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Teddy's enters second stage of life

The tiny nightclub in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel returns after an eight-month closure for an updating that changed little.

April 19, 2013|By Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times
  • Jeff Hilliard enjoys the ambiance during the reopening of Teddy's in the Roosevelt Hotel.
Jeff Hilliard enjoys the ambiance during the reopening of Teddy's… (Wally Skalij, Los Angeles…)

In Hollywood, nightclub years are like dog years. Teddy's, the tiny nightclub tucked into the far front corner of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, had been open and popular for an impressive seven years — retirement age for most clubs — before being shut down last year for a remodel.

It's now in a soft-open phase, and if early attendance numbers and enthusiasm are any indication, it's as popular as ever. Surprisingly, Med Abrous, director of promotions and entertainment for Thompson Hotels, went out of his way to not change much during the eight months the club was shut down. He just wanted to let the space catch its breath.

"After years of great success, we owed it to the room to give it a new suit," says Abrous, showing off the new touches on a recent Wednesday afternoon. The night before had seen the opening of Teddy's new regular Tuesday programming, a rock 'n' roll night called "In the Flesh," hosted by veteran Hollywood promoter Bryan Rabin and Donovan Leitch.

That night brought in an older crowd that had cut its clubbing teeth on Teddy's back in the day as well as a new generation of giddy partygoers, eager to shimmy on the tiny dance floor to a wide variety of music including soul, Brit pop, '80s rock and a smattering of punk.

For the most part, the new Teddy's looks like the old Teddy's, only, as Abrous puts it, "a slightly more sophisticated, mature and well-traveled version of itself."

The cozy, dimly lighted room looks a bit like a Roman catacomb, only instead of bones lining the walls, there is art. The art, by the likes of British street artist Paul Insect and abstract artist Tom Lieber, is a new touch, and it speaks to the fact that Abrous has grown up alongside Teddy's.

All the furniture is new and was custom-made for the room. Plush banquettes and couches line the walls of the rectangular space, basically forming a ring of comfy sitting areas, each with its own table featuring built-in ice buckets for bottle service. (Although, as Abrous points out, bottle service is not really a Teddy's hallmark. It's more of a convenience if you've got a big group.) The DJ booth, which looks like a giant, plush Crown Royal bag (only red, instead of purple), was moved to the head of the room, opening up the space significantly.

The sound system was upgraded to allow for the speakers to be cranked on the dance floor but turned down in the seating areas. This makes conversation possible, a real coup for Hollywood.

The room's small size — it has a capacity of 161 — and its reputation as a celebrity haunt make for a notoriously tough door. There is a guest list, but Abrous says that "any experienced night life maven" can probably figure out a way to wrangle their way through the door.

A place like Teddy's is unusual for a hotel. But the Roosevelt, with its tony gaming and cocktail lounge, the Spare Room; its renowned craft cocktail hang, the Library Bar; and its picturesque poolside drinking den, the Tropicana bar, is unusual in general. It's not just a hotel, it's a nightlife destination, and Teddy's, which opened in 2005, started it all.

"Teddy's and the Roosevelt have kind of changed the nightlife geography of L.A.," says Thompson Hotels co-founder Jason Pomeranc. "When we opened a lot of people questioned whether or not the clientele we drew would go that far east on a consistent basis, and they did, and I think that helped move the scene even further east and essentially helped revitalize Hollywood."

Pomeranc is particularly fond of Teddy's and shared Abrous' sentiment that the space should not change too much.

"I was in the trenches with the programming and putting together the various elements of the room," he recalls, adding that he's in the process of planning a Roosevelt Hotel in Miami Beach and is deciding whether to put a Teddy's there. "It was where I came of age as a hotelier, so it has a sentimental quality that I can't let go of."

A slew of devoted nightclubbers seem to share that sentiment, which is why Abrous is looking forward to having another long run with Teddy's.

"I think if anyone can, we can," he says.

jessica.gelt@latimes.com

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