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Welcome to the Club
Jasmin Rosemberg | Photo: Frank Ishman | March 6, 2014
New York hospitality veterans Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano bring their one-of-a-kind nightlife concept, 1 OAK, to an iconic Sunset Strip spot.
“A lot of New Yorkers have been scared to come to L.A. to try to do a nightclub,” says Manhattan native and The Butter Group co-founder Richie Akiva, the more creative and daring counterpart to his business partner, the refined and logistics-minded Scott Sartiano. But the precocious, if antithetical, pair—who in 2002 launched their celebrity-laden Butter, the first upscale restaurant in NYC to employ a DJ booth, and who now hold a multimillion-dollar portfolio of venues—fearlessly set forth to inject the legendary Key Club space with the tried-and-true club formula they’ve refined through 1 OAK outposts in New York, Las Vegas and Mexico City. Their recipe? Amid the pervasive bottle service and hefty minimums that turned the club industry into a numbers-driven business, upon the brand’s debut in 2007, Akiva abided by an audacious principle: “We’re not going to force people to buy anything. We’re going to show them the best time they could possibly have, and hopefully they’ll want to spend more than what we would be asking. So, that’s what happened; it worked.”
And it seamlessly translates, as evident by a pre-opening Golden Globes bash that saw The Wolf of Wall Street’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie partying alongside Bradley Cooper and Usher, while Diddy emceed from the stage. An equally impressive opening night featured a rare club performance by Steven Tyler. Such is the product of the bicoastal duo’s long-standing relationships nurtured since first joining forces in 1997 to run NYC hot spots Life and Spa. At 18, Akiva’s events drew upon his private-school network—including friends Raphael De Niro, Liv Tyler and the Ronsons—and Sartiano’s penchant for promoting took hold after moving to NYC from North Carolina to play tennis at Columbia University. Teaming up locally with Trousdale frontman Darren Dzienciol, they plan to unroll a roster of loyal DJs (Jus Ske, Jesse Marco, Steve Aoki) alongside video and lights shows, as well as to host surprise performances this month to further the legacy of the famous tri-level venue that has welcomed musicians from Van Halen to Tina Turner.
Art is equally integral to the special location on which Sartiano had long set his sights, with Israeli artist Roy Nachum furnishing trademark 1 OAK touches, like black-and-white herringbone floors and “survival of the fittest” Darwin scriptures—plus interactive installations and paintings with braille for the blind onlooker. And just as 1 OAK NYC was “the first really intimate nightclub that morphed high-end lounges with the energy of a nightclub,” per Sartiano, the duo similarly aspire to fashion an all-VIP nightclub version of a private members’ club. “Our friends come here in a different mind-set. They don’t come worrying about the door, or bottles, or minimums,” he scoffs. “It’s less business-oriented. It’s really more like: Come to our house and have a party with us.” 9039 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 310.274.2326
Exploring 1 OAK’s Awe-Inspiring Art
“Behavior in nightlife is ultimately not different to the courtship that happens in the animal world,” says 1 OAK designer Roy Nachum, whose feral and hierarchical nods run through the 9,500-square-foot L.A. space. It all amounts to what the NYC-based artist proclaims “a sensorial and conceptual adventure.”