daiquiri for people who know better.
Meza's nighttime tapas menu pulls from the whole of the Spanish-speaking world, pinning a tortilla española omelet on the menu next to a sweet cheese crepe and some of the city's better bruschetta and olive platters. Pattern might also become a sleeper pick for a downtown work lunch — Meza's arepa sandwiches are drippy, minimalist Venezuelan booze-sops for vegetarians (an avocado, tomato and caramelized onion version) and carnivores (braided pork, onions and black beans).
The 36-year-old Castillo and Meza, 29, took circuitous routes to the place. Childhood friends from Venezuela, Castillo learned drinks while running the beverage department for the Tribeca Grand hotel in Manhattan, while Meza moved to Seattle to start an eponymous restaurant (which he recently departed to join Pattern).
But after Castillo moved to L.A. in 2004 to pursue a music career (he's also a producer and composer) and settled downtown, he couldn't shake the potential he saw in the Fashion District storefront, then host to a revolving door of retail pop-ups. Seven years and a real estate market crash later, the whispered buzz around Voodoo coincides with the debut of their first above-ground room in downtown.
Meza, who until moving to L.A. commuted from Seattle to bartend at Voodoo, admits it took some persuading to bring him onboard permanently.
"All I knew about L.A. was traffic," Meza said. "But I've really come to feel at home here. We wanted that same feeling for Pattern — there's no huge door here."
Castillo and Meza did much of the handyman work themselves, down to the sound-muting panels in the ceiling (the better to articulate Castillo's mix of cumbia-infused techno and au courant indie). If you look closely, under the sleekness is evidence of the bar's handmade charm.
"If you look at the left pillar, you can see that was the first one I tried to tile myself," Castillo said, smirking. "You can tell that we got better at it by the far right one."
Though Pattern claims Castillo and Meza's days and nights, they still haven't lost their commitment to maddeningly exclusive micro-clubs. A third venue, Residencia, is tucked into the basement of Pattern Bar. Though currently unfinished, it will soon host once-a-month DJ sets from the same vein of experimental club music as Voodoo.
A secret bar within a bar, open one night a month, based on a house party you can barely even RSVP to, let alone actually get into? It's not an obvious start to a nightlife empire.
But for Pattern — and Castillo and Meza — it might be the start of an even harder currency in L.A.: a reputation.