“I've heard it was a bordello,” says Michael Swier of his latest venue, the Moroccan Lounge. “I heard it [had] one of the oldest liquor licenses in Los Angeles. I like the stories, so I’m going with them.”
Nobody knows for sure; public records show that the Moorish-accented structure was built in 1885. In recent years, the building has seen a handful of bars. Regardless of origin, that well-worn history has worked its way into the 250-person Arts District venue’s charm.
“It has character,” says talent buyer Duncan Smith. “It doesn’t feel like it just came out of the shrink-wrap.”
But it does feel expertly executed. Unlike the area’s many stage-within-a-bar spaces, a partition separates the Moroccan’s full-service bar and restaurant from its intimate performance hall. It’s an astounding amount of polish for a venue so small, but it’s no surprise coming from the team behind New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge, as well as L.A.’s Teragram Ballroom, with which the smaller Moroccan will work closely.
“If you’re just booking a small room by itself, you’re kind of on an island,” says Smith. “With the larger room to work in synchronicity with, we can share resources.”
Think of the Moroccan as a place where Grizzly Bear or Børns can drop in, but where you can also discover under-the-radar riches like Minnesota emo-revival band Remo Drive (Oct 18), stylish crooner Marlon Williams (Nov 2), pop songstress Blake Hazard (Nov 4) and poet Neil Hilborn (Nov 14). “It’s almost imperative for me to be involved with bands at various stages of their careers,” says Swier. “That’s the Moroccan. That’s their first step.”