The New Night at the Roxbury

The Roxbury is back — sort of. From the late 80s to 1997, when it finally shuttered, the notorious club was one of L.A.’s toughest doors, hosting everyone from Prince to Tom Cruise to Sly Stallone. Even Geraldo partied at the Roxbury, which brings us to Will Farrell and Chris Kattan’s 1998 film, A Night At The Roxbury, a bopping-heads send-up of the club as it dissolved into a cheesy parody of itself in its waning years. Now, over a decade later, Elie Samaha, of the original partners in the club, is resurrecting The Roxbury. Near Hollywood and Vine, the new version of the storied spot sits just a few minutes’ drive east of the original location at 8225 Sunset.

“When I did Roxbury in the old days [on Sunset], I didn’t have very much money to spend. This time, twenty years later, it’s different,” says the film producer, who also co-owns several nearby nightspots.

Roxbury 2.0 is indeed different. The space’s design screams mega-club, but personal touches added throughout the space by designer Gulla Jonsdottir soften the industrial feel of the 5,000-square-foot interior. Outside, there’s a narrow, garden-like patio featuring plants and a large swing — a girl will be tasked to sit in all night long.

Faux-leather black roses cover the walls. Circular booths face a circular bar with rotating leaf-like steel structures. Purple, green, and light blue hues illuminate exposed brick walls laced with chain-link metal. Neon cursive script lines the sides of the bar (“Love Sonnet XVII” by Pablo Neruda is one), while Beatles’ lyrics adorn the insides of the plastic-and-glass tables, which are meant to be danced on. In short, not so different from when The Roxy first opened in the 80s.

Instead of “What Is Love” by Haddaway, expect to hear more current music. Giant’s Dave Dean is helping to book DJs, and he’s already landing some decent names — Erick Morillo is expected to play the club soon.

Last Friday night was a bit of the old glory days for Samaha, as a few famous faces of today made their way into the new nightspot. Britney Spears took in the scene from her mezzanine-level perch, and Paris Hilton held court nearby. Sports stars have already taken to the barely-open club. Kobe Bryant made the scene here on New Year’s Eve, and Reggie Bush was making moves last week inside the club. But it remains to be seen if the celebrities, A-list and C-list alike, who passed through the hangar-like steel doors will have the same allegiance to the new Roxbury as they did to the old.

But the celebrities, A-list and C-list alike, who passed through the large, airplane-hanger-like steel doors last week, may or may not have allegiance to the new Roxbury. Much of the star-wrangling credit falls to the partners Samaha has tapped. Louis Carreon is one of several known promoters he hired to turn the new club into a must-attend venue — at least one night a week, anyway, as the club is, for now, only open on Friday evenings. “We’re not letting in the average club kids,” says Carreon. “People will be nervous” at the door. The original Roxy was known for its discerning doorman, Eric Huerta. For Samaha, exclusivity is all part of building a new legend, even if it doesn’t last as long as the original Roxbury.

Predictably, not everyone is happy Samaha has decided to bring back The Roxbury. “It’s a kick in the teeth,” says Chris Breed, owner of nearby nightspots in Hollywood such as La Vida, and one of the original co-owners of Sunset Boulevard’s Roxbury.

“Its kind of a disappointment to me that just one partner can bring back The Roxbury, because it will never live up to the original,” he sighed. “We came in from the New York nightlife scene and we opened the Roxbury trying to bring the feel of [the city]” he continued via phone earlier this week. “There was really nothing else in town like the Roxbury back then and there is no way this new club will never live up to the original…you can’t just throw it together.”

Samaha, for his part, feels differently. “It’s a very unique club,” he says of his latest nightlife endeavor. “People can go to other clubs in Hollywood, but there is nothing like The Roxbury.”

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