Someone get David Kaplan a drink.
The 34-year-old co-mastermind behind New York’s cult bar Death & Co. and the recently opened Skyfall at the Delano Las Vegas, among others, is finally opening his next Los Angeles nightspot—a literal night spot. Ten rooms attached to Koreatown cocktail destination Normandie Club and its smaller, reservation-only back lounge, the Walker Inn.
After nearly a year of delays, the Rooms at the Walker Inn (in partnership with Downtown L.A. nightlife heavyweights 213 Hospitality) will start taking reservations starting Sept. 1. It’s the latest in a small line of “bed & beverages” to open, joining Experimental Cocktail Club’s Grand Pigalle in Paris and Hotel Covell in nearby Los Feliz. If you’re thinking of a medieval tavern with rooms above it elevated into the luxury cocktail realm, you’re on the right track.
What can guests expect?
Despite being booze-focused, “it’s not a crazy rock and roll party [floor] for 20-somethings,” says Kaplan, from his hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he’s in early phases of planning another new bar. “It’s having a phenomenal dinner out with friends, winding down with cocktails, and carrying that special evening through into the room.”
Cocktail Club Floor
Similar to how the Walker Inn lounge is a bar-within-a-bar, the Rooms at the Walker Inn are carved out of the 1920s-era Hotel Normandie. A cocktail-club floor, if you will.
Basically, they took a section of an existing hotel, renovated it, and curated the in-room amenities.
For now, logistics such as housekeeping and check-in happen through the larger hotel, although Kaplan and co. aim to control more of the total guest experience in the future. (Divvying up these responsibilities with the Normandie Hotel is the main reason for the delayed opening.) Within the rooms, though, it’s all Kaplan and his team—down to the key design and prestay outreach with guests. Twin rooms start at $195 and go up to $265 for a suite, a roughly 10 percent to 15 percent premium over the hotel’s general rates.
“There’s a little secret staircase going from back of the Walker Inn [bar] straight up to that corridor,” he says, “your own little sanctuary.”
Designer Ricki Kline has given a light, whimsical touch to each of the 10 rooms. Kline is known for a leather-and-brass, sexy-seedy vibe he’s given popular nightlife spots Honeycut, Golden Gopher, and the Varnish. But the Rooms at the Walker Inn have more of a kitsch feel: Vintage tchotchkes loom especially large. Kline spent six months collecting them from L.A.-area flea markets and swap meets such as the Rose Bowl (and yes, Kaplan knows you’re going to swipe them).
There are vintage disposable cameras, old sports trophies, and brass figures of animals—and each room has a slightly different theme. But, Kaplan’s quick to note, “You’re not hit over the head with it. It’s not Disney.”
The point is to extend that two-hour relationship you might have in a bar into a 24-hour branded experience. When a guest books the exact room he or she likes, it should feel akin to telling a mixologist what base spirit, sweetness level, and aggression you want in custom-crafted cocktail.
Cocktails in Bed
Which brings us to the booze. There’s plenty of it.
There’s a home bar’s worth of top-shelf spirits, mixers, and citrus to zest. Depending on your cocktail-making prowess (and ambition), the room can be stocked with a checklist of seasonal ingredients as well, such as mint, fresh juices, and specialized bitters. Naturally, current industry obsessions, such as sherry and fruit Eau de Vie, make an appearance. Proper ice does, too, lest you get caught using crushed ice in your Negroni like a savage.
Prices are standard, and a specially written recipe book is in each room.
If you’d rather have something elevated without juicing limes or fumbling with the simple syrup, there’ll always be at least two bottled cocktails to crack, as well. (Unfortunately, they’ve come short of sending mixologists to your room, as they do at Miami’s Soho Beach House.)
If the 12-noon checkout time seems to arrive too soon, packets of Advil are gratis.