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April 17, 2014

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Drai’s goes to Hollywood

But Victor promises he’ll be back

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Courtesy of Drai's Hollywood

Drai’s Wet pool at the W Hollywood would like right at home at any Sin City resort.

“With a price tag upwards of $15 million, there isn’t another space in Los Angeles that can offer the level of luxury, comfort and visual dazzle found in this new crown jewel of nightlife.”

Breathless press releases aside, just about the only thing not to love about nightlife impresario Victor Drai’s latest venture is its chi-chi Hollywood location, rather inconvenient for Las Vegans who have come to count on Drai for over-the-top opulence. But don’t take their word for it—take mine. Curiosity consumed me, and thus I drove six hours (four just to reach LA city limits) to attend a soft-opening party for travel agents.

Oscars eve is a hilarious time to venture to the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where the W Hotel now sets the pulse of LA cool. From an unassuming external door, one first encounters the velvet ropes, then an elevator to the roof where Drai has established a compound very familiar to this Las Vegan: a nightclub, restaurant and pool—and, secreted elsewhere, a to-die-for private library lounge called Victor’s Club, reserved for Drai and 54 of his closest friends.

On the Wet pool deck, a familiar layout of daybeds and cabanas in white and tomato-red linen flanks a shallow rectangular pool. Hundreds of votives flicker in the California winter breeze. Inside, beyond the 120-seat open-air restaurant, Drai’s telltale designer’s hand is everywhere, from his signature red and carefully executed lighting scheme to the mirror-tiled columns and silk-shaded stripper-pole lamps.

Overall, an attractive mélange of Drai’s Vegas successes: Tryst, XS and Drai’s Afterhours combined with a touch of XS pool and just a dash of Botero. If I averted my eyes from the lush hills and the Hollywood sign, I could have easily been in Sin City.

“They’re all mine,” he says of his clubs. “I design all of them. When I find something I design that works, I use it, make it better.” Just this week, Las Vegas nightclubs cleaned up at the 2010 Nightclub & Bar Awards, with XS taking both Mega-Club of the Year and New Club of the Year.

Drai’s Hollywood opens to the public March 11 and grand-opens March 17. But will other Las Vegans want to check it out? Victor is confident they will. “We’re the first club in LA the size of a Vegas club,” he says. “We have a huge locals clientele in Vegas, but they’re bored of Vegas. And the weather’s better [in LA] in summer anyway. I think lots of them will come to California now, especially if they have an excuse. And they will come to see us when they’re there.”

In a way, this is Victor coming full-circle: his first restaurant opened in LA in 1993. Following that success, Drai’s Las Vegas restaurant opened in 1997, with afterhours added in 1999; Drai’s LA closed that same year. Tryst opened in 2005 and XS in 2009; the Vegas restaurant closed in 2008 but the afterhours continued to reign supreme. And here we are in 2010, back in LA, where Victor’s film career (Woman in Red, The Man With One Red Shoe, the Weekend at Bernie’s series) gave birth to his current career.

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Club Guide
Drai's Afterhours

Following XS, “I didn’t expect to do anything else. But when they offered me the space here, it was so unique, so special …” Most importantly, will he return to Vegas for his next project? He says simply, “Yes,” assuring that more Vegas nightlife projects will come from his camp, which includes partners Cy and Jesse Waits. “Vegas can take more clubs.”

Confidence defines the man. As Vegas’ nightlife machine charges ever forward and more clubs open, Drai says he wants big market share of those openings. In just a few months a new pool and nightclub will open at Encore, a new afterhours at the Hard Rock, but if Victor is fazed, he doesn’t show it. Unlike the rest of the country, his clubs, he says, are feeling no pain. “I’m not worried.” So, when in Hollywood, do as the Las Vegans do—go to Drai’s.

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