Industry Insiders: Christian Frizzell, Redwood’s Swashbuckler

The native Angeleno and self-made nightlife poobah shares his thoughts on downtown business, celebrity joints, and his movement into the art world.

What do you do? Well, this is a question I ask of myself a lot lately. I used to describe myself as a bean counter because of my consulting business for bars. In the cash-happy, alcohol-lubricated business, I was the checks and balances guy. Now I’ve become more of a glad-hand — a lot of meeting and greeting. People have been calling me a trendsetter, though I see myself as just having a healthy work ethic. If I have to sum myself up as one thing, it would be an ambassador of the service industry.

Besides your own Redwood Bar & Grill, where can you be found in the evenings? If I have to say one restaurant in Los Angeles, it would have to be Musso & Franks. Whether it’s some hipster investor I’m trying impress, my relatives from out of state, or a nice dinner out with my wife, it is always in the top five.

I am not a club guy. So my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. However, The Edison has the right vibe and music for me. Add the historical element and knowledgeable bartenders, and I’m satisfied with my club experience there. My favorite bar right now would be Sean MacPherson’s Bar Lubitsch. I am not a vodka person — I love scotch, scotch, scotch — but the vodka drinks I’ve had there have converted me. The vibe is pre-WWII, Parisian parlor with a flair for the Bolshevik.

Many people seem to admire MacPherson. Sean MacPherson is the person who taught me the importance of the little details without forgetting the big picture. And Keith McNally is someone whose talent is only transcended by his success.

What’s one positive trend that you see in the hospitality industry? It seems to me that franchises are out, and kitsch is in. Inspiration and creativity are two of the most attractive qualities available.

Negative trends? Celebrity-driven hotspots drive me crazy. They are never what they’re hyped up to be, and they crash and burn almost as fast as they open.

Do you think Downtown’s renaissance will continue if the economy continues to go downhill? I do. I grew up in Los Angeles, and Downtown always had a majestic quality to it. There is something about the poorest of the poor being next to some of the wealthiest of the wealthy that nurtures dynamic creativity. That’s one of the esoteric reasons I believe in Downtown’s growth. Another reason is that Los Angeles can’t grow out anymore — we have to grow up, as in height. Downtown already has the infrastructure for that.

Would LA be a better nightlife town if it had reliable public transport, or are we car people no matter what? Absolutely. More trains, cabs, and buses, and later hours too. We work hard, we play hard. We should all have access to safe, reasonable transportation.

What is something that people might not know about you? That I’m shy and don’t like crowds.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I am having a dinner meeting with my first featured artist, William Herron, for the gallery I’m opening in February 2009. The gallery will be downtown on 2nd Street and is called the “Federal Arts Project.” Willy and I are going for noodles in Little Tokyo. After that, I’m going to try and catch Mike Stinson’s set at the Redwood. Ahoy!

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