The Tastemaker of LA: Sam Nazarian

If you want to know who’s creating the places where Hollywood’s A-list crowd eats, drinks, and bunks in L.A. – and across the country – you need only know one name: Sam Nazarian.

By Dakota Smith


SBE Entertainment Group founder and CEO Sam Nazarian may have just opened Hyde, L.A.’s most exclusive new lounge, but don’t think this 30-year-old is just a party boy. Besides owning numerous lounges and clubs (Privilege, Lobby in L.A), SBE Entertainment’s portfolio includes hotels (Miami Ritz Plaza, Le Meridien in Beverly Hills), restaurants (Katsuya in Brentwood), commercial and residential real estate, and films. And Nazarian’s most recent deal, a second partnership with blue-chip architect Philippe Starck, certainly secures this CEO’s designation as a purveyor of the luxury life.

 I love to go to Cabo. And I love Toronto – the city itself is so clean and the people are so nice.

HL With larger clubs like Privilege and Prey, you established yourself as someone who could bring in the Hollywood elite. Why open a small lounge like Hyde? And who will come?
SN I had a vision of this about a year ago when I bought the space. The design is very New York, very European. It’ll attract everyone from studio heads, who come in at 7 p.m. to have a business drink before they go home, to people like Sharon Stone and Lindsay Lohan, to editors of magazines who want to have their birthday parties at the club. This concept didn’t exist before in L.A. and we’ve brought it to L.A. We’ll launch Hyde in Miami, New York and Las Vegas, and there’ll be a Hyde in South Beach and in Boston.

HL What took so long for this small, intimate lounge scene to come to Los Angeles?
SN Maybe Teddy’s had it. But again, they had occupancy for 170 and Hyde will have occupancy for only 100. And Teddy’s is really a bar that is open three-four nights a week. This was an underserved market, and I think Hyde will attract people who are tired of going to nightclubs but who want to have a quality experience.

HL Obviously there’s competition among cities, but comparing nightlife Los Angeles to nightlife in other cities, what does Los Angeles offer that you can’t find anywhere else?
SN Probably the Hollywood relationship. Also hip-hop. The influence of hip-hop mostly comes from the West Coast. And there is a casualness about the L.A. scene, where you can come in jeans, hats, tennis shoes. If you’re tired of Jimmy’z in Monte Carlo or Harry’s Bar in Venice, Hollywood has a certain casualness.

HL Bringing party promoter Brent Bolthouse to SBE certainly ensures your clubs and restaurants are packed with bold-faced names. But what else does Bolthouse bring to SBE?
SN He’s been in business for 17 years, so he’s got a lot in the pipeline. He’s brought in a lot of concepts, potential partners, and locations. And he knows people I didn’t know that he knew – he has a longterm relationship with a lot of people, like The Firm’s Rick Yorn. So it wasn’t the obvious relationships that he brought. In addition, he brought a different perspective and a different demographic. I don’t always understand the 18-23 age group, but Bolthouse Productions has consistently aligned themselves with that group, so they have their finger on the pulse and know the trends beforehand.
HL You and Philippe Starck certainly get along well. He’s designing your restaurant Katsuya and you just signed a second deal with him to open five Starck-designed hotels in the next 15 years. What attracted you to him?
SN We were financing a lot of hotel developers, and when we branched out with the nightclub division, there was only one designer I wanted to work with. The work he did with Schrager, he invented the boutique hotel concept. He’s a visionary in understanding trends. I don’t even consider him a designer; I think of him as a thinker.

HL What can people expect from Starck’s designs at Miami Ritz Plaza, and whom will the hotel attract?
SN You can expect it to be completely different than anything else in the boutique hotel [market]. It’s about adding luxury and having a thorough sense of quality. It’s about making it thought-provoking and still fun. There’ll be a residential tower, a 16-condo tower that will be the most luxurious product. Miami gets a crowd year-round now, whether it’s people coming from New York and Philadelphia or L.A., South America, or Western Europe. It’s about reaching the perfect demographic. Everything I do is about reaching the demographic.

HL You have properties around the world, so you obviously travel quite a bit. What cities do you like to go out in?
SN I love to go to Cabo. And I love Toronto – the city itself is so clean and the people are so nice. And I love to go to Tel Aviv; it’s so on the cutting edge of music, style, and dance. And if I’m traveling with someone, I love to go to London, or southern Italy.