Up Here, One Drink and You Start Spinning


Thirty-five floors up, atop the Westin Bonaventure hotel, the BonaVista rotating cocktail lounge gyrates with decades-old lounge-suit glamour, like a lighthouse in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ glittering darkness. Many ignore its signal, but the faithful lovers, the unfaithful and the foreign are drawn, mixing up their evenings, sometimes their lives, in the slowest cocktail shaker in town.

“It spins faster after a few drinks,” says Cindy Chon, a regular who works nearby. In fact, manager Akhil Kapoor can alter the time of the bar’s hourly pirouette only by 10 minutes. “Some say, ‘We’re here for the trip--go faster!’ But it is not a ride in that sense,” Kapoor warns.

The more thrill-thirsty sit by the potted plants on the outer ring of chairs; those wanting a sedate ride choose the inner circle of purple-padded booths. Many brushing past the 360-degree window travel in pairs.


“All lovers like a view, don’t they?” explains a waitress.

The more view, it seems, the more love. Kapoor reports an average of six marriage proposals a week at the BonaVista. Much of his business is from couples celebrating anniversaries, “whether they got engaged or just had their first date here.”

Kapoor keeps a special silver platter for presenting engagement rings, but, he says, before the big question is asked, most men just plop the ring in a glass of champagne.

“When it gets dark,” says Kapoor, “the whole city takes a different turn, and the mood here follows. We go from being bright and open to intimate and romantic. We’re not allowed candles, but we don’t need them, we have these,” he says, gesturing at the lights flicking on in the surrounding streets and buildings.


And so the sun goes down, orange settling stickily above a layer of smog around the Hollywood Hills. In the dusk the lounge rolls on, powered below by two motors pushing the room around on tracks, like an old Sinatra record stuck on repeat.

Some couples here request anonymity or insist on using pseudonyms. “We work together. We come here to, er, unwind,” says one. “Giving our names would definitely be a bad idea.”

Sometimes the BonaVista is witness, not host, to illicit passions. Maria Hernandez, a waitress here for 15 years, recalls an embarrassing evening when customers had spectator seats to a couple having sex in an office of the Arco towers as they spun slowly by.



For all that, the staff here remain largely loyal fans of the romance of rotation. Kapoor was trained on a spinning restaurant in India, and says he has had “several experiences with revolving floors” since then.

Waitress Laura Haig has served here for 12 years, going back to when the Bonaventure was among the tallest buildings around. Now the hotel is a stumpy knuckle in a fistful of Downtown high-rises.

Part of the reason the staff stays so long is that it takes a while to get their bearings between the rotating floor and the stationary central service area. “We learn special tricks to stop us getting lost,” says Haig. “If I see the ladies’ restroom, I know to go right to the bar; if I see the men’s, I go left.”


Others are more confused.

“I am from the moon,” says Erhardt Sist. “Actually, he’s from Austria,” corrects Lulu Bryant, his American host in Los Angeles. Like Sist, many of those here tonight are from out of town, and seeing the BonaVista from a unique perspective. Johnny Oiel and Mats Fransson are here on a business trip from Sweden. “This place is so L.A. I love it!” says Oiel. “I mean, look out there--can you see the edge of the city? I don’t think so.”

Across from them, taking up a whole booth, sits the Velez family from Mexico. It’s Lylia and Francisco Velez’s third time here since discovering the place on a wedding anniversary trip 15 years ago. Now they’re back with their three children.

“Nothing has changed about this place since the first time,” says Francisco. “Well, maybe the waitresses look a bit older.”


For a moment, the Velezes pause, transfixed by the view, and the BonaVista continues its unworldly spin, high above the sleeping city. When asked if the place is stuck in the past, Lylia and Francisco confer, then look shocked. “No, no, no,” says Lylia. “It’s from the future.”