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Night life: Crowds flock to Downtown L.A., fears follow

On a recent Saturday night, Spring Street in downtown’s historic core was buzzing with revelry. The Falls, a recently opened lounge, was busy and street-adjacent patios at the Spring St. Bar were packed with socializing smokers. But between 6th and 7th, the four-month-old Exchange LA, a 25,000-square-foot Las Vegas-style nightclub, was an event in itself. There, more than 1,000 twentysomethings, many drawn by promoters who market to mainly Asian American communities, jammed into the onetime home of the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange.

“We usually go to Hollywood but this place feels more urban,” said Web designer Chris Kawahito, who drove in with friends from Rowland Heights and endured a line 400-deep to even get near the clipboard-wielding door minder.


FOR THE RECORD:
Downtown clubs: The Night Life article in the Sept. 17 Calendar section about downtown clubs gave the wrong first name for the co-manager of Exchange LA. He is Roman Sanchez, not Roger. —


The outreach by Exchange LA’s managers, which also has included joint events with Loyola Marymount law school, USC’s School of Pharmacy, Outfest and Mindshare Los Angeles, is aimed at making the club a weekend destination for suburban night owls and far-flung college students. And though that may be necessary to keep such a large and expensive venue financially afloat (the club has had three sets of operators in less than two years), it also threatens to dramatically change the neighborhood vibe of the so-called bank district.

With two new nightspots set to open on the same block over the next few months, including a swank sub-level lounge dubbed the Vault, some loft-dwelling neighbors not used to the schizophrenic split between barely bustling weeknights and suddenly booming weekends fear the street will gradually match the traffic-clogged Cahuenga crawl of Hollywood.

“A lot of nights there it looks like the Westside, and that’s not why we moved down here,” said Rita D’Albert, who shares a loft on the block with her boyfriend.

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“Everyone’s here now … we don’t like to go to places with lines out the door and avoid the Hollywood crowd,” said Lianna Morgado, 33, who lives nearby. Morgado was nursing a beer at Spring St. Bar with her boyfriend on a Saturday evening. She said even some of the smaller places are now filled on weekends with free-spending USC students seeking an edgier night out.

“People are tired of Hollywood,” said Exchange LA’s co-managing partner Camill Sayadeh on a recent Saturday, as a popular pop-leaning rap song played in the background. “We’re bringing in new people to downtown’s historic core and reintroducing people to Spring Street.” He and co-manager Roger Sanchez said they are balancing the demands of running a big club amid continued economic uncertainty with the sensitivities of nearby residents who might like the status quo.

“It’s tough,” he said, before noting that “we have more people in the neighborhood that like us than dislike us.

“We’re excited and happy when we see things happening in the area, because that just means more people are coming to the neighborhood. This venue commands good people, our neighbors command good people, and we’re friendly with everyone.

“It costs us thousands per night [in staffing and other ancillary costs] just to be open,” added Sayadeh."I have to have over 500 people here [to make money] and [customers from] the community alone cannot support us.” The club owners also spent $5 million recently to upgrade the space with state-of-the art sound and lighting and to ensure that everything was up to code.

Business owners too appreciate the “halo effect” of Exchange LA’s crowd. “We’re an ecosystem,” Sayadeh said, noting that he has the support of late night eateries in the area, and, of course, parking lot owners.

To be sure, not all residents are unhappy with the larger weekend crowds.

“It’s like the bridge and tunnel crowd in Manhattan … what can you do?” said Todd Gibbs, who lives in a loft near Exchange LA and has no problem with the venue.

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“Five years ago, this was a place to avoid, but now there are more and more things to do here at night. I’m happy with the way that [the bank district] is growing and I hope that it doesn’t turn into a singular scene, like Silver Lake. That’s what’s so great about here — it’s not just indie hipsters.”

calendar@latimes.com

Spring St.

Where: 626-B S. Spring St.

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When: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

Contact:

Exchange LA

Where: 618 S. Spring St.

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When: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Contact: (213) 627-8070;

The Falls

Where: 626 S. Spring St.

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When: 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Contact: (213) 612-0072


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