Since opening in 2015 on the western edge of downtown, the Teragram Ballroom has quickly become one of Los Angeles' best midsized concert venues (in fact, L.A. Weekly declared it the city's best music venue in our 2016 Best of L.A. issue). Now, Teragram co-owners Michael Swier and Joe Baxley have announced plans to open a second venue on the other side of downtown, in the Arts District. The new space, which will be called the Moroccan Lounge, is slated to open its doors sometime this fall.
"It was important for me to open a little brother to the Teragram Ballroom — a fresh, sound-strong venue that supports bands, giving them that first step up to performing in a firs-rate, state-of-the-art venue," Swier said via a press release. Swier, who also founded the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, likens his new L.A. venue to the Bowery's smaller sister club, the Mercury Lounge, which provided a stage for local and up-and-coming bands not quite ready to fill a larger venue.
"I feel very fortunate to have found this gem, with its perfect bones for music, in the Arts District," Swier added. "It's a vibrant neighborhood, new and familiar at the same time."
The Moroccan Lounge's building, at 901 E. First St., has a checkered history to say the least. Built in the late 1800s, it was known for most of its history as Little Pedro's, a Mexican-themed bar that may or may not have at one time housed a brothel. New owners gave it a makeover in 2002, rechristened it Little Pedro's Blue Bongo, and tried to lure in the Arts District's growing hipster crowd with band and DJ nights. But the venue never quite found its footing, and in 2011 it underwent another ownership change and remodel, reopening as Bordello and later the One Eyed Gypsy. That venue was shuttered in 2014, reportedly due to nonpayment of sales taxes. Its next incarnation, an Italian restaurant called Osso, was even more short-lived, closing after just one year.
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Other members of the Moroccan Lounge team include co-founder and architect Brian Swier (brother of Michael, and also the architect of the Teragram) and talent buyer Duncan Smith, formerly of Spaceland Presents and most recently the booker for another Arts District venue, Resident.
Based on the success of the Teragram, it seems likely that the Moroccan Lounge can finally turn 901 E. First St. into a popular Arts District destination. It's worth noting, however, that the venue's former owners, Pierre Casanova and Dana Hollister of Cliff's Edge and Villains Tavern, were no slouches — so clearly, something about the building's location and layout presents a challenge even to hospitality veterans. Maybe it's because the building is allegedly haunted?