Business Briefs: Bringing Back Boystown?

An LGBTQ-focused space where Café d'Etoile once was, and a plethora of new restaurants.
The now-closed Café d’Etoile, flanked by Kock Dogs and Bumsan Organic Ice Cream.

The restaurant space that was Cafe d’Etoile for more than 30 years, and the smaller retail location next door that has been many things, but was most recently Bumsan Organic Ice Cream, will be merged together to become a

new bar/restaurant. It will be “focused on LGBTQ, though everyone will be welcome,” said co-owner of the property, Joanne Nathan.

“We are trying to bring back Boystown,” Nathan added.

Who’s we? “It is a collaboration of people,” Nathan said, referring to suggestions from several people including Tom Doherty, the former owner of Café d’Etoile, who is a close friend. Nathan clarified that Doherty will not be a partner in the venture.

Lots of business people approached Nathan for the space including representatives of reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump, owner of Sur, Tom Tom Club, and PUMP, as well as David Cooley of The Abbey and The Chapel.

But Nathan was choosy as to who would get to rent her valuable real estate at 8941 and 8941 1/2 Santa Monica Blvd. She liked Doherty’s “outlook” and got a good feeling about the idea for the new business.

“My family has had the property for many years,” Nathan said. She and her collaborators want to create a “home away from home” and are purposely going retro, some might say against the overall consumer trends throughout the area.

Many businesses in West Hollywood are now patronized by a so-called “mixed crowd,” where LGBTQ and straight people eat, drink, dance and socialize together. For Nathan and Doherty it sounds like preserving an era when many gays and lesbians worked hard to create specific and clearly defined destinations is important.

Nathan said $1.5 million is scheduled to be spent on construction and that permitting has only begun. Therefore, no clear opening date yet.

Kock Dog Loses Its Bun

Kock Dog, the self-christened “gourmet hot dog” place at 8943 Santa Monica Blvd., has closed after less than a year in business, said owner Aria Ahdoot. Within a couple of weeks, however, it will be transformed into X Bar and Grill.

What can you expect? Ahdoot said that after city inspections take place, the exterior of the restaurant will go from pink to green and his menu will offer a lot more than hot dogs.

X Bar and Grill will serve kababs, burgers, vegan options and, of course, will “still keep hot dogs.” But even more change is forthcoming, Ahdoot said with excitement, though he wouldn’t talk about what that meant for his menu just yet.

In addition, Kock Dog’s “stadium seating will become nicer seating” and the restaurant will have “a more gentle look.” Diners can still expect fast-casual ordering at the counter, but table cloths will soon cover the tables.

Why the change? Kock Dog, despite its name, did not draw the clientele Ahdoot sought. He acknowledged, however, that due to its proximity to bars in the area, a lot of “drunk people” would come in. Sounds like it’s time to sober up.

Asked why he chose West Hollywood to start a business, Ahdoot replied, “It’s a busy place, hip. Good for business. You know what I mean?”

Ahdoot is also the owner of Diamond Trading Company in Beverly Hills.

Despite Huge Rent Increase, Gym Bar Still Working Out

Co-owner and general manager Hunter Haliniak acknowledged that there has been some confusion in the community as to whether Gym Bar at 8737 Santa Monica Blvd. was staying or going. Yet he exuded relief and happiness upon confirming that the gay sports bar with a neighborhood vibe had signed a new five-year lease on Oct. 1.

But it came at a price.

Haliniak, who has been with Gym Bar for most of its 10 years, said its rent went up nearly 50%. Now the question is, what will Gym Bar’s rent will be in late 2024 when this lease expires?

Haliniak proudly showed me the sidewalk patio he worked hard to expand last year. It basically doubled the bar’s outdoor space and is the main reason business has increased.

“When we first opened, this patio was closed off,” Haliniak said. That meant patrons could only enter through the back of the bar, off the street. Now, on any day of the week, but particularly during big televised games, a casual tailgate party-like atmosphere welcomes customers directly from the sidewalk.

Haliniak feels he has “a special place.” “It’s a local bar. It’s a community bar.” And it’s also a sports bar. “We got a playoff game happening in about an hour, an NFL football game happening. Should get pretty busy.”

Bossa Nova’s Groove Will Play Through 2020

Hamburger Haven at the corner of Santa Monica and North Robertson Boulevards closed on Christmas Day. And questions have popped up as to the fate of Bossa Nova, just on the other side of the burger joint’s small parking lot. (WEHOville reported on the fate of both restaurants on Dec. 3, 2019.)

