West Hollywood

Evolution Continues on the Iconic, Notorious Sunset Strip

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Since Prohibition in the 1920s, when alcohol was served in back rooms at nightclubs and casinos that opened on the Sunset Strip, the iconic, legendary and notorious stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood has evolved and reinvented itself many times.

Now it’s happening again. And like most transformations, it faces challenges and growing pains.

In the 1960s, Sunset Strip became a haven for rock musicians such as Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Frank Zappa, and others, at clubs such as the Whisky a Go Go, the Roxy, Pandora’s Box and the London Fog. In July 1965, go-go dancers also began performing. During the 1990s, the center of the alternative music activity in Los Angeles shifted further east to areas like Echo Park, Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

With the closing of House of Blues, only five live music venues remain in West Hollywood, which preceded a noticeable decline not only in people flocking to live shows, but also shopping and eating at local businesses.

A lack of live music isn’t the only reason for fewer pedestrians on Sunset Boulevard. Affordability is also an issue. The majority of hotels in West Hollywood are four-star, with a similar clientele–business travelers, industry professionals and upper-middle-class yuppies. The lack of lower-cost three-star hotels pushes younger visitors away from West Hollywood and from local establishments. Many affluent tourists looking for five-star hotels venture to neighboring Beverly Hills or Century City. This means that the restaurants and retail stores in West Hollywood don’t have enough foot traffic to thrive.

About every 10 years, a different part of town evolves as the “it” shopping destination in Los Angeles. Rodeo Drive was the place to be for high-end retailers in the 1990s when Beverly Hills 90210 was in its heyday. Robertson Boulevard took fashionistas away in the 2000s when Lindsey, Paris, Nicole, Britney and the Olsen twins were regulars at now closed Kitson’s. Since then, Melrose Place has emerged as the preferred neighborhood for chic retailers. Locals and visitors are flocking to Melrose stores such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Dash.

What’s the City Doing?

The Sunset Strip is getting a great deal of attention from City Hall, Visit West Hollywood (West Hollywood’s Tourism Business Improvement District), West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and various civic and community leaders. Several dynamic, innovative and exciting projects are in various stages of development.

These projects include the much-anticipated The Arts Club which, if approved by the planning commission, will replace the current Hustler Hollywood building. The Arts Club is a London institution and will bring a lot of cache and new energy to the Boulevard. Its iconic architectural design with hints of art deco will be a jewel in the Creative City. The developers plan to dedicate over 2,000 square foot of ground-floor space to a public art gallery for the community.

The Visit West Hollywood team, under the leadership of CEO Tom Kiely, has rolled out a marketing campaign to attract more tourists to the city and increase hotel occupancy. Kiely’s team also oversees West Hollywood’s two business improvements districts, The Sunset Strip Business Association and the West Hollywood Design District.

The Chamber has about 191 events, meetings and programs designed to support, promote and advocate for businesses in the City. The Chamber has partnered with Visit West Hollywood to sell sponsorship for the street pole banners on the notorious Sunset Strip and in the trend-setting Design District. The purpose of the street pole banner program is to partner with sponsors who have an interest in tying their brand to the Sunset Strip brand. Funds raised through the sponsorship program provide additional revenues to further enhance the mission of the Districts.

There are several not-yet-announced projects in the works that will continue The Sunset Strip’s legacy as a world-class destination for music, nightlife and entertainment. These new ventures are intended to complement and enhance the strip’s iconic venues such as The Roxy, Viper Room and Whisky a Go Go. And remember, GoGo Dancing started in West Hollywood in the 1960s and WeHo continues this legacy

Vic Gerami is West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Manager of Events and a columnist for WeHo Times. He’s worked for Frontiers Magazine, LA Weekly and Voice Media Group. An LGBTQ Activist, writer and media contributor, Vic’s work has been featured in The Advocate, OUT, LA Independent, Los Angeles Blade, GED, Works and Fact Magazine.

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