Sic transit gloria mundi.
Moomba opened in April 2001 to a star-studded crowd that included Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Hurley and Oliver Stone. That year and the next it hosted the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party, which now has become so large it needs a Pacific Design Center building and a city park to house it.
“While other hip restaurants fizzle brightly and fade away fast, Moomba (Australian aborigine for let’s get together and have fun) remains a favorite with the late-night dining crowd,” said Gayot, the restaurant review website. “With its Moombapolitan cocktail, restaurant wide tech-friendly wiring and proprietor/Moombassador Jeff Gossett, Moomba has clearly found its niche in the LA hipster scene.”
But today Moomba’s owner is on the list of the Top 500 Sales and Use Tax Delinquents, just released by the state Board of Equalization. The Equalization Board says that Gossett, Moomba’s founder, and its holding company, owe a total of $1.7 million in back taxes.
Moomba, located at 665 N. Robertson Blvd., near Santa Monica, replaced Luna Park, a restaurant that also was a bar, cabaret and rock club (and which now exists under different ownership at 672 S. La Brea Ave. near Wilshire.) It featured red walls, an outdoor patio, a nightclub space, a private space downstairs and a flood of celebrities and local scenesters at its bar. Performers included Elton John, Nelly Furtado and AirSupply.
But by 2002, Gossett had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. “We were inundated with pre-opening construction costs,” Gossett told the Los Angeles Times, “and in order to relieve the pressure and stress from the debt, we filed…We’re still here doing great things culinarily wise, and have lots of interesting entertainment. It’s always fun here at Moomba.” The fun ended in September 2001, when Moomba closed.
The Moomba space now is occupied by Haute, which for the most part is a nightclub unpopular with Yelp followers. It’s the latest in series of restaurants and lounges that have churned through the space, including Apple and Pearl.
Gossett, who got his start in the entertainment business as a doorman at hip New York clubs such as Merc Bar and Bowery Bar, launched Moomba in 1998 in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It quickly became a hip hangout, with Leonardo Di Caprio a frequent visitor to the third-floor VIP room. But that popular venue closed unexpectedly in June 2001, without notice to its investors, who included Chris Barish, the son of movie producer (and also Moomba investor) Keith Barish, director Oliver Stone, art dealer Larry Gagosian, actor Laurence Fishburne, then AOL head Bob Pittman, ketchup heir Chris Heinz and Compaq’s Ben Rosen.
Gossett left the crazy restaurant world behind him and today lives in Costa Rica, where he operates “The Sanctuary at Two Rivers,” which bills itself as the “Premiere EcoConscious Rental Property and Yoga Retreat and Teacher Training Center in Costa Rica.”