Beverly Hills Hotel Boycott: Hollywood Insiders Reveal Their New Power-Lunch Spots
This story first appeared in the May 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The pain of decreased business at The Beverly Hills Hotel following a widespread boycott by Hollywood's elite has translated to sizable gains and swinging doors at the town's other top hotels and A-list dining establishments.
Since word spread of the May 1 implementation of Sharia law by Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah -- owner of the hotel through his Dorchester Collection of properties that also includes Hotel Bel-Air -- power players have responded by using their pocketbooks to condemn the criminal code that could mean stoning deaths for gays and adulterers. "I'm no longer going [to the Polo Lounge], and I was there three times a week," says WME partner Richard Weitz. Same for Trigger Street Productions' Dana Brunetti: "I will not return there while the sultan owns it."
That sentiment was echoed by about two dozen industry names contacted by THR, even if most admit they're keeping an eye in the rearview mirror. "I feel bad for the staff," says Weitz. But waitstaff who rely on tips received good news May 8 when Dorchester announced that personnel at its L.A. properties would be compensated for lost gratuities in addition to wages and benefits.
For producer David Permut, choosing his new spot -- Culina at the Four Seasons -- wasn't without consideration. He notes that the Four Seasons is partly owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, which also employs Sharia law and has imprisoned gay men. A hotel rep stresses that the prince is a co-owner of management company Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and that the Four Seasons on Doheny is locally owned.
There's less of a united front in terms of a boycott in Britain, where gay-rights group Stonewall said May 16 that it won't follow Richard Branson's and Stephen Fry's pledge to shun the sultan's hotels, including London's Dorchester. Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt says she doesn't believe the boycott will elicit change.
Still, there aren't tumbleweeds rolling through the Polo Lounge. A tour of the room at lunch May 16 showed it was about half full, though with no recognizable talent or execs.
Speaking of talent: So where is Jay Leno, who led a May 5 protest with wife Mavis, dining now? "Jay has always had his business meetings at Johnny Rockets," Leno's rep tells THR, "so there is no change in his habit."
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1. Bouchon; 235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Ryan Seacrest didn't take long finding a backup. He's an investor in the French bistro, and he oft has been spotted there in the past couple of weeks. So has Gersh Agency partner Leslie Siebert and Principato Young's Peter Principato.
2. The Luxe; 11461 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Location matters. Luxe's restaurant On Sunset, smack dab between Brentwood and Bel Air, saw DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, AFI's Bob Daly, Legendary's Bruce Rosenblum, Fox's Jim Gianopulos, the MPAA's Chris Dodd and Tara Guber breakfasting at different tables on a recent morning.
3. Tavern; 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles
Wolf Films' Danielle Claman Gelber has abandoned the Beverly Hills Hotel in favor of this Brentwood hideaway. "It's sad because I grew up in Beverly Hills, my brother was bar mitzvah'd at The Beverly Hills Hotel, my sister was married there," she says. "But I can't bring myself to go there."
4. Craft; 10100 Constellation Blvd., Century City
Philanthropist Sherry Lansing had been stationed for years in one of the Polo Lounge's private booths. She was quick to tell THR of her plans, which have included Tom Colicchio's CAA-adjacent joint. "I'll go to Craft," she said early on in the boycott.
5. Craig's; 8826 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
UTA board member and Polo Lounge regular Tracey Jacobs is ensconced in a blue leather booth at Craig Susser's West Hollywood dinner spot, as is Jackie Collins. "I miss the Beverly Hills Hotel," says the novelist, "but I will not go until something changes."
6. Culina; 300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles
Inveterate power breakfaster Katzenberg also has been spotted taking a table at the restaurant at the Four Seasons, as has Permut. The hotel's local owners are couples Robert and Beverly Cohen and Joseph (Robert's brother) and Sue Cohen.
Mark Wahlberg has traded his Polo Lounge routine for Tuscan cuisine. "It's just a lot more people," chef Edoardo Baldi says of business. UTA managing director Jay Sures, Shine America's Rich Ross, Cynthia Yorkin and Brunetti are hitting it more regularly.
8. The Grill; 9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills
"My new favorite spot is the same as my old favorite spot, The Grill. I just go there more often," says lawyer Jeanne Newman. Other Grill-goers: Imagine Entertainment's Michael Rosenberg and Barbara Davis, who calls the boycott "a shame."
9. The Montage; 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
"Good thing I love @MontageBH because no more Beverly Hills hotel for me," tweeted Entourage's Doug Ellin on May 5. He later urged one of his 45,000 followers to cancel a reservation. "Read the news and go to @MontageBH you'll love it."
10. Sugarfish; 212 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Sushi Nozawa's Beverly Hills location has welcomed power lunchers including manager Molly Madden, who have migrated from Sunset Boulevard to Canon Drive. Exclaims the 3 Arts Entertainment partner, "I am all about Sugarfish!"
11. The Peninsula; 9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills
Longtime Beverly Hills Hotel devotee Clive Davis is now checking in at the posh hotel, which also hosted Kim Kardashian's bridal shower, originally set for the BHH. Sheppard Mullin's Robert Darwell now prefers its Belvedere restaurant to the Polo Lounge.
12. Spago; 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
WME partner Weitz and NBC's Richard Licata have been hitting Wolfgang Puck's Canon Drive institution. "I switched to Spago just the other day, which I was told was more crowded at lunchtime since the boycott," says Licata.
13. Nate 'n Al; 414 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
The legendary deli -- beloved since 1945 for staples like its hot pastrami sandwiches -- isn't the first place you'd expect to see a vegan like Wasserman Media Group's Casey Wasserman, but he's been spotted back at his once-regular table.
14. Sunset Tower; 8358 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
A hotel rep tells THR that the pool terrace has seen an uptick in lunch clientele. And a source says that Tower regulars Andy Samberg and his scripting comrades, who sometimes hit the Bel-Air for bull sessions, recently decided last-minute against the latter.
Electus' Ben Silverman has plugged more Soho into his power-dining sked, as have Mike and Irena Medavoy (who hadn't used their membership much) and L.A. fashion maven Cameron Silver of Decades, whose voice helped spark the boycott.