The Spare Room Introduces Retro Gaming to Hollywood

Is The Spare Room the best new bar in L.A.? Quite possibly. The latest nightlife destination inside the tricked-out Roosevelt Hotel debuted to the public on Wednesday night after private holiday events last month, and it’s shaping up to be a hit in 2011. The curious mezzanine-level find is an early 20th century-inspired, gaming-themed lounge, far away from the hotel’s other bars (see the new Beacher’s Madhouse, Library Bar, Teddy’s, and the hotel’s Tropicana Bar). “It’s an upscale gaming parlor that recalls the private basement bars people like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers once had in their homes,” Thompson Hotels’ Director of Entertainment Med Abrous explained last year, regarding his latest endeavor inside the Roosevelt.

Formerly a storage space, The Spare Room’s most eye-catching design feature is likely the dual vintage wooden bowling lanes, which Thompson sourced from a collector in Texas. Wednesday night, the sight of beautiful people bowling brought smiles out of even the most jaded hipsters.

So how much does it cost to roll a branded Spare Room bowling ball down one of their lanes? Oh, only $100 an hour. However, according to Abrous, it’s really not that much if you split the cost with up to six friends.

But bowling is not the central focus of the bar. Most will come for the drinks, which are among the best in town, thanks to the team Aidan Demarest, formerly of First & Hope and The Edison, has assembled to mix at the warm, inviting bar.

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Wednesday evening, nearly everyone in attendance was won over by smart cocktails, like the Chilean Sunset (red wine, pisco, lime, pineapple, and egg whites). In that sense, The Spare Room mimics the craft cocktails that have proven to be a hit at the Library Bar.

But unlike the lobby-bar feel of the Library Bar, expect a real late night scene to develop at the Spare Room, although the best crowds don’t show up until after 11pm, when the night is in full swing. Late Wednesday night, everything seemed right inside the bar as Giorgio Moroder played in the background (Chris Holmes is the bar’s musical director) and pretty young things played classic games like dominoes and Yahtzee.

The Spare Room aspires to be the antithesis of the brash, modern bowling alleys nearby. Think pencil-scored games, dim lighting, leather couches, and smart wood tables. “We’re paying incredible attention to all the old gaming aspects,” said Abrous, who has been instrumental in keeping Teddy’s a top Hollywood draw over the past five years. “We’ve designed and manufactured our own backgammon boards.”

Links: Kristen Stewart + Robert Pattinson (Again?), Megan Fox’s Evil Sex

● Karma is a bitch and will evict your ass, which may be why Isaiah Washington is about to be kicked out of his Venice home for more than $100K in back rent. [USAToday] ● Could Kristen Stewart be such a method actress that she’s confusing her character’s love for Edward as her feelings for Robert Pattinson? [OKMag] ● Move over Angelina — Jen Aniston has found a new person to smolder over. Aniston is worried that Tina Fey is going to steal her thunder at the Emmys, as Fey’s Sarah Palin spoof trumps Aniston’s stint on 30 Rock. [Radar]

● Megan Fox says she was raised to believe “sex was evil” and anything related to nudity or sex would lead to hell. It’s safe to say she got over these issues. [HollywoodGossip] ● Is there another rehab stint in Kirsten Dunst’s future? Dunst, who’s not two years out from rehab, was seen doing the drunk walk outside Hollywood’s Tropicana bar. [Celebitchy] ● The only way we may get a Beatles movie is through their former manager Brian Epstein, whose life with the band will be made into a film. [Variety]

Industry Insiders: Med Abrous, Mile-High Mover

Thompson Hotels’ director of promotions and entertainment Med Abrous, on his once-in-a-lifetime guest performance with Prince, bringing movie night to clubs and the bright side of the bottle-service decline.

What’s the best night you’ve ever had at one of your venues? A little over a year ago, I put together some concerts in the Roosevelt Ballroom for Prince. He performed six shows for about 300 people per show. It was so intimate, and he put on such an amazing show. During the third show, I’m sitting with a group of people — the crowd was almost more famous than he was, which is really weird — and he starts playing this riff, then calls my name and says, “Yo Med! Get up here.” So I get up onstage with Prince, and he’s playing “Play that Funky Music White Boy,” and I basically sing onstage with him playing backup guitar. It was amazing. I have a picture to prove it because it sounds like such a tall tale. I think that was pretty much the highlight of my life.

Was your performance any good? You know what? I have moves. I’ve really got moves. I was even doing mic stand tricks; I was milking it. Can I sing? Not really. But I put on a show — I was very entertaining. It didn’t help that I didn’t know all the words, but he was helping me out a little bit. It was one of those things where it’s like, okay, try to top this.

