Photo by Debra DiPaolo
Throwing a successful soiree can be satisfying, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth all the stress and mess. There’s the worrying about who doesn’t get along with whom and who’ll be offended if they aren’t invited, plus providing music, food and drink (cocktails can get expensive, but keggers are a little too high school). And let’s not forget the aftermath of allowing pals — and, if it’s a rager, many strangers — into your home, which can get you clogged toilets, broken or stolen stuff, and pissed-off neighbors. It’s just so much easier to take the mayhem to a bar or club.
Suddenly, the pressure to play hostess is off you and onto the establishment. You can invite everyone. Drink — and in some cases food — is taken care of, and heck, people will buy you cocktails instead of the other way around. And most importantly, your cozy abode isn’t invaded and destroyed by the drunken revelers you call friends.
What follows is a list of nightspots — from the glitzy joints where Hollywood’s elite (and even more wannabes) throw their shindigs to the real down-and-dirty sure-fire hits to the latest hangs. Party on!
Swanky and/or Skanky
White Lotus: Since this exotic oasis (can you believe it used to be the Crush Bar?) opened its doors, it’s been a white haute magnet for the celeb set. But if you’re just an average Joe/Jane who wants to celebrate here, make a dinner reservation early (the high-priced menu features sushi and Asian cuisine), and you’ll avoid the model and Euro-trash monster mash at the velvet-roped entrance, which, unless you’re Ashton Kutcher, is a torturous wait.
1743 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 463-0060
The Lounge: This place may never live down the infamous Britney-Justin “dance-off” (hell, it was even re-enacted by Matt Damon on Saturday Night Live), but with topnotch DJs and promoters, it’s still got the makings of a slammin’ bash. Just don’t get too tipsy or you might be seen staggering behind some TV star on E!’s Celebrities Uncensored. The stalkerazzi camp out here.
9077 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 888-8811
Forty Deuce: Who doesn’t want to see some skin at their birthday or bachelor party? Deuce (from the dude behind Deep) is the purr-fect place for the latter, especially if your bride has issues with a full-on nasty strip club. Burlesque-style grinders dance and prance about the stage and along the bar-cum-runway while a live combo busts out old-timey beats. Of course, you gotta be someone — or have some bucks — for the good seats.
5574 Melrose Ave., (323) 465-4242
Hollywood Men at Arena: Until somebody comes up with a strip show featuring lanky tattooed rocker pretty boys, this is where the ladies in L.A. will go for their man candy. Formerly at 7969, the parade of packages now pops up at Arena, and even if you’re not into the beefcake type, this night’s a blast. Bring earplugs — it’s a real scream fest!
6655 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, (818) 845-6636
The Standard (downtown): A warning to those who think girlie-drinks don’t pack a punch — the giant Apple-tinis here are downright dangerous. They may be pricey, but a couple of these deceptively sweet sippers and you may not remember the gorgeous view of the downtown office buildings that encompass the place or the groovy 2001-like décor or, uh, canoodling with some fella in one of the waterbed pod thingies, and, yikes, splashing around in the buff in the wonderfully warm and shallow swimming pool. Just remember not to go on a weekend if you actually want to get in.
550 S. Flower St., downtown, (213) 892-8080
Hollywood Athletic Club: You’ll have a gay ol’ time at Tigerheat, the pop-o-rama dance club that takes over HAC on Thursdays. Bring your straight guy and/or music-snob friends and watch them let loose — or writhe in discomfort — as hot shirtless hunks from BoyU.com hump and bump to Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé.
6525 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-6262
The Parlour: WeHo’s most original array of party-worthy themed promotions happen here (the homo hijinks of Hot Dog and Dirty Dirty House Club, for example), but it’s Vaginal Davis’ Roaring ’20s–themed soiree called Bricktops that takes hedonistic hell-raising to a whole new level, substituting the sultry decadence of jazz and Parisian Café society–style repartee for the high-decibel drone-and-bone of the modern rock club. Even the vivacious Bibbe Hansen (Beck’s mom) celebrated her b-day here.
