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Rolling Stone to launch restaurant chain in L.A.

The magazine steps into a tough industry next summer with a two-tiered location at Hollywood & Highland Center.

December 04, 2009|By Roger Vincent

Rolling Stone is about to take a leap into the entertainment industry, starting with a large-scale restaurant and nightclub in Hollywood.

Owners of the venerable magazine hope to leverage its status as a preeminent chronicler of the rock music world and pop culture into a new business built on food and drinks. The first Rolling Stone outpost is set to open next summer at Hollywood & Highland Center.


"We've been looking for the ideal opportunity to expand the Rolling Stone brand," co-founder and Editor Jann S. Wenner said.

Running a high-profile entertainment-themed restaurant chain has proved perilous for others, however. Competitors such as Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe have taken embarrassing financial thrashings in the past, though both continue to operate.

Hard Rock, in fact, plans to open a large restaurant and bar of its own at Hollywood & Highland in May. Rolling Stone's joint will be smaller but fancier and, well, hipper, its creators insist.

"The food will be higher-end than Hard Rock," said Niall Donnelly, a partner of the magazine. "The venue itself will be for higher-end audiences."

Rolling Stone tapped Donnelly and his partner Joe Altounian, a real estate developer, to do the heavy lifting involved in building an establishment intended to appeal to both tourists and the chic celebrity set of young Hollywood.

Donnelly, an amiable Irishman who happens to have a skull tattooed on his forearm and prefers whiskey (Jameson, not Bushmills) to beer, has built a track record as an operator of upscale trendy clubs in Britain and Ireland.

The Rolling Stone venue in Hollywood will operate on two tiers, Donnelly said. On the top level, which opens into the mall, will be a restaurant and bar intended to appeal to the estimated 15 million tourists a year who come to the Hollywood intersection near Grauman's Chinese Theatre. He also hopes to pull in local residents who may come to watch sports or have a drink.

At street level, on Highland Avenue, will be a more up-market lounge "which will be harder to get into," Donnelly said. Like other late-night Hollywood lounges, it will include "bottle service," where patrons buy their spirits such as vodka by the bottle -- usually at hefty prices. The lounge may also be rented for corporate events.

Despite the magazine's long marriage with the music industry, Hollywood's Rolling Stone will not be in the concert business.

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