Industry Insiders: Tony Daly, Master of the House
After-hours house parties in the Hollywood Hills are infamous the world over, and nightlife aficionados Tony Daly and David Judaken considered just that while outlining the concept behind LA hot spot, MyHouse. Co-owner Daly talks fully-functioning ovens and bathtubs in a nightclub where soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo stops by to douse crowds with six-liter bottles of champagne.
What’s your position at MyHouse? I’m the co-owner and operating owner of MyHouse. My partner, David Judaken, previously owned a club called Garden of Eden, and I came in with him on the newly-remodeled MyHouse. I also run the other clubs our company operates, which are Crimson, Opera, and Mood. I focus my efforts on our marketing and outreach.
What was your first job in the industry? When I was 21 years old, I worked in Las Vegas for the MGM Grand, in the public relations department, and when I got out of college, I started doing promotions and marketing for Garden of Eden. Eventually I moved on to clubs — A.D., Lounge, Pearl nightclub, and I also did the opening of Avalon in L.A..
Anyone in the industry you look up to? My partner David Judaken is actually my mentor. I promoted at his club at 22 years old, and I’ve gone into partnership with him over every other nightclub owner in the city because of his work ethic and integrity. In a very dysfunctional business, to have integrity and to do everything the right way is rare; I’m trying to model myself after that. He leads by example.
What’s the concept behind MyHouse? The best parties in LA typically tend to be house parties, so we had a big space with an upstairs mezzanine and when Dodd Mitchell came in, he looked around he said, “Let’s make a house,” because that’s where the parties are. We literally tried to make a house, not just a house theme. We went as far as building a kitchen with ovens that work and we bake cookies. Our bar has a stove top, a coffee maker, and we have a sunken living room with TVs that are hooked up to DirecTV and Playstations. Our upstairs bedroom has a bathtub with skulls that shoot water, and there’s a huge king-sized bed. Every piece of furniture is original and different, not just club booths. We have movable furniture and shaggy area rugs in a nightclub, which is pretty insane. You feel like you’re in a house, so we’ve held our meetings there and we’ve done tasting for our restaurant there because we have a functional kitchen and dining room. At night, all of these areas are used for bottle service or seating elements so people feel like they’re actually partying in someone’s home.
Are themed nights a big part of the MyHouse experience? We’re trying to do Guitar Hero Tuesdays, and we’ve had an Xbox party using all the TVs, but mostly we use the game consoles for private events. We want people partying and having fun like it’s an actual nightclub so we haven’t really broken out the Wii post-10pm.
Aesthetically it’s set up like a house, but is there still a club vibe? Yeah, the DJ doesn’t even spin on a typical booth, instead he’s on a custom-designed DJ area where he puts his equipment on top of what would look like a table in someone’s house. We have areas with platforms where people can stand and dance. During the construction process, Dodd wanted to go completely “house,” but we explained that we needed things like backs on the couches because in the club environment people like to sit up on the couches. We tailored the couches so people could sit or dance on them, but they don’t look any different from the other furniture in the house.
What’s the best night you’ve had at one of your clubs? It was a Wednesday night at MyHouse, and we had Cristiano Ronaldo in. He’d just brokered his deal with Manchester United, so they purchased two six-liter bottles of Ace of Spades Champagne, which is roughly the equivalent of nine bottles of Champagne in one bottle. The crowd was going crazy and when the bottle came out, we played the Star Wars theme and Ronaldo took the bottle and sprayed the entire crowd — with a very, very, very expensive bottle of Champagne. The bottle is huge and when he’s shaking the thing, it sprays from one side of the dance floor to the other. That was a fun night, but that doesn’t happen every week. It was raining Champagne.
Notice any negative trends in the hospitality industry? One of the negative trends in LA is a saturation of nightclubs in the marketplace, which affects the longevity of a club. Whereas the Garden of Eden, for example, was around for ten years, now we’re looking to stay with top quality guests for about two years, and then you have to go into another tier of promotion. Within three or four years, you almost have to remodel your club or else you become obsolete. This happened because the city has allowed too many nightclubs and given out too many entitlements.
What are your favorite places to party and dine in L.A.? I enjoy dining at our new restaurant East, and I also like a smaller Italian restaurant called Pace, which is off the beaten path and not very Hollywood-sceney. As far as clubs go, occasionally I’ll stop by Villa, because it’s a very small club and the owner is a good friend. It’s a 90 to 100 person club so it’s a complete departure from the big club environment and you can go with a couple of friends and actually have a conversation while enjoying the energy.
What’s the scoop on the new restaurant, East? East is another partnership between Syndicate Hospitality and Dodd Mitchell, which opened on September 2, and Dodd did the design. It’s an Asian/international fusion restaurant, and we’re doing several sashimi dishes, but no traditional sushi. Our sauces will be very inventive with a Latin flavor, and we’ll also have over 40 cooked items which range from lamb, to prawns — so we have land, sea and air covered.
How do you wind down when you’re not working at one of your clubs? I wind down with poker. Occasionally I’ll go and play because it keeps your mind away from the crazy lifestyle for a bit. I work day and night and it’s almost like I have two jobs. My life is essentially in the hospitality industry, whether it’s Sunday morning or a Wednesday afternoon. You’re constantly being called or put to work, so I really don’t have any down time, but occasionally I’ll go play some poker at one of the casinos.