Hyde Lounge at Staples Center

In any arena, there are only two ways to truly live like royalty: down in the front row, rubbing elbows with VIPs and athletes, or up in the boxes, observing everything from a God’s-eye view. The new Hyde Lounge at Staples Center was born on the court floor but is opting for ascension.

Night-life impresario Sam Nazarian and Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG, the company that owns and operates Staples Center, were supposedly sitting court side at a Lakers game last May when they shook hands on the deal that would bring Hyde to downtown L.A.

On a recent game night, the club’s lofty ambitions were drifting into the stratosphere. If getting into the original celeb-heavy Hyde Lounge in West Hollywood rates a 10 on the difficulty meter, Hyde at Staples is an 11. At the Southwest VIP entrance, hopefuls need a ticket for the event and a wristband for the club. Once one makes it through the metal detectors and ascends in the private elevator, there’s one final hurdle: the clipboard gauntlet. That’s how it works for run-of-the-mill VIPs. There’s still another entrance for very, very important people.

L.A. is a town that demands its share of super-luxury venues, and despite his company’s reported financial woes, nobody does that better than the 34-year-old Nazarian. His company, SBE, has in recent years opened some of L.A.'s glitziest venues, including the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel, molecular gastronomy lab the Bazaar by José Andrés, high-end sushi chain Katsuya and the original Hyde Lounge. SBE reportedly spent $1.3 million transforming eight standard Staples Center box suites, with their harsh lighting and Formica counters, into a 4,000-square-foot luxury suite complete with three bars and a Wilt Chamberlain-inspired VIP lounge. Welcome to first class.

Hyde feels like a souped-up private jet teeming with high-rollers of every age and demographic. Located on Suite Level C with an impressive view of the arena floor, it’s modeled after the West Hollywood location, a club so exclusive the valets won’t park your car until they’ve verified you’re on the list. The interior at the Staples lounge is all rich brown and gold tones accented by bar tops covered in Bordeaux-colored crocodile skin and a backlighted onyx ceiling. Designed by Studio Collective, a boutique agency whose three members have a collective resumé that includes working for Frank Gehry, Dodd Mitchell, Ian Schrager and Kelly Wearstler, Hyde is like a bachelor pad for the design-conscious playboy.

“The old Hyde was very slick,” says designer Christian Schulz, 38, who worked on the space. For Hyde at Staples Center, “we went with a more artisan, crafted, handmade quality.”

Picture cocktail tables with ornate carvings created by artists in Mexico and a wooden chandelier with goblins dripping frosted globes from their fangs. The pièce de résistance is the VIP room, with a rosewood media wall, a 103-inch HD flat-screen TV and a serpentine couch that resembles a creature Kyle MacLachlan rode in “Dune.” Finishing touches include Super-8 cameras (“a play on filming your lover,” Schulz says), vintage liquor flasks and leather-bound books.

As part of its credo of “valet to valet” service, Hyde boasts an unparalleled attention to discretion and detail. There’s a reason you won’t see any pictures of Hyde with people in it -- it’s supposed to be a secretive hangout. “It’s a great oasis for anyone trying to escape the masses and be around a Hollywood-styled group,” says Angel Payne, 27, who works with design firm Spacecraft Group.

The bartender shook the MADHhattan ($16) cocktail, one of the venue’s eight signature libations, for exactly 20 seconds, just as the menu promises. And the Burning Mango ($15) with its hand-crushed jalapeños and sugared rim offered a balance of sweet and spicy flavors that would have impressed the “Top Chef” judges. The food, on the other hand, mostly runs to expensive versions of standard sports arena fare: sky-high sandwiches ($13) and nachos complete with gooey orange cheese product ($26). But Hyde isn’t about food or cocktails. It’s only marginally about sports. It’s mostly about being there.

Moments after Kobe Bryant threw an awe-inspiring three-point prayer that froze the Miami Heat, as strangers finished high-fiving and hugging each other, the black velvet curtains were drawn and Hyde seamlessly transformed into a 175-capacity nightclub. DJ Hem cranked up Jay-Z and the crowd flocked to the floor to lose itself in the controlled hedonism of the well-heeled.

Hyde Lounge at Staples Center Where: Southwest VIP entrance at Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St., L.A. Hours: Opens one hour before every Staples Center event; stays open two to three hours after event Price: Ticket to Staples Center required for entrance; no cover at Hyde. $6 to $45, food; $5 to $50, drinks Contact: For table reservations, call (323) 330-8018 or e-mail;