Legendary Rolling Stone magazine owner and editor Jann Wenner has teamed up with an Irish nightclub czar, Niall Donnelly, and Los Angeles real estate tycoon, Joe Altounian, to bring his iconic magazine to life in a two-level 10,000-square-foot nightclub venue in the bustling Hollywood & Highland Center. Wenner made the announcement last week, noting that the venue will encompass a restaurant, bar, lounge and upscale private-event space. “Southern California and the city of Los Angeles are deeply entrenched in the history of both Rolling Stone and rock music, and we're excited to bring to life Rolling Stone magazine in Hollywood through what will be a very special place," stated Wenner when announcing the venture.
With exposed black brick, tufted leather, vaulted ceilings and an antique iron staircase, Rolling Stone is expected to attract tourists already flocking to the area because of its density of attractions, including Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theater and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Wenner, who also noted that the Hollywood location could become the first of many, explained that Rolling Stone’s musical formatting will be more focused on DJs than live music, although the venue is being designed to host live performances and concerts from time to time.
Donnelly, who was named one of Irish Times top 10 ‘Entrepreneurs to Watch,’ has had a string of successes in the UK and Irish nightlife business over the last decade with venues such as Anam Bar, Slim Jim's Liquor Store, the Woodbine, the Blue Note, Blackjack Liquor Shack and others. He teamed up with Altounian to create the Lucky Rug Group, which will oversee management of the venue. In a press release, Donnelly stated, "For those who love music and pop culture, the words 'Rolling Stone' continue to mean so much to so many people around the world, especially in the U.S. We are both excited and determined to bring the spirit of the magazine to life — the edginess, the coolness, the classiness and the timelessness — in making this venue a place to see and be seen in."
It’s not the first time a music magazine has branched out into the F&B world; former Billboard owner and publisher Bill Gazzarri brought the Sunset Strip Billboard Live many moons ago in a footprint currently occupied by the rock heavy Key Club. It shared a neighborhood with legendary City of Angels rock venues like The Rainbow, Whiskey A Go-Go and The Roxy.
While it’s not the first time Rolling Stone has licensed itself to items outside of the music publishing business, it certainly is the company’s most grand undertaking and comes at a time when hard-copy print publishing is fighting for its life. Rolling Stone publisher William Schenck told the L.A. Times that this move hardly means that the brand is diving headfirst into the competitive nightclub and restaurant business but added, "In any economic climate, we are going to try to find every avenue to increase revenue."
Rolling Stone won’t be the only venue looking to rock the historic Hollywood corner, as the Hard Rock Café brand has also announced a new location coming to the Hollywood and Highland intersection in May, sure to offer plenty of heavy riffing restaurant competition for Donnelly and his team. But Donnelly told the L.A. Times he wasn’t worried about the competition, noting, "The food will be higher-end than Hard Rock. The venue itself will be for higher-end audiences."
Bottle service and a selective door policy will ensure Rolling Stone draws a different crowd than Hard Rock, although carving out an identity in the nightclub and DJ arena may not be an easy sell either, as a mere block away Victor Drai and twin dynamos Jesse and Cy Waits will be launching Drai’s Hollywood before the year is out. It is expected that Rolling Stone will open in the summer of 2010.