Well, it sounds like locals and visitors alike will still be able to patronize the West Hollywood location of the Brazilian-inspired chain with three additional L.A. locations.

An employee at the West Hollywood restaurant who prefers to remain anonymous told me they are expected to remain at 685 N. Robertson Blvd. through 2020. After that, who knows?

Bossa Nova corporate did not respond to my efforts to obtain an official comment.

The interior at Olivetta

A “More Is More” Approach to Dining

The culinary-focused website Eater LA has reported that the former Au Fudge space at 9010 Melrose Ave. has re-opened as the 150-seat upscale restaurant Olivetta.

Eater LA describes Olivetta as the newest addition to “Restaurant Row,” realized by attractive 30-something power couple Matt and Marissa Hermer. The executive chef is Michael Fiorelli.

A sort of “1001 Arabian Nights” meets Parisian bistro kind of place, the interior features ceilings cloaked in beige, draping fabric, and multiple works of eclectic modern art – everything from strong, colorful graphics to simple leaf and flower prints.

Gorgeously produced photos online beckon the one percent, celebs and wannabes, much as Craig’s one block away has done for years. Then there’s Cecconi’s and Sur only half a block beyond that.

A quick perusal of their menu online reveals small plates from $11 to $23, vegetable dishes averaging about $15 each, pasta for around $25, fish entrees starting at $38, meat dishes from $27 to $55, and special selections just for two beginning at $68. And there’s the ounce of caviar for $245, which comes with an English muffin.

Olivetta is open seven nights per week and, oh, they are hiring .

New Fish in Town

Chris Kim was a sushi chef in San Francisco for 25 years and he always dreamt of having his own business. Now he does.

Sachi Sushi at 8730 Santa Monica Blvd., the same location as the former Nori Sushi, had its grand opening on Jan. 8 after a soft launch most of the week prior.

Kim also renovated the space during the past six weeks. I noticed the newly outfitted and serene blond wood walls facing me as Kim and I talked.

Kim said that what makes his restaurant unique is that all the sushi he serves is marinated “white fish.”

Marinated in what? “Everything is a house marinade…ginger marinade,” he said.

I saw slices of salmon in his refrigerated glass fish display. “Are salmon white fish?” I asked.

“We have three different salmon,” Kim said, “including Scottish salmon and ocean trout.” Apparently that’s a yes.

Kim is financing Sachi Sushi himself and has not taken out loans or relied upon friends or family to start his business.

As for marketing and getting the word out, “I just want to go slowly,” Kim said. “Step by step…it’s better.”

Sachi Sushi is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., then again for dinner from 5 p.m.

A Pair of Grand Openings: Ice Cream and Fitness

Paradis

Refusing to let Salt & Straw snag all the dollars of those with a sweet tooth for frozen sugared cream in a variety of flavors, Paradis has come to West Hollywood.

Situated in the gray two-story strip mall at 7901 Santa Monica Blvd. at Fairfax Avenue, the Danish shop will host its official grand opening on Jan. 25 from noon to 3 p.m. Attendees will receive two free scoops.

According to a press release, Paradis is inspired by Italian gelato and “that tradition of freshly-made soft ice cream.” The company makes its product daily using “locally sourced milk.” Fresh fruit sorbets and vegan alternatives are also available.

“Each day we offer up to 16 flavors that are regularly rotated from our constantly evolving recipe book of over 100 flavors.”

Starting in Denmark in 2000, and in California in 2009, Paradis now boasts 58 franchised locations.

F45, another new fitness studio, held its grand opening on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 745 N. San Vicente Blvd. Its website does not list the cost of a membership, saying each location is individually owned and, therefore, pricing varies.

But if you’re curious what an F45 workout entails, its FAQ page states: “Each class is a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout…We offer three cardio and two resistance days with one super circuit that has both resistance and cardio.”

Two New Melrose Retail Spaces Coming Soon

The building housing Louis Stern Fine Arts at 9002 Melrose Avenue and North Almont Street has been redeveloped to welcome two new lessors.

According to signage on the Almont side of the building, a lease has been signed for one space, with the deal arranged by Jay Luchs of Newmark Knight Frank. Luchs is perhaps the most well-known commercial real estate broker in West Hollywood.

The lease on the other space appears to have been represented by Andrew Turf and Jonathan Schley of CBRE.

