Night-life impresario Brent Bolthouse on the patio of The Bungalow in the… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Every great room needs a great soundtrack. That's particularly true of the rooms created by night-life impresario, music lover and DJ Brent Bolthouse. If his newest beachside lounge, the Bungalow, could sing it would sound like 1960s superstar Donovan. Positioned on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, with gauzy views of the glimmering Pacific Ocean, the song it would sing would be "Sunshine Superman."
"There's such a great connection between music and the sea," says Bolthouse on a recent afternoon, standing on the Bungalow's expansive wooden deck, staring west. "They're such good friends."
Despite the punishing schedule that's required of one of the city's top event producers and nightclub operators, Bolthouse has achieved a very SoCal state of mind with the Bungalow, which opens Aug. 3. Maybe it's the chill ions drifting off the nearby water, or maybe it's the general Baja vibe of the 1947 cottage that houses the Bungalow at the tony Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, but Bolthouse feels at peace in his new place and says that he thinks it's the best work of his career.
With the Bungalow, Bolthouse is moving beyond exclusive rooms with impossible doors and into the realm of the relaxed neighborhood lounge. The kind of place local musicians and artists might pull up to on their beach cruisers on a Sunday afternoon for a pitcher of margaritas and a plate of tacos by chef Ray Garcia of Fig, which is located in the hotel.
That's not to say that Bolthouse's signature cool isn't immediately apparent at the Bungalow, or that his many famous friends won't flock to the place. Slash has already held a private party there and KCRW music director Jason Bentley is hosting his birthday there as well as curating Thursday night acoustic performances on the patio. Donovan is also scheduled to play at the Bungalow's invite-only opening. Bolthouse grew up near him in Joshua Tree and considers Donovan family.
"He's putting his mojo on our little slice of heaven," says Bolthouse of Donovan. "It'll be cool to hear him sing 'Season of the Witch' here."
For his part, Donovan is looking forward to christening Bolthouse's latest creation.
"He's quite the guy in L.A. and further afield for creating atmospheres for people in the music, TV and film worlds," says Donovan. "Plus one needs rooms like this. We used to call them 'flip-flops' in the late '50s and early '60s — or blues clubs. You can play a song or two and maybe get discovered."
Donovan doesn't need discovering, but some of the acts that Bentley books just might, although he says that his idea for the Bungalow is still in its early stages.
"We can't anticipate how loud we can go, so the safe play is modest acoustic setups," says Bentley, adding that such an arrangement fits the vibe. "The Bungalow feels like a cozy little hideaway. There's a little make-out nook in the back garden, and it just feels classic California. It's a good fit for Santa Monica."
For the Bungalow, Bolthouse and his partner Jennifer Rosero teamed with MSD Capital and recruited the design help of Studio Collective to create a space that evokes a breezy, beachside Baja lifestyle. The place feels more like a home than a bar, with mismatched tables, chairs and couches. In addition to the front deck with its fire pits, lush foliage and twinkling tree lanterns, the Bungalow also has a laid-back game room with a pool table, a private dining room, a back garden and a large main bar with high raftered ceilings. Moroccan tile work, Mexican blankets, multiple fireplaces, whitewashed walls, French doors and custom brickwork complete the scene.
Bungalow's relationship to Garcia's Fig will be a symbiotic one. Garcia hopes that patrons of Fig will go to the Bungalow for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail and enjoy a limited menu of small bites including Mexican-style shrimp cocktail with avocado, cilantro and red onion; Mexican flatbread with queso fresco and black beans; and, of course, tacos. On Friday and Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons, Garcia may even install a little taco cart on the patio. Fig catering is also available to cook multi-course meals for those renting out the private dining room.
"We're feeding off the vibe that Brent is trying to create," says Garcia. "A casual, fun spot where you can have a great margarita or fine mescal in one hand and a little bite of something delicious in the other."
Bolthouse says the best time to be at the Bungalow is when the sun drips into the ocean at the end of the day.
"This speaks more to who I am as person," says Bolthouse of the Bungalow, as opposed to his more party-centric endeavors. "My house feels like this. So many friends that have grown up with me in my career now have families and live out here. We want to embrace the community."
Where: 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
When: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tues. to Sat.; 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.
Price: Cocktails, $12 to $14; no cover
Info: (310) 899-8530; http://www.thebungalowsm.com