Trouble on the Strip? Key Club closes, hopes to reopen soon
President Keith Pressman says the venue, which plans to add a new partner, could reopen by February even as the live-music market in Hollywood and the Strip continues to struggle.
Quietly on Sunday night, West Hollywood's Key Club locked its doors. The venue previously had cleared its December calendar, having told bookers and artists to take their shows elsewhere.
After the shuttering of Hollywood's Knitting Factory in October, the closure of the Key Club would seem to raise questions about the strength of the live-music market in Hollywood and on the Sunset Strip, but Key Club President Keith Pressman stresses that the move is for the short-term.
"As far as everyone is concerned we're dead and buried, but this is just a temporary thing," he said.
He said the club has closed to make way for a new partner and renovations. It could be operating at full capacity again as early as February.
Yet even if the Key Club, which opened in 1996 as Billboard Live, is able to bounce back, other venues continue to struggle -- most owners and promoters say the downturn is largely because of the economic climate, but increased competition on the nightlife scene is also a factor.
Nic Adler, who runs the Roxy, said business in 2009 has been "worse than you can imagine." Mario Maglieri, longtime owner of the Whisky a Go-Go and the hard rock restaurant the Rainbow Room, said the Whisky "is not making any money, but we're surviving." He added that business at the Rainbow is down 50% this year.
Jordan Goldstein, who runs local metal promoter Church of the 8th Day with partner Daniel Dismal, had December shows booked at the Key Club.
"Show attendance, I would say, is almost about cut in half as of right now, compared to two years ago," Goldstein said. "These last few months, we have really been seeing it. People just don't have the money."
Adler said attendance has been steady at the Roxy, though guests are spending less money. Over the last few weeks, however, he said business has slightly picked up.
Strong competition from venues in other parts of L.A. has made it difficult for clubs on Sunset, he said, though he's optimistic that restaurant openings and the planned addition of the exclusive Soho House to the area will make it a more attractive destination.
"The Eastside is a strong market," Adler said, referencing Silver Lake and Echo Park. "Their community really participates. The artists live there. The clubs are down the street, and people don't have to worry about parking. Our community in West Hollywood moved out. We've been battling that."
Pressman said he can't offer details as to how the Key Club might change with a new operating partner. Live music, he said, will remain a constant, but some question if it can continue to be the primary focus.
"In the '80s, we were the only place to go. There was Venice Beach and the Sunset Strip," Adler said. "Today, there are 18 major shows on any given night."
Photo: Wale performs at the Key Club in early 2009. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times