Both signs have the word “leased” in all capital letters plastered across them. Stay tuned for information on the tenants.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that Tom Doherty, former owner of Café d’Etoile, would be a partner in the new use of the spaces that once housed that restaurant and Bumsan Organic Ice Cream. In fact, while Doherty suggested that the space be used as an LGBT community destination, he is not partnering in its use. The story has been corrected.

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Burt Carroll
Burt Carroll
9 months ago

I sure hope the foods much better in the new location then cafe d’etoile. The food was horrible there.

MFB
MFB
9 months ago
Reply to  Burt Carroll

You say the food was horrible, yet many many more people enjoyed dining there.

Johnjx on Hancock
Johnjx on Hancock
9 months ago

Thanks for this great article. Very helpful to those of us who walk by these establishments every day and care about our remarkable village. It’s nice to see a landlord who cares about the community as compared to, say, the landlords of Gym bar who appear ruthless and uncaring with escalating rents, frequent turnover and empty storefronts.

Wesley M
Wesley M
9 months ago

Thanks for this article. It’s good to finally see something about the business “comings and goings”. What’s going on with Rounderbuns? It looks like it’s finally going out of business. How did it last this long?

Any update on Bottega Louie? Must be more to the story than was earlier reported.

Michael Jortner
9 months ago
Reply to  Wesley M

So glad you are enjoying the column, Wesley, and thanks for your questions!

Michael LaBarbera
Michael LaBarbera
9 months ago

Gratitude and blessings to any business owner who wants to restore Boystown to it’s LGBTQ purpose and stop trying to make it “East Beverly Hills” for all the straight tourists.

JBF
JBF
9 months ago

So, so thrilled that Tom Doherty is involved in bringing back a “home away from home” type place to his former space AND making it bigger by combining with the space next door! Best news to start the new year! Fingers crossed!!! (we have enough bars/clubs with velvet ropes…we need a neighborhood hangout where you can go have a drink and a good decent inexpensive meal multiple times a week!!- no one is doing that!) Yay!!!!!!!

Wehogigio
Wehogigio
9 months ago

I hope this new restaurant will actually be a restaurant. Not the bait and switch that became Club Rocco’s.

JF1
JF1
9 months ago
Reply to  Wehogigio

Yes!! Roccos did a real bait and switch.

Josh
Josh
8 months ago
Reply to  Wehogigio

I love Roccos!

Fun in 2020!
Fun in 2020!
9 months ago

This seems so retro. It’s like John Duran continuing to bring up the “Boys Town” issue at every City Council meeting. He’s a 60-year-old man that is waving at a parade that long passed him by. There were many restaurants during the 1980s that were dedicated to gay man. Numbers was one. The food was similar to D’toile which was the last hanger on of its kind until last year. There was a very upscale Mexican restaurant, gay, just east of the French Quarter. It’s gone like “boys town.” You go to a restaurant for the food, perhaps the atmosphere.… Read more »

Steve
Steve
9 months ago

This is a great column. Thank you for keeping us updated.

Michael Jortner
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Thank you Steve. It’s great to hear this!

Art
Art
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Agreed!

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
9 months ago
Reply to  Art

Ditto! Great column.

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
9 months ago

I’ve always said that those who were constantly mourning the demise of “Boystown” were a little premature in their grief. Even as new gay oriented businesses are opening, more are planned. Likely some new places not necessarily intended for gay clientele will become so anyway, given that West Hollywood’s population is 40+% gay & they have to go somewhere. That’s not counting the multitudes of gay men who come to West Hollywood to dine & play. The area is unique & has a special excitement & energy that make people feel good about being there. I’m grateful to those who… Read more »

Michael Jortner
9 months ago

Thanks Woody for sharing your perspective. WeHo is a rich and varied place and one where many types of people can enjoy themselves.

JJ5
JJ5
9 months ago

the thing is…straight people no longer care whether a place is straight or gay and there is no stigma or fear of being “caught” in a gay establishment. So they will come. Whatever opens will be mixed. There are really no more segregated spaces.

Steve
Steve
9 months ago

It’s a good point that the 40-plus gay men (and women!) living in West Hollywood do need a place, other than a bar, to congregate. Time and again, new “restaurants” (e.g. Rocco’s, Beaches, Eleven) come along that throw their kitchens under the bus. I have no doubt that someone will get it right, open a hip mid-priced restaurant/bar and finally serve this population well. My fingers are crossed this is a step in that direction (which Bottega Louie could also be if it ever opens).

MDB
MDB
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Yes!