Nightlife

Fresh off the vine

Sampling from this summer’s crop of new clubs—beginning with Christian Audigier

Saturday, July 5, 11 p.m.

Christian Audigier—the man, the designer, the winemaker? I learned a lot about the French designer-culprit behind Ed Hardy, Diesel and Von Dutch during a hard-hat tour of his new joint, successor to Tangerine at TI. Beyond his fashionable designer-for-hire past, I found out, Audigier, 50, has lent his good name (originally Christian Ginutti) to a good many other personal ventures: “The Cool Wine” by Montpeyroux Estates (“It’s a lifestyle, screw tradition!”), Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier fragrances, Crystal Rock jewelry, named for his daughter … his resume reads like a celebrity’s shopping list.

Therefore I am not shocked to find that Christian Audigier The Nightclub, his latest venture, is something of a monument to the man—a museum, albeit a subtle one. While he could have emblazoned his name or initials on every surface like a Fendi purse, he exhibits uncharacteristic restraint, letting his work speak for itself. Only on the staff uniforms do we see “Christian Audigier, Established 1958, Los Angeles” (an homage to the tattoo on Audigier’s own back) on the backs of the bartender and bar-back tees, and typical Audigier designs on the cocktailers’ T-shirt-dresses.

At the entrance, we catch a glimpse of more tattoo art on double-sided panels that can and will be changed out periodically. I dive in, determined to be won over or lost forever; though I’m a fan of recycling, it’s almost impossible to write over years of memories in a nightclub by painting a wall or moving a cocktail table.

Inside, the club’s new flow realizes what Tangerine originally set out to do. The minute elevation of the VIP sections to the left makes all the difference, properly delineating the room without the need for ropes, stanchions and the men to lord over them. Streamlined, and now in provocative shades of black, chocolate, magenta, red, silver and gold, Pure Management Group’s second generation club definitely makes the most of the space, now right around 10,000 square feet. The total cost of the expansion/renovation is debated, but I have to believe it’s less than the rumor mill would have us think. The changes are noteworthy but not landmark.

Christian Audigier pre-opening party

But inside, the money is flying, literally. From his spot perched on the black croc-embossed patent leather booths, San Diego Charger Stephen Cooper is raining dollar bills on his party. In the next booth, a very lucky, straitlaced corporate type is pawed and petted by a tiny cheerleaderish blond. Her friends pull her up onto one of the stripper-pole platforms (they light up!), and together they give him a little show. The best seat in the house remains unoccupied, the vacancy itself an enticement to upgrade. From this spacious corner booth, one catches an eyeful of the entire club’s interior, from the sunken bar to the dramatic drapes at the door and behind the DJ booth.

The VIP mechanism, too, has gotten an overhaul. Rather than set bottle minimums, GM Jason Cooper says VIP tables each have a tab minimum, which can be reached in any way. Well, that’s refreshing! Also refreshing is bartender Tony Rossi’s Crystal Rock Lemonade, named for Audigier’s jewelry line/daughter.

I look for Audigier among the crowd. I know he’s here this weekend; he attended both opening parties over the last two nights, but this night, the club belongs to the tourists. This Sunday marks the start of Audigier industry night, but I expect tourists and Vegas newbies will predominantly populate the bars, drawn in by the name, the Ed Hardy association, the newness or the non-sequitur jellyfish tank. (It’s operational tonight, though few Moon Jellies are in there. I had expected something out of National Geographic but these li’l guys are more primordial. Still, cute.)

No Audigier sightings tonight, but Jason Cooper did assure me he’d be in residence a few days each month. In the meantime, one need only look to the jewel-encrusted skulls, rose mosaics and tattooed wine bottles to find him. He can now check “omnipresence” off his to-do list.

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