How many Thompson properties are you responsible for? I’m based out in LA right now, and I take care of all the front-of-house stuff for the Tropicana Bar, Teddy’s, Above Beverley Hills, and our new property Above Allen, which I’m really excited about. I’m responsible for programming the music, hiring the DJs, hiring promoters where they’re needed, and coming up with creative ideas to drive business.

How did you get into the hotel business? While I was going to Parsons, a lot of my friends were DJs and into nightlife, so to make some extra money I started throwing parties, and I got pretty good at it. I’ve always been interested in hotels, and even though I run the bars, it’s really all-encompassing because bars can be very much one-note, while hotels are multifaceted and have a more interesting operation. Jason Pomeranc, who owns the Thompson Group, was a good friend of mine — we had some mutual friends — and he hired me to do the Tropicana Bar, then we started to do Teddy’s and … voila! Who do you admire in the industry? I think somebody who’s really done it right is Sean MacPherson. He seems to have a great sensibility and great sense of timing for all the places he’s opened. I really respect his work — he’s got a ton of places, including The Bowery Hotel, Swingers, and a great tequila bar called El Carmen in LA. They’re places that last because he makes them accessible and not too exclusive. He delivers a great product with great service and a cool aesthetic. I would definitely use his career as a model.

What’s the best part of your job? I actually enjoy the creativity behind coming up with different concepts that people would like. For instance, in the summertime at the Roosevelt’s Tropicana Bar, which is kind of an oasis inside Hollywood, on Sunday or Monday we’re going to be doing movie nights. We will have different people curate the movies, and we’re building special menus with truffle popcorn, colby hotdogs, etc. It’ll be a night when people don’t necessarily want to go out and rage, but they’ll go and see a movie in a bar. Finding different ways to find revenue is something I really enjoy. The second thing is that I actually genuinely like people. Some people in this business actually don’t, but I tend to get along with people and enjoy most of their company.

You’re a bi-coastal boy. Where do you hang out when you’re in New York? I love to eat. I’m a closet foodie, so I have some go-to restaurants whenever I come to New York. I love Frankie’s in Brooklyn on Court Street, and I’m always discovering new places like Inoteca, which I really like. Frank, I’ve been going to forever on 2nd Avenue and the Corner Bistro to get my Bistro burger on — it’s the world’s greatest burger. In terms of bars, it all depends on what neighborhood I’m in, but there are a lot of great bars on the LES (besides Above Allen, of course) like Pianos and a lot of little local joints. But having a lot of friends in the business means that I have friends who own bars, so when I’m in New York, I usually do the rounds of all my friends’ bars, like 3 Steps on 18th Street, and then the bigger, popular spots also.

And in LA? In LA, the closest bar to me is the Chateau Marmont, so I like going there — the Bar Marmont is really great. There’s also been an emergence of a lot of really cool dive bars like The Woods, El Carmen, and Bar Lubitsch that I enjoy.

Which of your bars do you spend the most time at? Teddy’s. It’s kind of like my baby. It’s something that I work really hard on and has managed to stay successful for a long time. It’s a great space. In LA, a lot of places tend to be really slick and overdesigned, but Dodd Mitchell designed this space, and it really has a lot of character. The Roosevelt is already a historical landmark, and the design really lends itself to that. It has kind of a wine cave kind of feeling — it’s dark and comfortable — and we have great staff, great service, and it’s become kind of like Cheers, where people know each other and know that there will always be a good crowd and great music. We have great DJs that we always rotate, in addition to live music, so it’s become almost an institution at this point.

What positive trends do you see in the hospitality industry? Well, it’s more of a reality and not a trend, but the state of our economy is forcing us to do things differently and more efficiently. I think it’s actually a good thing that for the first time in a long time. People are going to actually have to live within their means. People are really tightening up their belts and trying to find interesting ways to still be successful in this economy. Bottle service, for example, is starting to fizzle, which I think actually has a good effect in the long run. I remember when bottle service first started; I was talking to Steve Lewis about this earlier. I remember that Life was one of the first places that people actually didn’t have to be cool to get in … they didn’t have to be artists anymore. And all of a sudden the investment bankers and hedge fund guys could come in and buy bottles and be in an exclusive place, and I think it hurt nightlife in a huge way. Now, with those people not spending as much money, and bottle service not being as prevalent in New York especially, I think it’s coming back to cool people coming together. Artists, etc. People who didn’t necessarily have money before the crash, and can still go out. I think that’s had a positive effect on nightlife.

Where do you see yourself in the future? I think the natural progression of things is to open my own place, but I’d definitely like to be in the hospitality business. I’d love to start with a small hotel and see what happens.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to my parents’ house and having a home-cooked meal.