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Like Hollywood in the rough

Special to The Times

LET’S give our regards to Broadway, because it’s never gonna be the same. And that’s a good thing.

Thanks to the new Broadway Bar, the latest confection from owner Cedd Moses and designer Ricki Kline -- key members of the team behind the nearby Golden Gopher -- downtown is finally getting its shot as a destination spot for night crawlers.

Again.

Back in the 1980s, downtown L.A. was a hub of night-life activity, with Hollywood and Eastside hipsters arriving in packs to prowl such venues as Al’s Bar, Gorky’s, the Atomic Cafe and the original incarnations of Vertigo and Stock Exchange.

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Then came the 1992 riots, and poof, the lights went out on Broadway, as they did all over L.A. -- including the now-hopping downtown Hollywood, which was DOA in the early and mid-'90s.

“Downtown is a lot like Hollywood a decade ago,” says Moses, who co-owns Broadway Bar with former New York nightclub impresario Joe Baxley. “I think some people need an alternative to the new over-hyped Hollywood scene. Our crowd isn’t drawn by seeing celebrities -- they’re not hoping to get with Paris Hilton. It’s people who want the urban vibe without any of the hassle.”

The biggest perks: front-row street parking, free venue parking and no cover charges. And just like Hollywood in, say, ’93, it’s just you and the denizens of the streets. And for whatever reason, these separate worlds don’t seem to collide too much. (Although some clubbers make a point of taking a cab when bar-hopping to the Gopher a couple of blocks away.)

Broadway Bar boasts an enormous neon sign -- the biggest we’ve seen this side of Vegas -- as a calling card for its glamorous aesthetic. Picture a supper club without the supper. The bilevel, 4,000-square-foot place glistens with opulent chandeliers and lotus flower lighting fixtures. Carpeting in a faux-Versace style gives it a faintly regal air. An upstairs balcony invites you to check out the bright lights, big city that is downtown.

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“Let’s face it, a drink’s a drink wherever you go,” Kline says. “We wanna give them an experience.”

“I feel like I’m at a bar in Paris,” says Ariel Vareassal, an art student hanging out at the bar on a recent Thursday. “The design is so inspired.”

And really, it’s exactly what a downtown bar should be like on Broadway in 2005: gorgeous, plush, spacious, a tad Gothic and buzzing with nightly activity. The venue -- in a former print shop and stationery store -- opens at 5 p.m. most evenings to serve downtown’s business class. Then comes the hip, late-night art crowd.

ITS early success is surely good news for those who’ve invested in the downtrodden gems of downtown in the hopes they’d strike real estate gold. And Broadway Bar, next door to the resplendent Orpheum Theatre and its residential lofts, and across the street from the grand Eastern Columbia building and its hot loft properties, seems to have what it takes.

“It’s glam, sexy and hot,” says Lisa Hunn, an L.A. resident seated at the club’s centerpiece -- its 50-foot circular bar -- and eyeing the guys directly across from her. “It’s interactive and voyeuristic. It makes me feel like an animal, like I want to pour tequila on myself and hang from a chandelier.”

Grrrrrr.

No doubt, part of her inspiration is the bar’s jukebox, stocked with sexy lounge and rock courtesy of DJ Senor Amor. For starters, there’s Eartha Kitt, the Buzzcocks, Mel Torme and the Ramones. Nightcaps include Tom Jones, Scott Walker and Burt Bacharach.

Much like the Gopher, which transports its guests back in time to the London Underground, Broadway Bar entices with seductive whimsy. A giant portrait of a nude goddess and a cherub adorns the downstairs bar area. Cherub candlesticks have been transformed into glowing lamps. Vintage-looking wallpaper in the upstairs lounge is a dead match for the upholstery on the sofas.

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“Whenever we think we’re going over the top,” Kline says, “we always ask ourselves, ‘What would Liberace say?’ ”

He’d say bling it on.

Heidi Siegmund Cuda can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

*

Broadway Bar

Where: 830 S. Broadway,

Los Angeles

When: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays; 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays

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Price: No cover; 21 and older

Info: (213) 614-9909


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