Betting the time is ripe
What happens when a quixotic promoter and self-proclaimed party girl from New York gets her own celebrity playhouse? West Hollywood is about to find out.
On Thursday night local night-life fixture Allison Melnick was scheduled to debut her first bar, Apple Lounge; a celeb-heavy crowd was expected at the location, which used to be Pearl on Robertson Boulevard. Melnick hired her friend Samantha Ronson to DJ, and a red carpet was set up outside what owners (including silent partners) hope will be a nightlife mecca come fall (665 N. Robertson has been split into three separate destinations, chef Bryan Ogden’s Apple restaurant, Melnick’s Apple lounge and a forthcoming Pussycat Dolls venue).
New York native Melnick, who’s known for being the life of the party, naturally had to debut her slice of “apple” first -- despite the fact the club won’t officially open until after Labor Day.
Apple Lounge is tiny (around 150 capacity) and the dark basement lounge with low ceilings and glowing red hues may not match Melnick’s dreamy visions of an expansive club that is “very New York.” But if anyone has a chance of re-creating an early 1990s downtown Manhattan vibe in the middle of West Hollywood in 2008, it’s Melnick.
The Queens-born, Long Island-raised promoter (and self-promoter) certainly has a knack for being at the right place at the right time. “I started out as a door girl in 1988 at a club around the corner from the Limelight,” the 37-year-old says. “Then came the Palladium and the Ritz.” Melnick eventually ended up working Monday nights at Lot 61, the hottest scene in NYC circa 2000.
Melnick has had a slightly spottier record since moving west in 2002. As a promoter, she worked for several Hollywood clubs, most notably at Nacional and Mood.
Her feisty reputation landed her a part in a short-lived 2004 Spike TV reality show about a Vegas nightspot (Ice, now closed) called “The Club.” “I had no idea what their plans were,” she says of the show, which she claims portrayed her poorly. “That was the worst experience of my life.”
It certainly didn’t hurt her career. She continued working for SBE’s Brent Bolthouse back in L.A., most recently doing S Bar’s Wednesday nights.
Her ultimate goal, however, was to open up her own venue. “This has been my dream for 20 years,” she said. “This is what I do best.” And she certainly has at least some star-drawing power. Just ask friends like Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan.
Not everyone, however, thinks Melnick has the business acumen to keep Apple Lounge hot in a highly competitive neighborhood. “She wants to be a celebrity herself,” says US Weekly editor Ian Drew. “She’s like a moth to a flame.”
But Melnick knows that having celebrities show up to the club, much less being one, will only get you so far in star-soaked Los Angeles. “The scene is saturated,” she says.
That’s why she’s taking a cautious approach, a la the One Group’s still-hot restaurant lounge Coco de Ville. “We are only going to be open three nights a week,” she says: Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Hoping to protect herself even further, Melnick is reaching out to West Hollywood’s sizable gay community in an effort to keep the scene fresh.
“I have a big gay following,” she claims, though quickly adding, “I’m not here to go up against the other gay clubs, I just want to bring something new to the table.”
It remains to be seen what precisely Melnick will offer that’s markedly different from other late-night area hangs such as Villa or Foxtail.
But Melnick seems content to run things her own way for now. “They can call me names all they want,” she says of aspiring club crashers who may very well end up on the wrong side of the velvet rope. “If they are chic enough, they’ll find their way inside,” she insists. “I’m not here to compete, I’m here to prove.”
Where: 665 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood
When: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. beginning in September.
Prices: No cover, but often guest-list only.
Info: (310) 358-9191; www.apple restaurantlounge.com.
For a list of the best spa treatments in and around L.A. as well as a full rundown of this weekend’s top events, go to theguide.latimes.com.