Social's 18'x60' back wall doubles as 'wallpaper,' or a broadcast-quality video screen.
Eat, drink, be famous.
Linda Seid Frembes
Photos by Eric Laignel
The latest Hollywood trend? Better nightlife. An influx of capital and a renewed interest in clubbing have spurred an explosion of new venues and restaurants. And new operators are raising the bar on what it means to entertain the entertainment industry, including improved sound systems. Opened in May, Social Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard is the latest hotspot to invest in proper sound, installed in this case by California-based design/build company John Lyons Systems.
If its name seems familiar, Social is headed by New York-based restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow, who also created Social Miami at the Sagamore Hotel in South Beach. With local business partner Melissa Richardson, Chodorow revamped the historic Hollywood Athletic Club into a $12 million restaurant/lounge complex.
The sprawling Moroccan-themed eatery embodies Hollywood’s revivalist spirit, drawing from the energy of the ’20s and ’30s power players who once roamed the old Club. “When I was approached to do the sound, the biggest requirement was that the systems had to be flexible,” said audio designer/installer John Lyons. (In addition to heading his namesake company and presiding over installs at L.A. venues like LAX, Hyde, Area and Concorde, Lyons is also owner of the Avalon clubs in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.) “There was an anticipated need to host multiple events in the building at the same time.”
The building was originally designed by Egyptian Theater architects Meyer & Holler in 1923 in what can only be called classic L.A. architecture. It was revamped for the 21st century by Mark Zeff of Zeff Design, who kept its history and glamour, and added an international flair.
Social has a dining room, two ballrooms, game rooms and a bar area. The building’s designation as a historic landmark posed a challenge for Lyons, who was not allowed to run cable through ceilings. “I could not penetrate the ceilings with even a piece of wire,” he said. He could, however, run cable behind the walls.
Old Hollywood Sprawl
Visitors to Social enter through the lobby decorated in a minimalist black and white color scheme. To the right, the bar area fuses old and new with shelves of restored antiques displayed in conjunction with a 18' x 60' video wall that doubles as either “glass wallpaper,” or a broadcast-quality video screen. Sound reinforcement for the bar area is provided by eight EAW Commercial VR62 loudspeakers and two EAW SB150 subwoofers.
The Moroccan Room, or main dining room, is on the first floor. The 2,800-square-foot dining area is mainly lit by indirect architectural lighting, to create a fireplace ambiance. The vaulted ceiling created a naturally reverberant and reflective space but because of the restored 1920s fresco artwork on the ceiling, Lyons couldn’t use acoustical treatment to tame the room. So he covered the space with a densely installed distributed sound system. “Four EAW Commercial VR61 loudspeakers are mounted to every pillar,” he said. “With that many speakers, the room’s sound coverage pattern is even and intelligible without turning up the volume and energizing the room too much.” Plus, four EAW SB150 subwoofers provide low end coverage.
Also on the first floor, the former Athletic Club gymnasium is now the 4,900-square foot main Barrymore Ballroom, used for special events. To provide the ultimate in flexible sound options, Lyons installed eight EAW LA400 subwoofers. Designed for easy transport in portable applications, the subwoofers feature rear-mounted casters. Lyons chose this option so that the staff could reconfigure the room to have heavy, light or no low end depending on the event. Eight EAW MK5396 speakers are mounted on the ceiling underneath the infrastructure of the former running track on the second floor.
“Big Ugly Speakers”
Upstairs on members-only Level II, Social features a bar alcove and two game rooms, perfect for lounging in a more private setting. One room includes a pool table while the other features a 50” Panasonic plasma TV. Both rooms have studio monitor-quality sound via EAW Commercial CIS400 ceiling speakers and SB150 subwoofers.
Also upstairs, the Velvet Room is decked out in chocolate-colored velvet drapery and vintage furnishings. This serves as a private dining room that can also accommodate smaller ballroom functions. Lyons installed eight EAW L8CX2XO high fidelity ceiling speakers and, for added power, Mackie double 15-inch SA1532z powered speakers. “Overall, the sound systems are meant to provide good coverage and a discreet look,” he said. “There are no big ugly speakers to mar the décor of each room.”
All high definition video routing is done by a Kramer matrix switcher, while the audio zoning and switching is handled by the dbx ZonePro system. Each room has a wallplate to plug in DJ equipment or a video display. “You can have a DJ without needing a DJ booth installed in each room,” says Lyons. “Each room has its own independent control with local selection of the source and volume. But you also have global control of other rooms in the matrix.”
For Lyons – and a string of celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, Penelope Cruz and Justin Timberlake – Social is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. “The strong design elements make Social very distinct and unique,” he says. “It’s the kind of place I would go to for dinner or drinks, so I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it sound great.”