People who call themselves serious imbibers are probably regulars somewhere. You walk in, the staff calls you by your first name and your drink of choice is already sitting at the bar waiting. In Los Angeles, as is the case with many food- and drink-centric cities, you can either be a real regular or find a way to buy your way into the culinary inner circle. And at some restaurants, you can buy a private liquor or wine locker, which guarantees you everything from a table when you walk in to access to private parties. At one sushi bar, frequent visits can earn you special service — and a prized pair of designer chopsticks.
The following are some bars and restaurants offering patrons the chance to be regulars. Get ready for some serious bragging rights.
At Seven Grand's 16-seat whiskey lounge, purchasing a bottle of whiskey entitles you to store that bottle in one of the restaurant's whiskey lockers. See a waiting list when you come in? You can jump the list. You can also make a reservation for before 10 p.m. And the locker comes with cart service, including glassware and an eyedropper full of spring water. You're automatically added to the Seven Grand Whiskey Society, which includes invitations to more than 30 events a year featuring distillers and brand ambassadors. And on the patio, cigars. According to Seven Grand General Manager Andrew Abrahamson, the private locker concept started with room for 42 bottles but has grown to include room for more than 300.
515 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 614-0736, http://www.sevengrandbars.com
Tal Ronnen's vegan restaurant has 30 private liquor lockers, but they're not for sale. When the restaurant opened in 2013, the lockers were given to investors, friends and family. From time to time, Ronnen says, he gives a locker to a special guest, but they've never been for sale. If you want to earn one, you'll have to become one of those special guests. Vegan cheese anyone?
8284 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 782-9245, http://www.crossroadskitchen.com
Kura Fine Japanese Cuisine
Near the sushi bar, there's a bookshelf with more than 100 thin, rectangular, colorful plastic boxes full of chopsticks. Each has its own black-and-white label with a regular's name printed on the front. You cannot buy a box or simply come in once a week to earn your own set. Daniel Son, who is the head chef and owns the restaurant with his parents, Michelle and Sunny, his brother Samuel and his sister Annie, says he and his family have meetings to decide who'll get the next pair of chopsticks. The chopsticks are purchased at a Japanese store in Little Tokyo, and each features a different design.
8162 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 656-6347, http://www.kura-sushi.com
Every location of Morton's the Steakhouse has a selection of wine lockers for its VIP clients. In Burbank, there are 68, in downtown L.A., 32. To get one, there isn't a fee, there's an application — and a waiting list. Locker owners in California (there are Morton's in many states) buy wines from the restaurant at a 10% discount, and outside your locker will be a gold plaque with your name on it. If you're a VIP and you want a locker, but there are none available, Morton's will store your bottle in a locked wine room as a sort of virtual wine locker service.
735 S. Figueroa St., No. 207, Los Angeles; (213) 553-4566, http://www.mortons.com/losangeles
At this West Hollywood cocktail lounge, there are 28 liquor lockers for owners, key suppliers and VIPs, but the remaining 50 are for sale. If you want one — and membership to the lounge's Fifty50 club for frequent fliers — it will cost you $600 a year. With that membership comes a free first bottle, a 50% discount on all other bottles, a key chain, priority entry on weekends and invitations to members-only parties. The bar staff has already noted a couple of odd member requests. One Australian customer requested that the bar keep Bundaberg rum in his locker. (It's not sold in the U.S., so the bar is looking for a way to get it.) Another customer requested a bottle of "three penis liquor" made with seal, deer and dog genitalia.
7746 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 848-8447, http://www.nowboardingla.com
Steak & Whisky
Scott Young, director of operations, says that when building the restaurant, the owners decided to turn a little extra space into 10 liquor lockers. For Young, it was a way to recognize a small but loyal community of patrons. The restaurant has been open for only a couple of months, and they've already sold four of the 10. To lease a locker for a year, it's $500, plus $500 worth of products from the restaurant, with a 40% discount. And when the restaurant receives rare whiskeys, such as a hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle, Young says he offers them to the locker holders first. Currently, his favorite available whiskeys include a Nikka Coffey still grain whiskey and an Orphan Barrel project called Barterhouse.
117 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; (310) 318-5555, http://www.steakandwhisky.com
What to store in your private locker:
Lagavulin Islay single-malt Scotch whisky, 16 years old at Bar Jackalope
If you can snag a bottle of the 21-year-old, you'd better lock it away. But the 16-year-old will do just fine, and it happens to be on the menu at Bar Jackalope. $86
Blanton's The Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey at Bar Jackalope
The beautiful bottle is reason enough to covet this bourbon. But then you open it, and those first hints of caramel, cinnamon and vanilla will have you swooning. $100
Nikka Coffey grain whiskey at Steak & Whisky
This is not the inexpensive stuff used to round out a blend — it's soft and light, with a honey nose and tropical fruit finish. Try it with soda to really bring out the fruit and mint flavors. $70