Sam Nazarian: Founder and CEO of SBE


 When you get two people from completely different perspectives saying the same exact thing, it pretty much says it all.

He’s the founder and CEO of SBE, which owns several of Southern California’s hottest nightclubs and restaurants, as well as the recently opened SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. Designed by the legendary Philippe Starck, the 297-room SLS is a collaboration of some of the world’s most dynamic and creative individuals, with a goal of rethinking every aspect of the luxury hotel experience. The hotel features a unique dual lobby concept with an intimate entrance for hotel guests and a public entrance leading into the multi-faceted dining and retail environment by José Andrés called The Bazaar. The space features an array of magical dining and lounge concepts created by the famed Spanish chef, and an innovative “shop without walls” retail concept by Moss, the renowned design purveyor and trailblazer. It’s no wonder that with its December launch, SLS instantly became the must see and must-be-seen-in Los Angeles hotel for the A-plus list. Recently, Nazarian was gracious enough to tell Haute Living more about what we can expect from the West Coast’s King of Cool.

Haute Living: You were selected as one of Los Angeles’ Haute 100, our inaugural list of the most influential and powerful people in the city. What is your reaction?
Sam Nazarian: I’m very honored. It also comes with a sense of responsibility to make sure I maintain such a prestigious selection.

HL: If you had to choose one person, who would you say is the most influential individual in the city? Why?
SN: I could come up with many names for different reasons, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has put L.A. into the international conversation. You can feel that big city dynamic again, along with Los Angeles’ very unique multi-cultural identity becoming a source of pride and celebration rather than strife. He’s helped bring back L.A.’s soul.

HL: Can you tell us more about your new property, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills?
SN: It took me five years to develop the brand, and it’s our interpretation of what the next generation of hospitality is. The SLS redefines lifestyle hospitality and is now the anchor for the SBE platform, linking all of our food, beverage, nightlife, and restaurants for our L.A. base from Santa Monica to downtown. It’s a very high-end luxury asset with a high design component
that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

HL: The dual-lobby is an interesting concept. What is your reasoning behind it?
SN: I realized that as more restaurants and lounges have crowded lobbies, the hotel guest was getting pushed out further and further down on the totem pole. With a private entrance, the SLS guest gets all the amenities, all the service that this level of guest requires and deserves. The other piece, I call it a dual entrance, allows not only for the hotel guests but for the community. In the case of the Bazaar, it’s already turned into the most exciting bar in L.A, along with XIV.

HL: Can you tell me more about the Bazaar.
SN: The Bazaar is something that’s never been done before in a hotel. It’s an integration of a modern day European or Middle Eastern playground, blurring the line between retail and food and beverage-a space to experience 20 different moments. You can have a drink and amazing tapas in jeans and a T-shirt, or you can be immersed in elegance in the private dining room, Sam. It’s a new way of thinking that’s been very well received by our guests. If they want, they can be voyeuristic, or they can be part of the action.

HL: What made you choose Philippe Starck for the hotel’s interiors?
SN: In many ways Philippe defined what we’ve come to know as the boutique hotel world. He’s had a hand in the creation of so many brands around the globe, and he understands our kind of clientele perfectly. Who better than him to define the next generation of boutique hotels, which are more luxury and amenity driven?

HL: Are there additional SLS locations in the works?
SN: Our South Beach property [in Miami] will open in early 2010, and SLS Las Vegas is slated for 2012.

HL: What has been the general reaction since opening?
SN: Both P. Diddy and Jeffrey Katzenberg told me, “If I would build a hotel this is the exact hotel I would design.” When you get two people from completely different perspectives saying the same exact thing, it pretty much says it all.

HL: What made SBE enter into the hospitality realm?
SN: When SBE opened six years ago we saw that there was a white space that needed to be filled.

HL: What is next for SBE?
SN: We’re gearing up for our Katsuya restaurant to open in L.A. Live. We’re under construction in Miami and in pre-development for Vegas for a complete renovation and revitalization of the famed Sahara. We used L.A. as a kind of petri dish, so now SBE can expand into whatever markets are appropriate. Stay tuned.

HL: And for Sam Nazarian?
SN: Enjoy the moment and start a family. You can put that in bold italics!