Riviera Magazine March 2008: The Radar Nightlife

Davis Ink

March 28, 2008

RAISING THE BAR with new clubs looming, older nightspots are nip/tucking their way back into hipster hearts with decidedly chic redesigns

– By Seth Combs

At the Hard Rock Hotel’s recent opening, Rande Gerber (a drink in one arm and Cindy Crawford on the other) traversed between his two new gems, the Sweetwater Saloon and the rooftop Moonstone Lounge. Scenester buzz may have been all about Robert De Niro or the Black Eyed Peas, but S.D.’s real inquiring minds were checking out Sweetwater’s oversized crystal chandeliers and cracked mirrors, or marveling at Moonstone’s walnut-toned leather lounge seats. And quietly taking note.

And note they did. With posh rooftop clubs at the Hard Rock and Ivy, along with new hipster digs like Starlite and Universal, S.D.’s biggest face-lift isn’t happening with La Jolla housewives but with more established nightclubs realizing it’s time for a new look. And they’re keeping up with the Joneses with some highly designed renovations.

As Downtown’s first anonymous, signless bar with a major velvet rope, Side Bar is the latest to undergo a sophisticated makeover with a more loungey, speakeasy vibe. Five years ago, when the boys at EnDev LLC opened Side Bar-long before be-seen Stingaree or Bar West-it was go-to nocturnal designer Davis Krumins who channeled George Jetson and Barbarella for this corner

spot. “When it first came out, there was nothing like it. But then, everybody started doing hip, trendy, fashionable nightspots as opposed to sawdust-on-the-floor Irish bars on 5th Avenue,” says EnDev’s Dana Shertz. For the remodel, set to unveil in April, Krumins (who also decked out EnDev’s Universal in major wood-meets-white Bali-modern) is ripping everything out and replacing it with an “Old World-meets-traditional” look with tentative plans for rich, dark colors, booths made of fur and hide, and one big L-shaped bar as opposed to two. There’s even talk of adding (shock!) a sign.

And while Gerber calls Sweetwater “a laid-back den of glamour,” the Gaslamp’s original underground den, Onyx Room, is going for less glam and more lodge with a redesign courtesy of MTV “It” designer Michael Soriano that includes 70’s nature wallpaper and mounted deer heads. Further down 5th, Deco’s is losing the faux-Miami beach vibe for an Asian-catered monolith complete with six (!) new rooftop bars, a name change and wall-sized video screens enabling guests to meet via text messaging. Owner Mike Viscuso (who coincidentally tapped Krumins to design his new Kress club in the old Frederick’s of Hollywood building in L.A.) invested major bank in S.D. super supper clubs like On Broadway and Belo, but is dropping a cool five mil on Deco’s for a summer opening.

Speaking of rooftops, the W Hotel was the pioneer in luring L.A. types with its sand-covered¬†rooftop Beach bar. Today, it’s not only experimenting with pop-up lounges, but revamping its original be-seen lobby bar. Next up? A “sophisticated surfer-chic” design courtesy of Thom Felicia Interiors (of Queer Eye fame) complete with SoCal-inspired art installations, vintage surf-scene projections and an “eye in the sky” suspended DJ booth. “You could put the Ivy or the Hard Rock in L.A. and it would work,” says the W’s Leah Corradino. “But it’s important to be true to San Diego culture in both design and aesthetic.” Surf’s up, Rande!