West Hollywood's House of Blues isn't going anywhere -- for now
A proposed hotel/condominium project has cast some doubt over the future of West Hollywood's House of Blues outpost, but operators of the Live Nation-owned Sunset Strip club intend to stay in the neighborhood. If a wrecking ball ultimately hits the 1,000-capacity venue, don't expect it to strike in the near future. The club has a lease until 2012, and any demolition would not occur until the potentially lengthy process of securing financing and permits has been completed.
The West Hollywood City Council voted 4-1 this week in favor of moving forward on the development of a project dubbed "Sunset Time," which, according to a release from the city, will include a "boutique hotel, condominium units, a live entertainment venue and other commercial uses." The House of Blues has an option to renew its lease in 2012 for an additional 13 years, until 2025.
Reached by phone, House of Blues general manager Marcus Nicolaidis read the company's official statement: "We have a lease, which with renewals rights, goes through 2025, and we plan on continuing our operations at the venue and look forward to being a continued part of the West Hollywood community."
A news release from the city of West Hollywood indicates that the House of Blues could still be a part of the planned development, which is to include 149 hotel rooms and 40 condos. "The City’s hope is to either retain the House of Blues at its current location or another location within the City of West Hollywood," reads the statement.
The Sunset Strip has of late been attempting to rebrand itself as a music destination. Since the decline in popularity of L.A.'s metal scene in the late '80s, the Strip has been seen more as a tourist stop rather than a place for up-and-coming bands, which have migrated to clubs in Silver Lake and Echo Park.
"I personally don’t think the House of Blues is going anywhere. We have spent the last four or five years finding ourselves and getting our music scene back on track," said Roxy owner Nic Adler, the man leading the charge in changing the Strip's reputation.
Adler has been working to foster a sense of community between clubs and helped create the Sunset Strip Music Festival, which just celebrated its third year with performances by the Smashing Pumpkins, Common and Kid Cudi, among others. Adler describes the House of Blues as a "cornerstone" of the West Hollywood's music scene, and said the local "business community understands its relevance."
"If we were all hotels, we’d have a lot of hotel beds but nowhere for people to go," Adler said. "We always need to make sure we balance the entertainment options and music options. We need some new stuff on the Strip. We have an amazing history, but we need to constantly reintroduce people to the Strip. We need some different projects up here that will draw people. But that [space] is contingent on having a music venue space in it."
The city's approval of the project allows for construction to begin anytime in the next 10 years. "The property owner may now seek financing and begin to explore operators for the property," continued the statement from the city. "No demolition of existing buildings will occur until construction financing is secure and building permits have been issued, a process that is estimated to take at least one year and potentially longer."
Nicolaidis refused to comment beyond reading the statement from the House of Blues, but Adler is adamant that the House of Blues isn't leaving the Strip, which recently underwent a cosmetic face-lift. But if the House of Blues' days are indeed numbered, indications are that it won't go down without a fight.
"If that project does go through, there has to be a significant music/entertainment portion," Adler said. "It’s not easy just to start a new place and put new music in. To replace something as iconic as the House of Blues would be a feat. I know council wants to show that they are pro new business to the Strip, I also know they know the value of House of Blues.
"If it’s not the House of Blues or better," Adler continued, "and if it’s not something that is a real music venue, I don’t think it’s going to have the support of the business community. We need to be adding and enhancing to the music of the Strip right now and not taking venues away."
Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times