Hyde + Area, LA



Hyde's 100 capacity adds to its intimate exclusivity.

SBE and John Lyons Systems partner on two exclusive celeb dens.
By Daphne Carr

It’s not easy being the new kid on the block, unless you’re a nightclub. In a town known for the fickle and fast, LA’s nightlife denizens deem one spot “hot,” only to let their love cool by sunrise. If the tabloid exploits of celebrities’ fractured relationships included their fallouts with hangouts, magazines would print double the pages.

The folks at SBE Entertainment Group are trying to make their love last by creating spaces that act as the perfect mates: impeccably well-designed, exclusive, and attentive but not clingy. Based in Los Angeles, the group pampers A-list clientele in restaurants, lounges and nightclubs like Privilege; The Lobby; and the company’s first Philippe Starck-designed restaurant, Katsuya. Its two newest lounges – the tiny Hyde and the party-hard Area – continue the quest to give the folks who have everything something else.

Hyde is a place of opposites. With a mere 100 capacity, even the people on the list don’t get in, and those who do are guaranteed to be snapped by the permanently installed paparazzi outside. Inside, however, the “jewel-box” sized venue’s “no media” policy lets young and restless Hollywood go Mr. Hyde (although insiders say the heated celeb-on-celeb encounters are often boiled up in advance by publicists). Besides, who would really want to spill one of those expensive hand-squeezed organic herb-and-spiced drinks anyway, even if you did get to throw it on Nicole Richie?

Nightlife guru Brent Bolthouse, who has been in the party scene for almost two decades, co-owns Hyde. He was responsible for the vision of the club as, as he told the LA Times, “a bar for my peers. I see a hole in the market where we can put a small, intimate room where we can play best-time-ever music that isn’t hip-hop.”

Manhattan-based ICRAVE Design Studio (Aer, Crobar, Pacha) took the space – formerly celeb-hangout North – and transformed it into an earthy, golden glowing den.

The lounge also serves Asian-fusion munchies by renowned chef Uechi, with a few booths facing each other for maximum face-time, but little privacy. “The nature of space in Hyde, with its scale and intimate setting, was a unique opportunity to examine the way light can be used to express drama through intimacy,” says ICRAVE partner Lionel Ohayon. “The use of candlelight; reflection of light through multiple layers of glass and dark mirror; or the lighting of natural materials such as the onyx banquette set against suede walls, or the copper ceiling indirectly lit with warm incandescent light, were the main themes.”

The main room features crocodile-embossed leather banquettes and ottomans, handmade organic wood tables, and a candlelit glass fireplace. A back “boudoir” bar feels like a more risqué Victoria’s Secret, with pink and black paisley wallpaper and backlit pink panels in the bar and floors.

For sound, Bolthouse turned to John Lyons Systems and longtime friend John Lyons – “We go way back,” says Lyons – who also happens to own and operate the Avalon nightclub chain, and helped develop EAW’s Avalon line of club-dedicated speakers. The designer’s West Coast business is booming: His lighting system for Las Vegas celeb magnet Jet was just nominated for a Club World Award.

“It was imperative that the sound be rich and full and feel as if it is being amplified not from a source but rather that you were ‘in’ the sound,” says Lyons. This was no small feat, given the unique architectural problem of the room. “They insisted on a barrel vaulted ceiling. It’s one of the main architectural features of the room, which is a nightmare for designing a system,” says Lyons. A dbx ZonePRO helps minimize the reverb.

Lyons placed six customized EAW JL-12 high output speakers behind grilles in the vaulted ceilings, and three EAW SB-150 subs in the furniture. The booth features a Rane TT 57 mixer with permanently installed Serato Scratch Live and Technics SL1200 turntables. But, says Lyons with a laugh, “Most of the time [the DJs] play MP3 files.”

It’s nice to know that Hyde – hard to get into, full of luxury and painstakingly installed for maximum pleasure in every sense – does manage to have one thing in common with the hoi polloi … even if it’s just slightly bogus iPod playlists.

It's all about the ambience at Area, an LA hotspot.

Nestled into West Hollywood’s numerous posh clubs and restaurants, Area looks relatively unassuming from the street. An army of valets stands at the ready, and a queue forms in the enclosed parking lot. Equally exclusive but much larger than Hyde (more than 10,000 square feet), Area caters to a more dance-ready crowd, but provides the same level of attentive service.

Formerly the club Prey, Area was gutted and turned mid-century moderne with a distinctly residential feel. Based on Los Angeles’s famous “Case Study” houses, the club is stark in shades of white, beige and subtle browns with terrazzo flooring, white leather “Barcelona” chairs and George Nelson lighting. A raised platform against two walls holds bottle-service seating and the main bar stands off to a side, with diner-style booths leading to a back private room featuring a huge backlit photo of LA herself. The outdoor patio is closed by clear glass and offers a smoking section and private seating. Hostesses wear slightly anachronistic go-go dancer garb of miniskirts, fishnets and white boots. Central to the club is the dancefloor, which, since its September 2006 opening, fills up quickly after 10 p.m. each night and gets wild shortly thereafter.

Lyons said the design of the club presented challenges for him. “They didn’t want to see speakers; they didn’t want the ambience to be disturbed. So there are 57 speakers in the ceiling, everywhere but on the dance floor. And instead of just putting in bad sound, I put in a device with high power – the EAW CIS 400 – that can handle low frequencies. These custom 8" x 6" speakers fit into the soffits – they are low/mids with bass; small cones. They look like air conditioning ducts or something.”

Indeed, the dropped ceiling recesses slightly for the dancefloor ceiling, which features rows of LED lights set in teakwood slats. The “duct-like” speakers are flush with the dropped ceiling. “Visually they don’t look like they’re going to sound good,” admitted Lyons. “It’s subtle, understated with lots of speakers that are never too far away, so you never have to turn things up.”

Long queues, necessarily name-dropping to the doorman and getting dressed for potential paparazzi snapshots assure Area and Hyde are LA’s in-demand nightspots, but SBE is by no means getting comfortable with its current club roster. Lyons mentioned a redo of The Abbey, a West Hollywood institution recently acquired by the group, and the SBE Hotel Group just signed a 15-year exclusive agreement with Philippe Starck for the design of a new hotel brand. Surely another lounge will sprout up amid the clean lines and sleepy time. The only question is – will we get in?


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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications