Photographer: Katie Hoss

Cocktails in Bed? A First Look at the Rooms at the Walker Inn

Inside the Death & Co. crew's new "bed & beverage."

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.

Alex Day, Devon Tarby, and David Kaplan, co-owners of the Walker Inn. The 26-seat reservation-only lounge in L.A.'s Koreatown is known for its cocktail tasting menus that changes every six weeks.
Alex Day, Devon Tarby, and David Kaplan, co-owners of the Walker Inn. The 26-seat reservation-only lounge in L.A.'s Koreatown is known for its cocktail tasting menus that changes every six weeks.
Photographer: Katie Hoss

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.

“At a bar, we get customers for two or three hours, it’s a little window. This is a chance to really have someone step into an entire world,” says Kaplan.
“At a bar, we get customers for two or three hours, it’s a little window. This is a chance to really have someone step into an entire world,” says Kaplan.
Photographer: Katie Hoss

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.”

The renovated lobby of the 1920s era Hotel Normandie.
The renovated lobby of the 1920s era Hotel Normandie.
Source: Google Maps

The Rooms

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.

Ricki Kline of Design + Build scoured L.A.-area flea markets to find all the vintage knickknacks, bar tools and glassware.
Ricki Kline of Design + Build scoured L.A.-area flea markets to find all the vintage knickknacks, bar tools and glassware.
Photographer: Katie Hoss

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.

The Rice Paddy cocktail on the current "Climate" menu of the Walker Inn bar. With a base of Singani 63 and an aromatic "fog," it's meant to evoke being in this fresh, grassy, superwet area.
The Rice Paddy cocktail on the current "Climate" menu of the Walker Inn bar. With a base of Singani 63 and an aromatic "fog," it's meant to evoke being in this fresh, grassy, superwet area.
Photographer: Katie Hoss

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.

Kaplan is zen about trying to keep the room designs intact: "This stuff was collected to tell an imagined story of a guest in the room, and if a piece becomes part of a guest's own story and memory of the trip—well, although we don’t encourage it, we realize it’s going to happen."
Kaplan is zen about trying to keep the room designs intact: "This stuff was collected to tell an imagined story of a guest in the room, and if a piece becomes part of a guest's own story and memory of the trip—well, although we don’t encourage it, we realize it’s going to happen."
Photographer: Katie Hoss
Some rooms feel more feminine, some more masculine, and a couple have a more irreverent, rakish vibe. Guests can choose exactly which of the 10 rooms they want when booking.
Some rooms feel more feminine, some more masculine, and a couple have a more irreverent, rakish vibe. Guests can choose exactly which of the 10 rooms they want when booking.
Photographer: Katie Hoss
The "Traveling Twins" room has a vintage globetrotter feel. “The whole point is to create a very specific vibe,” says Kaplan, “to continue the revelry as an extension of leaving the bar downstairs."
The "Traveling Twins" room has a vintage globetrotter feel. “The whole point is to create a very specific vibe,” says Kaplan, “to continue the revelry as an extension of leaving the bar downstairs."
Photographer: Katie Hoss
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