LOS ANGELES — Membership definitely has its privileges at Social Hollywood, which opened its grand doors earlier this month. The 27,000-square-foot space was formerly known as the Hollywood Athletic Club, the 1923 landmark playground of stars whose founding partners included Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino and Cecil B. DeMille.
The 140-seat dining room will emphasize global bites with a North African flair under the direction of restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow. In fact, many of the furnishings were found by Chodorow and New York’s Dream Hotel interior designer Mark Zeff at a defunct hotel in Morocco. Odd, yet stunning, juxtapositions in the super-size eatery include intricately carved and whitewashed Moroccan wood chairs set against a background that features shifting movie-projected animations depicting galaxies and Taj Mahal-esque space stations.
“It’s really old meets new Hollywood,” says owner/partner Melissa Richardson, daughter of former Mandalay Resort executive Bill Richardson and sister of Billy Richardson Jr., who launched the Ra nightclub at the Luxor in Las Vegas. “It still has that Art Deco, golden age feel with a dark and sexy modern twist on it.”
Fresh from working on the development, construction, and opening of the Retail Center at Mandalay Bay in Vegas with her father, Richardson accepted Chodorow’s call in March 2004 to tackle her first restaurant project. And then some. The revamp of the Athletic Club took two years.
“It’s so big that it’s almost like a luxurious entertainment venue where you can have dinner at the bar one night or relax in the game room another,” the 27-year-old Vegas native explains.
Watching Social Hollywood’s scene settle in the coming weeks will provide plenty of fodder for the tabloids as celebrities duke it out to acquire turf here. The club has an entry concept beyond velvet ropes and VIP rooms, with a strict members-only policy for access to the level two lounge, which is decked out with a pool table, plasma TVs, board games and private dining rooms. And even membership will be restricted: Only 1,000 invitations will be sent to prospective members, and each will be allowed three guests. From time to time, a member can nominate a new person. “The way we’ve planned it is so eclectic, you never know who you are going to run into up there,” explains Richardson. “You are invited to join us, instead of paying a fee to get in.”