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After Long Journey, BottleRock Downtown Opens into a Changed Market

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, May 11, 2009, at 07:02PM
BottleRock Eric Richardson [Flickr]

BottleRock co-owner Fred Hakim stands in front of a display of wines at his long-under-construction Downtown location, which opens this week.

When BottleRock signed its Downtown lease in early 2007, the L.A. Live complex was still a hole in the ground. Two blocks away, a pair of new thirty story residential towers were not yet out of the ground. The economy and development markets were booming.

Two years later, a lot has changed. L.A. Live is in full swing, those towers are nearing occupancy and the economy has collapsed.

That doesn't seem to bother Fred Hakim. "It was well worth waiting the time and doing things right," the BottleRock co-owner said while sitting inside the about-to-open space on Monday.

The South Park location at 11th and Hope is BottleRock's second. Fred and brother Isaac opened their first location in Culver City in August of 2006.

Once it is fully stocked, the bar will carry nearly a thousand different products, including up to 100 - 150 different beers (it has the capacity for eighteen on tap). "Everything that we are going to have, there is going to be something unique about it," Hakim said. "We are not going to carry the normal beer that you find in most places. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but people can find that anywhere."

Unlike the Culver City spot, the Downtown venue will offer a full menu designed by chef Jared Levy. The addition of a full kitchen was one of a number of changes that pushed back construction time. "Initially our kitchen wasn't going to be as extensive as it turned out to be," Hakim said. That addition meant figuring out how to fit a vent hood into the space, something the building had not designed in.

During the time BottleRock has been under construction, competition for the Downtown dining dollar has gotten much more intense.

In December, restaurants began opening a block away at L.A. Live. The remaining openings for the complex -- the Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill, Katsuya and Rosa Mexicana -- should come online in the upcoming months.

Just around the corner in Met Lofts, John Sedlar's Rivera opened in January. Two blocks away, Corkbar opened on the ground floor of Evo in March and much attention has been given to Bottega Louie's recent opening four blocks north.

All this while the overall economy has been in freefall.

Hakim thinks that BottleRock's price range will allow it to compete no matter what the market. "We have prices ranging from the single digit price by the glass all the way up to quite expensive," he explained. "A couple could come in here and for $40 or $50 they could have a couple glasses of wine each and have a snack of food or something and spend two hours here and enjoy themselves. ... You could come in and spend $40 to $50 and sit next to a table that's spending $500. You're going to experience the same thing."

Despite the bar's location just a block from L.A. Live, Hakim sees the Downtown residential and office community as his primary clientele.

While finding a location with a built-in residential population was a main goal, Hakim was surprised to find just how many units were nearby. "I even didn't know the concentration of people that we have here," he said. "When I had to apply for my wine license, I had to send 1400 [notices to units] within 500 feet."

BottleRock will be soft-open during the week, with a grand opening scheduled for Friday, May 15. BottleRock Downtown is located at 1050 S. Flower, with its entrance on 11th street.

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