LA's nightlife king has made the move from Hollywood to the Westside with his newest bar, the Bungalow at Santa Monica's Fairmont Miramar. We sit down with Brent Bolthouse to talk favorite eats, his love of California and what he's doing on his days off.
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Time Out: What inspired the Bungalow?
Brent Bolthouse: Baja California—that’s where we live. I wanted to stay away from the East Coast. So many times, I go to my friends’ houses in Malibu that are influenced by the East Coast; but this is the West Coast, and we wanted to embrace the Baja heritage and the culture of skate boarding, surfing and the beach. When I randomly met the property owners of the Fairmont, they said that they had an interesting property in Santa Monica and asked if I would be interested in working on it. I’ve been to the Fairmont Miramar several times, but I was thinking, “Where could a cool bar be in the Fairmont?” It ended up being this spectacular, freestanding bungalow. I wanted to do this project for years and I brought in a design company, Studio Collective, who helped me bring this vision to life and did a great job finding and curating all the little tchotchkes. Some stuff like the [private dining room] table we made; others, we found at second-hand stores. We found the décor everywhere—online, swap meets, some of it came from inventory from our events company’s warehouse.
Time Out: You often DJ. Tell me about the playlist at the Bungalow.
BB: I've curated all the playlists here—it's a combination of beach music, early Motown, '70s, some Dylan (because you have to have Bob Dylan in the mix), with some '50s thrown in, like the early Beatles and Elvis. The songs are a little happier and more upbeat—it sets the tone of a good time—nothing too dark or singer/song writer-y. So many places don't pay attention to music and think about the soundscape, but it's so important. Though I couldn't commit to doing it professionally, I love to DJ, just as long as the people that hire me realize that I play a certain kind of music. I've DJ'ed before and they've thrown me off. I was DJ’ing a lot in Vegas and they were so driven by what customers want saying, "That guy is paying $10,000. Play this song."
Time Out: You’ve been known in LA nightlife for your Hollywood venues. What’s it like on the Westside?
BB: We try to be as diplomatic as possible at the door. That’s the difference between Eastside and Westside—we don’t have a door policy. If you stand outside for thirty minutes and that’s how long it takes to get in, you’re getting in. We’re not turning you away for any reason. The Eastside people get confused when they get here and have to stand in line. The first weekend, we had 600 people coming through the doors and were caught off guard a bit. The LA nightlife scene has changed so much in the last five years. It’s become really bottle-service driven, at least in Hollywood. I think the Bungalow speaks more to who I am as a person. This is definitely the kind of place I’d rather be at and spend time at. I wanted it to feel like you were at someone’s house party at the beach, not like a club. There aren’t many places in Los Angeles where you get 6,000 square feet on the water or places in Santa Monica where you can see the ocean and watch the sunset. I live in Hollywood and I’ve never lived by the ocean, but now I have reason to be down here and it makes all the difference in the world. My favorite time of day at the Bungalow is sunset. To sit out on the deck and watch the sunset is really magical. The inside is just as great as the outside—I love the pool table room, though I’m an okay pool player. Maybe I'll open another Bungalow somewhere else if it made sense. It’s nice to think that this concept could work in other beach communities. There are so many great beaches in California and the weather’s great... I love California.
Time Out: What are you doing when you're not working?
BB: I'm an avid photographer and shoot old Leicas and Hasselblads—I use it as a creative outlet. I really love street photography and shoot bands from time to time. I grew up in Joshua Tree—it’s a great place to visit as an adult, but as a kid, I didn’t have the best experience there because I went from living in a city that had skate boarding and sidewalks to dirt roads and dirt bikes—where, even though I rode dirt bikes and had fun, I thought, "I really want to skateboard now, and I can’t." I don’t skate anymore, but I love to snowboard. I love the back bowls of Vail and Snowbird in Utah—that’s where I've done most of my snowboarding.
Time Out: Favorite places to eat?
BB: La Esquela Taqueria on Beverly is one of my favorite places for tacos. They have a pork belly taco that’s amazing. There's a place for taquitos [Cielito Lindo] on Olvera Street on the end on the north side. I don’t even know what it’s called, it’s not a secret because the sign says something like "The most amazing taquitos in the world," but they have the best beans and taquitos. We live in LA and there’s so much good Mexican food, which I’ve eaten my whole life. We're working on our food and beverage program with Ray Garcia [of Fig]. He’s such an amazing chef and we’re lucky to be partners with him. All of the food is spectacular, so people are going to be excited by what Ray is going to do. I also love sushi and Sushi Park. The new Nobu in Malibu is spectacular. It’s beyond beautiful. When I’m not working, I usually go to the Chateau, Soho House and Gjelina.