7702 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 650-7968
Saddle Ranch Chop House: Yeah, it’s jock-dude hell on the weekends, but come by on a weeknight, hunker down over a humongous plate o’ grub and some big brewskis among the theme-park-like décor, and you might start to appreciate the Ranch’s kitschy charm. Okay, it’s really all about ridin’ the mechanical bull, and if it’s good enough for the gals on Sex and the City, it’s good enough for us.
8371 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 656-2007
La Plaza: The Latin tranny bar became a campy scene a couple of years ago with the straight hipster set, but though its trendiness has faded, it still rages with so-bad-they’re-good drag shows (these chicas aren’t fooling anybody) in español and some inglés. Catering plus: Pink’s is right next door.
739 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 939-0703
Familiar Faves and the Real Raves
Brass Monkey: You can reserve a large table for your pals at this Koreatown karaoke spot, but getting them to actually take the mike is another story. If your group gets hammered enough to try a tune, forget Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” or “Summer Lovin’” from the Grease soundtrack — so tired — and try something genuinely awful from, say, Air Supply or Milli Vanilli. They’ve got a lot to choose from. A fresh twist on putting on the hits: Make everyone sing only ’80s tunes, diva disco anthems or songs dedicated to you.
3440 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, (213) 381-7047
El Coyote: Tried and true as the commode you’re guaranteed to be frequenting the day after reveling here, El Coyote has probably seen more birthdays, girls’ nights and after-work dish ’n’ dash than any other Mexican restaurant in town (El Compadre comes in a close second), and whenever we go back, we remember why: cheap drinks and that wonderfully tacky ambiance.
7312 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 939-2255
Formosa: Maybe it’s the ghost of all the old movie stars that used to come here from the nearby Warner Hollywood Studios (or their photos, which look down on you from the walls), but this place hearkens back to a simpler time, which makes it primo for a more low-key get-together. Big groups can take over the backroom for even more privacy.
7156 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 850-9050
Star Shoes/Beauty Bar: S.S. is a great place for footwear fiends to have a birthday. Have pals who don’t know what to get you buy you drinks — and vintage sandals. Continue the make-over around the corner at B.B. with a $10 martini and manicure. Too bad they don’t do pedicures to go with your new floozy shoesies.
S.S.: 6364 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 462-7827
B.B.: 1638 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 464-7676
Key Club: There’s always something interesting going on at this Sunset Strip venue — cabaret-style dance troupes, Trashy Lingerie parties, jazz nights — and the upstairs restaurant provides a nice way to absorb it all with a group, while the downstairs Plush Lounge offers a more private groove grotto where you can watch the big room’s entertainment on a projection screen while lounging on comfy couches.
1638 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 464-7676
Grand Star: It’s got occasional live jazz and scary karaoke, but this beloved Chinatown eatery is best known for its upstairs club action, the most enduring of which, Club Firecracker, has been attracting cool peeps and sick turntable talent for five years now.
943 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 417-8824
14 Below: Never got to see Van Halen or Journey or Kiss in concert? Wanna relive the excitement? This tribute-group haven rules, dude, offering loads of laughs and, every so often, really good sound-alikes — such as Stonesy band Sticky Fingers, who even do costume changes for each musical era.
1348 14th St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-5040
Bigfoot Lodge: The dark, woodsy vibe and ample bench seating and booth space turn this Atwater joint into a jumpin’ place to bring the gang, and DJ Lee’s cool mix of obscurities and groovy classics (Thursday and Saturday) provide a rockin’ but not too noisy soundtrack for chatting and chugging.
3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater, (323) 662-9227
El Cid: The flamenco shows remain, but a lot has changed here. The outdoor patio is bigger and better, as is the menu. But it’s the promoters and performers — such as the old-school dance night Popcorn and the burlesquesy revue “The Super Sexy Show” — that have brought a new kind of fiery dancing and fervent energy to this Silver Lake classic.
