Gerber, Baby: Rande Gerber

With each subsequent venue he opens, Rande Gerber proves that when it comes to lounges and bars, he’s got the Midas touch

By Dakota Smith


 “I want fresh, young talent. Someone who is undiscovered, someone who hasn’t done this before.”

With its views of Central Park, sophisticated drink menu, and well-heeled clientele, Rande Gerber’s Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center has an unmistakable New York feel.

So it’s no surprise that the vibe at the new Stone Rose at the Hotel Sofitel Los Angeles is pure L.A. Outside, there’s the patio with oversized cabanas, a sand-filled fire pit, and a waterfall; inside, sensuous red Chinese lacquer walls, interlocking couches, and a dark, curving bar.

“I like to adapt to each city,” say Gerber, speaking by phone from his Malibu office. “I like to come up with a concept for each space I do. The vibe in L.A. is a little sexier than New York, so the colors are a little different. Plus, this is L.A., so you take advantage of the outdoor space.”

And outdoors is the place to be. On a recent June night, just two days after the Stone Rose’s official opening, waitresses in short black dresses and high black boots delivered cocktails to the crowd-mostly 20-somethings, tanned execs, and tourists-gathered on the lounge’s patio.

For his latest lounge, Gerber hired Toronto-based Yabu Pushelberg design team to do the interiors of the new Stone Rose (they also designed the New York Stone Rose), the 21st venue in his After Midnight/Midnight Oil Company portfolio.

Additionally, Gerber opened the Cherry nightclub at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas this spring. And in September, he’ll unveil his first European venture, a restaurant and rooftop bar at the Hard Rock Hotel in Madrid.

And then there’s the partnership with Dennis Publishing, publisher of Maxim magazine, to create a series of Maxim Lounges, the first of which will open at the Royal Palms Hotel in Miami in December.

No “Animal House”-inspired frat bar, the two-story, upscale lounge at the Royal Palms will be geared toward a polished if slightly bawdy crowd. “Think Kid Rock meets Gucci,” says Gerber.

With these latest ventures, longtime partnerships, notably Gerber’s affiliation with Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ W chain, are winding down. Partnering with the W was “a great concept, but at this point I am ready to do other things,” he says.

Gerber, 44, who lives in Malibu with his wife, Cindy Crawford, and their two children, may be moving on to new projects, but don’t expect him to follow the trends. Forget party promoters and barking bouncers. Ditto for haughty designers and starchitects.

Excuse me – starchitects? Gerber laughs. He’s never heard of the term.

“‘I go in the opposite direction,” he says. “I want fresh, young talent. Someone who is undiscovered, someone who hasn’t done this before.”

If he goes on to give the example of hiring a set designer-whom he met on a video shoot-to do the interiors of his Whiskey bars in Las Vegas and Boston, he could just as easily be referring to himself.

A former commercial real estate broker, Gerber had zero nightlife experience when he opened his first bar, The Whiskey at the Paramount Hotel in 1989. (For all the current fuss about starchitects, Gerber’s first Whiskey bar was, ironically enough, designed by architect Philippe Starck.)

“I opened [The Whiskey] out of curiosity, and out of fun,” says Gerber. “I wanted to design a lounge and play my own music. The lounge concept didn’t exist at the time and I just got lucky.”

Nearly two decades later, not a single one of Gerber’s nightspots has closed down (although some venues have moved), a claim that few in the nightlife business can make. “His places have staying power,” says Barry Pincus, director of brand development at Dennis Publishing. “Randy has created things that are always cool 10-12 years down the road.”

But longevity doesn’t mean that Gerber hasn’t been burned by the real estate market. Earlier this year, Las Vegas-based Centra Properties and Miami’s Related Cos. sold the 25-acre site of the Las Ramblas, the Las Vegas hotel and casino planned by Gerber and business partner George Clooney.

If Gerber acknowledges that selling the site was a savvy business move on the part of developers, who more than doubled their money with the $202 million sale, he expresses some regret at the outcome. “We were happy with the deal,” he says. “We would have been happier if we got to build our dream.”

Regardless, Gerber says he and Clooney continue to weigh offers for other Las Vegas spots to build their hotel and casino. Their project, however, won’t include condos (Related had added condos to the Los Ramblas project) because the original plan “was never about condos,” says Gerber.

Additionally, his After Midnight/Midnight Oil is looking in Dallas for new projects; he also believes the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas are viable spot for venues.

For now, traveling is for fun, not business. The day after our interview, Gerber will head with his wife and kids to Tahiti and then Italy for a vacation that even he acknowledges is well deserved. “Three new places in three months,” he says, with a laugh. And knowing Gerber, there’ll be plenty more to come.