Avalon ready to house the in-crowd
Partners Steve Adelman and John Lyons concocted a heady recipe for nitery success in Beantown and now they’re trying it out in Gotham and Los Angeles.
The pair poured nearly $6 million in renovations into L.A.’s former Palace and a Gotham venue once home to the Limelight.
Like their Boston counterpart, the clubs are called the Avalon.
Each hews to a basic formula — celeb-friendly VIP rooms, cost-free memberships for tastemakers and music acts to draw the crowds — but face different battles for survival in those cities’ notoriously fickle nightclub world.
David Rabin, prexy of the New York Nightlife Assn., contends that Avalon’s test will be getting past the first year.
“Anyone can be busy the first few months,” says Rabin, owner of the downtown restaurant/club Lotus. To succeed in Gotham, he notes, “a place that big will need to develop a regular crowd as well as a heavy tourist crowd, whether from Jersey or Queens or hotels.”
Most recently home to the failed club Estate, the N.Y. niterie was formerly run by the enigmatic, one-eyed Peter Gatien as the Limelight during the early 90’s rave scene.
Frank Owen, author of “Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture,” said Limelight made earlier Gotham hotspot Studio 54 look like “the Brady Bunch.”
The L.A. venue, originally the Hollywood Playhouse, has been a nightclub and concert spot, albeit one in need of renovation, for decades. With a capacity of 1,600, Avalon is the largest club in L.A.
Avalon N.Y. drew more than 6,000 people and lines around the block its opening night, while in L.A. celebrities Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson have deemed the club cool enough to be spotted there on weekends.
Both Avalons have similar VIP Spider Clubs, an exclusive Moroccan style club-within-the-club, that has a separate entrance and serves bistro-style food.
Avalon L.A.’s biggest challenge is attracting and maintaining a desirable club crowd in a city where lounge-restaurants such as Dolce and the Falls have replaced giant, high-concept nightclubs.
Adelman has partnered with Clear Channel to book 100 acts a year in exchange for exclusive rights to the venue. (Clear Channel has a similar arrangement with the 2,200-capacity Wiltern Theater.)
Liz Phair and Hot, Hot, Heat were among the first acts to play Avalon L.A.; Rooney and Spiritualized have upcoming shows.
“In every major city there are three or four nightclubs the size of the Palace, but in L.A. there’s only one,” Lyons says.
The Gotham nightspot will not begin offering live music until late November.
The biggest challenge in N.Y. may be dealing with neighbors.
The local community board has been fighting a long battle with the club’s various owners over noise and clubgoers filling the streets.
Avalon will also have to contend with the competish.Club watchers expect a Gotham outpost of Crobar to be Avalon N.Y.’s biggest competition when it opens in Chelsea in late November on the same block as Spirit New York, a dance club, restaurant and wellness center. There are already two established branches of Crobar in Miami and Chicago.
Pearl, a new nightclub and restaurant in West Hollywood formerly inhabited by Moomba, is expected to be Avalon L.A.’s biggest rival on the circuit.
Another obstacle: Few ventures that have attempted to operate bi-coastally have succeeded.
The Knitting Factory is the most prominent nightclub brand in both cities, but the L.A. outpost has yet to establish a musical identity on par with N.Y.’s downtown scene.
Moomba, which operated in L.A. in the former Luna Park venue, abruptly shuttered its West Coast operation after less than a year of operation. And the House of Blues, with seven club venues, long ago bailed on a planned N.Y. operation.
That leaves the B.B. King Bar & Grill in Universal CityWalk and Times Square as the lone branded venue doing business — and the bulk of its patrons are tourists.
(Phil Gallo in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)