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Change is in the air at one of Hollywood’s preferred stomping grounds.
Gabé Doppelt, who officially replaced Dimitri Dimitrov as Sunset Tower’s resident and beloved maître d’ in October 2018 following a year and a half apprenticeship, is preparing to bid adieu to the iconic property and join hotelier Jeff Klein’s other industry hotspot, San Vicente Bungalows.
Doppelt informed Sunset Tower staff of the job change last Wednesday evening with plenty of warning to let it sink in. Beginning in March 2023, after awards season is over and all the gold has been handed out, Doppelt will segue to San Vincente Bungalows where she’ll focus on membership at the private club.
Per Klein and Doppelt, the move will be part-time at first as she will split focus by training her replacement while also learning the membership world in advance of San Vicente Bungalows’ planned expansion.
Klein has sights set on opening a Santa Monica location in one year and a New York outpost in two years with Doppelt helping spearhead membership at all of the above, eventually moving back to New York. The well-connected Brit segued to hospitality from a career as a high-profile editor in London, New York and Los Angeles at such publications as Tatler, Vogue, Mademoiselle, W and The Daily Beast.
About her move into membership, Doppelt said transfer plans were set in motion after a conversation with Klein’s husband, high-profile producer John Goldwyn. “I made an off-the-cuff but genuine comment to [John] in February when Jeff announced he had bought The Jane in New York City, about wanting to move there for a while to open it for him,” Doppelt relayed of the conversation. “Thirty seconds later, Jeff was on the phone asking to meet. We talked about it. I didn’t want to work until 2 a.m. every night for the rest of my life, but I wasn’t ready to leave Tower Bar just yet. Jeff was building out San Vicente Bungalows with new properties and the timing seemed to make sense for both of us. Plus, I love being a part of empire building!”
Klein praised Doppelt’s “remarkable” skills with people as being pivotal to shaping the membership at San Vicente Bungalows, which is nearing capacity for the West Hollywood location ahead of the expansion. As for Dimitrov, he will remain at his post at San Vicente Bungalows where he rules the roost on a part-time basis.
“I knew Gabé would be a superstar before she started at the Tower Bar because she has hospitality in her blood,” he continued of putting her in the high-pressure role at the head of a restaurant frequented by everyone from stars like Lady Gaga and John Mayer to power players Bryan Lourd and Richard Weitz. “She possesses an uncanny instinct for putting people together and taking care of people. She is at once cozy and unflappable, making sure customers never feel slighted or unappreciated while quietly calculating who to seat next to whom, who to charm and who, with her unique brand of South African/British reserve to ice, or snub. In her own stylish way, she makes guests at the Tower Bar feel like they’ve been invited to a coveted dinner party she throws every night.”
That’s not to say it’s always easy.
“Entitlement is never pretty, and I learned to grow a thick skin,” Doppelt says of what she’s learned over the past few years. “But clearly the common thread is the curation of people. The way you seat a room, I would imagine, is not dissimilar to the way you build out a club membership. It shape-shifts constantly, and you can never settle; becoming stale is easy, remaining fresh less so. Often I look at the room and think, ‘Gee, that looks pretty cool.’ The point is to replicate that at [San Vicente Bungalows].”
Speaking of replication, the obvious question for Klein is who will take over for Doppelt come March?
“That’s a hard question to answer,” Klein admits. “Because I can’t articulate what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it once I find it. I may not be good at many things, but I take great pride in the success I’ve had selecting who to work with. A lot of people questioned my decision to hire Dimitri and Gabé. They were highly unconventional choices, especially Gabé, who had never worked in a restaurant. I’m proud to say that bringing them both into my business was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Though she’s got six months before she bids adieu, Doppelt already has a shortlist of what she’ll miss most.
“Not to be corny, but have you seen The Bear? As they show you, not everything goes according to plan, but the staff are key, and we are a close-knit team who operate on the same cylinder night after night,” she says. “Restaurant staff, the front desk overnight team, Johnny in security who has eyes in the back of his head and knows most of our VIPs by first name and keeps us all safe. Plus, I will really miss the hotel. It sounds strange, but I love the building. She is old and her pipes are not often perfect just like us as we age, but she has seen it all, and she still stands there, majestically playing host to all this.”
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