4212 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 668-0318 ‰
The Rainbow: Rock & roll royalty don’t reign here the way they once did (unless you count regular Lemmy Killmeister), but this dark restaurant/bar remains a cool place to meet-and-greet, with a history that’s hard to forget thanks to all the photos and posters of hairy boys plastered everywhere, not to mention the loud background music. For a really big event, do like guitarist Tom Morello did last year and take over the upstairs back bar and dance floor.
9015 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 278-4232
The Temple Bar: A multicultural ambiance and a superfriendly staff make this Westside wonderland a good-vibe place to gather. It always feels festive, with rhythmic hip-hop, Latin and electro acts providing lively energy nightly, the sweet aroma of incense wafting through the air and smiling Buddhas looking down at — and no doubt bringing luck to — all who enter.
1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 393-6611
Lucky Strike: It lacks the old-time magic of Hollywood Lanes, but for those who love to bowl it’s a better option than driving to Eagle Rock’s All Star Lanes or fighting through the tourist hordes at Universal CityWalk to get to Jillian’s. Yes, it’s attached to the Hollywood and Highland monstrosity, but this café/bar/bowling facility is surprisingly laid-back — you can reserve a lane or get there a little earlier than your guests and snag one or two. Unless there’s some big private party, the wait’s not bad. Sssstrike: Great music from the ’70s and ’80s. Gutter ball: Service is way slow.
6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 467-7776
Forbidden City: Steve Edelson is like a magician, pointing his magic wand at Hollywood’s has-been haunts and giving them new life. He did it with Zen, Lush, the Larchmont, the aforementioned El Cid, and now this old Chinese locale across from the Avalon. The big draw? This totally remodeled restaurant/nightclub has so many nooks and crannies (including a roofless upper level and gorgeous outdoor patio) that you could have five different parties going here at the same time.
1718 Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 461-2300
Avalon: Formerly the Palace, this newly renovated space has DJ dance nights three nights a week (such as the return of electro biggie Club Giant), making it a guaranteed scene. We’re still not sure if we love or hate the psychedelic new carpeting, but we do think the oh-so-exclusive Moroccan-themed Spider Club upstairs is the epitome of fabulous. But don’t even try to get in unless you have a membership card.
1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 467-4571
CineSpace: Full disclosure: We know the chef here intimately. Still, this one deserves props for doing something that someone should have thought of a long time ago, especially in L.A. — offering dinner and a movie. Catch a classic flick (free) and feast on light California fare, then get ready to boogie it off as DJs come in and rock the house most evenings. Birthday babes get a free ultradecadent dessert with din din.
6356 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 817-3456
1160 Bar: The Ramada Inn on Vermont almost looks like the Standard now with its blue-lit windows and futuristic exterior, but even though the owners tried to make it all classy inside, the motel’s bar, on its lower level, still retains a wonderfully cheesy vibe. Different promoters come in with live rock, DJs and dancing or loungy jazz in the bar’s adjoining room, which provides a blank canvas with plenty of space for a social assembly of any kind.
1160 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 660-1788
The Little Cave: From the folks behind the Bigfoot Lodge, this new watering hole offers a place for Eastside hipsters to get their drink on among bat-cavernous surroundings and good tunes. Like Mr. T’s (just down the street), it’s worth the occasional drive for something different, but ultimately it’ll be more of a happening for those who live in or near the hood.
5922 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, (323) 255-6871
Concorde: It’s another too-cool-for-a-sign venue in a former strip club. J. Lo had Ben’s b-day bash here, and Nick had Jessica’s, and you too can, as 50 Cent says so eloquently, “party like it’s yo burfday” at this spanking-new hot spot from the people who revamped Las Palmas and Bar Delux. Tables can be reserved for a nominal fee and/or bottle guarantee. Bolthouse Productions’ hump-night promotion (Wednesday) is where the booty-ful people flock — for now.
1835 Cahuenga Blvd., (323) 464-5662