Memorial Day Weekend in the City of Angels

imageThey say it’s officially summer when Memorial Day rolls around. Here in Los Angeles, it’s just another weekend when it’s hot and sunny — but with more things to do. Here are a few suggestions.

While L.A. is not really known as a coffee town, there are a few — very precious few — coffeehouses that inspire an obsessive devotion. One of them is Intelligentsia coffee which, up to this point, has only been on the Far East side. Good news for lazy people who don’t like to drive far to get their yummylicious coffee: they are opening in Venice, on Abbot Kinney Boulevard (where else?) and are having a big old party to celebrate, tonight. Starting at 8 p.m., you can get your greedy fingers on free coffee, beer, wine, and Wurstkuche sausages while you listen to the beats of Peanut Butter Wolf.

On Sunday and Monday, indulge in soulful beats at the 2009 Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA. Thrown by the student body at UCLA, the two-day all day (12 to 7 p.m.) event features some big names, including: Erykah Badu, De La Soul, Pangea Collective, Mavado, Peetah and Mojo Morgan, Cherine Anderson, and more.

Musicheads can get more beats from Garth Trinidad on Sunday night at Zanzibar; or from San Francisco DJ Mark Farina and Raul Campos at the Custom Hotel on Saturday night. Techno fans can see Deadmau5 in all his weird glory at the Hollywood Palladium on Friday.

Like any self-respecting city, there are tons of daytime festivals throughout the weekend, but a local fave is the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival. The second-largest city fest in the U.S., the Garden Grove culminates in a giant cake-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. on Friday, when 1000-plus people get a piece of the pie.

Weather permitting — and the weather is nearly always permitting in Los Angeles — drinking and eating outside is a must, at least for one day of the three-day weekend. Caroline on Crack recommends the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, with which I wholeheartedly agree — since it’s (a) about a mile from my house and (b) very chic and South Beach-esque. They’ve got “Summer Fridays” and “Taste of Tuesdays,” which are very checkbook-friendly. $2 cocktails on Fridays with fried chicken and sliders also on offer at the Cameo poolside patio, for the longest happy hour in the universe — from 2 to 6 p.m.

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Industry Insiders: Avi Brosh, Hip Hotelier

Having made a name for himself as a developer, Avi Brosh found a hole to fill in hospitality, responding with his hyper-cool West Hollywood hotel Palihouse and succeeding where none had before in making LAX-adjacent Westchester hop with his Custom Hotel. This creative spirit expands on his years of hard work, present trials and travels, and dreams for the future.

Where do you hang out? I go to The Hall Courtyard Brasserie at Palihouse Holloway. It has the absolute best vibe and crowd in LA. I also love the street Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, where there are several great neighborhood restaurants and bars I go to frequently. I’m in New York at least five to ten days a month, and every time I’m there I always seem to manage my way, at some point, to this gorgeous little bar in Tribeca called Smith & Mills. I love that place, but they only take cash — which I pretty much never have on me — so I’m always bumming drinks from whomever I’m there with.

Who in your business do you admire? I vividly remember walking into the lobby of the Paramount Hotel in New York City in 1990 and my jaw literally dropping. I’d never seen a place — not to mention a hotel — like that before. The early Philippe Starck-Ian Schrager collaborations completely changed the hotel landscape, so I have a very high regard for them for doing that. In addition, I would add that I have a tremendous amount of respect for just about anyone who has the courage, audacity, and wherewithal to actually develop unique buildings and/or open independent hotels, because I know firsthand how unbelievably difficult that is to do.

What do you like in the hospitality industry these days? Authenticity is the positive trend for just about everything relating to travel and lodging. When people travel these days, they want to see people just as much as they want to see places. At the core of this attitude is a desire to stylishly — and cost-effectively — experience destinations all that much more authentically through the eyes of a local.

Anything you dislike? I think the whole notion of gigantic, corporate hotel companies and chains trying to manufacture cool, boutique, sub-brands is kind of bogus. It’s the complete opposite of the notion of authentic.

What don’t we know about you? People who don’t know me seem to have this perception that, as a fairly well-known developer and now hotelier, I might be loud or flashy, but I’m actually rather reserved and private.

Your hotels always have good music in the air. What is your all-time favorite album? I’m into bands like Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Yelle, and LCD Soundsystem. If I had to single out one all-time favorite album, I’d have to pick My Aim is True by Elvis Costello. In terms of sense of style in music, I think Pharell Williams is by far the coolest.

What do your future plans involve? To make it through this nasty recession as unscathed as possible. We currently have projects in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New York City. My number-one focus is to continue to carefully and stylishly grow the “by Palisades” residential brands and the Palihouse and Palihouse spin-off hospitality brands in the best locations in the best cities in the United States and Canada, and then around the world.