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Party Like a (Bar Mitzvah) Rock Star

L.A. rock venues open their doors to garage band and “Guitar Hero” celebrations.

by Karla S. Blume

June 24, 2009 | 9:05 pm

House of Blues

House of Blues

Most parents are willing to do anything to make their kids’ dream bar or bat mitzvah celebration come true, even if it means fulfilling rock-star ambitions — be they genuine or virtual.

If your son or daughter spends hours in the garage jamming on a guitar with friends or in front of the television on guitar-shaped peripherals playing games like “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band,” venues around Southern California are ready and willing to host rock-themed bar or bat mitzvah celebrations.

West Hollywood’s House of Blues Sunset, the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, the Knitting Factory and Level 3 in Hollywood, and downtown’s Club Nokia and Grammy Museum at L.A. Live are among some L.A. rock destinations opening their doors for simchas. Room rentals range from as little as $500 to as much as $20,000, and setup and pricing systems vary between the venues.

As with any celebration, factors to consider include occupancy limits, catering, staffing and parking. But since your newly minted son or daughter of the commandment wants to live in the limelight a little longer, it’s also important to consider essentials like lighting, a sound system as well as a digital projector and screen.

When can we have the party?
The House of Blues, the Knitting Factory, Club Nokia, the Saban Theatre and the Grammy Museum offer private parties seven days a week, day or night, depending on what’s already booked for that week. Level 3 Hollywood cannot rent the venue on Saturday evenings from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. because of an ongoing promotion with local radio station 102.7 KIIS-FM, which broadcasts live from the venue during those hours; their busiest bar/bat mitzvah times are Sundays 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

How long do we have the room?
At the House of Blues, a basic party is a four-hour event combined with a two- to three-hour lead time for load-in and setup. If the event is extremely large, the club is even willing to allow for a full day of loading, if necessary. A 2 a.m. closing time is the only absolute deadline at the Knitting Factory; the party must be wrapped up by then. Club Nokia, Level 3 Hollywood and the Saban Theatre have nothing set in stone, so times are negotiable. And a three-hour window is the preferred time span for rentals at the Grammy Museum.

How many people Can We accommodate?
Whether you have 20 friends or as many as 2,000, the House of Blues can comfortably fit all of them. Your range of friends can be 100-1,000 if you wish to take them to the Knitting Factory. The VIP room at Club Nokia can hold 50-350 people, but you can also pack in more than 2,300 people if you combine the VIP area with the main floor. The maximum capacity of Level 3 Hollywood is 600 guests, but even 200 people makes for a nice-sized party with ample room to dance and roam around. The lobby of the Saban Theatre can accommodate 500 guests comfortably. The Grammy Museum and its terrace combined house 400 partygoers.

How much will it cost?
Each venue sets their own standard for a basic rental cost so let’s begin with the starting prices. For the House of Blues Sunset, their daytime rates start at $5,000 for the Foundation Room or Porch Restaurant and $7,500 for their famous music hall. Their nighttime events start at $10,000 for the Foundation and Porch rooms, and the main hall can be yours for $15,000. The Knitting Factory has three rooms available with 21 different starting prices, but as a general guideline they have rooms starting at $1,100 and can go as high as $20,000 based on which room it is and what day it is. Club Nokia sets their price range from $500 to $15,000 depending on how fancy you want to get. Level 3 Hollywood has a basic rental price of $4,000. The Saban Theatre begins its pricing at $2,500 for the lobby alone. And you can set up shop at the Grammy Museum, including the terrace, for the beginning rate of $12,500.


What does all that money include?
For the House of Blues, the special events prices include all of their staff — from cocktail and food servers to bartenders and security. It also includes their tables, chairs, linens and props. The Knitting Factory tailors the event to suit your needs, so depending on what you want, they can most likely give you what you need and ignore what you don’t. Club Nokia gives you a four-walls rental, which includes all staffing and equipment. A rental at Level 3 Hollywood provides the venue, security and staffing for each event. Because they do not have a lighting and sound technician regularly on staff, an additional fee is required for this. The Saban Theatre’s rental fee is for use of the space only, but they do give special discounts to nonprofit organizations. Custodial, steward or security fees are an additional cost. The Grammy Museum gives you access to its space, but charges extra for insurance, wireless Internet, information technology support, extra staffing or entertainment and tenting.

Is access to the stage, soundand lighting systems included?
If you rent out the music hall or do a whole-house buyout at the House of Blues, that guarantees the use of their state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, which is operated by their in-house production team. However, there is an additional production fee depending on what the setup is. At the Knitting Factory, each room has its own stage with a lighting and PA system, so there are many options. They also have a video exhibition system including drop-down screens with digital projectors. Rentals include access to all the technology except for their in-house HD camera system. The standard sound and lighting package is included in basic costs for Club Nokia, Level 3 Hollywood and the Grammy Museum. The Saban Theatre negotiates the cost of sound and lighting system access according to the specifics of the event.

Can we play ‘Guitar Hero,’and does it cost more for the projection screen?
Denise Ronayne from the House of Blues said, “Our stage and venue is the perfect spot for ‘Guitar Hero’ or ‘Rock Band.’ We have done this here many, many times and the guests love it.” And happily, there is no additional cost for the projection screen.
Melissa Goodman from the Knitting Factory points out that, “We have the ability to set up for any screening, video games or presentations. However, for our smallest room, the Alterknit Lounge, screens must be brought in.”
Club Nokia’s rep, Mark Girton, said that they can provide a “Guitar Hero”-equipped area as needed, but they do not have a projection screen, so one must be brought in at an additional fee. 
Julie Briggs of Level 3 Hollywood is proud of the three screens over their dance floor and stage area. “There are also three plasma TVs at the entrance and two large spheres over the bar that project images. If you bring any DVD, they can route these images to any or all of these,” she said. They also have six Gobo lights to project any band logos. These high-tech gadgets are the reason that an additional fee is necessary for a tech expert.
The Saban Theatre has access to a movie screen that runs the width of the stage, and they do not charge extra for its usage.
The Grammy Museum also has the ability to set up for some rockin’ out to “Guitar Hero.”

Is catering included?
The House of Blues has three kitchens and two restaurants, and offers a wide variety of menu options for any private event, but they do allow some outside caterers to come in to host parties if so desired. The Knitting Factory typically does not allow any outside catering unless there is a kosher requirement. They have an exclusive partnership with a premiere Hollywood caterer that provides all their catering. Wolfgang Puck is the exclusive caterer for Club Nokia and the Grammy Museum. Level 3 Hollywood can provide a kitchen for an outside caterer or the restaurant next door is willing to provide any food needs. Kosher caterers are often brought in for Level 3 Hollywood events. Outside caterers are allowed at the Saban Theatre, but any caterer you plan on using must provide a certificate of insurance. Also keep in mind that for all venues, these fees do not include alcohol. If you want to keep the adults at the party happy with alcohol, you will have to shell out more money, and the amount will vary depending on whether it’s beer and wine or the hard stuff.

What about parking?
Valet service is offered at the House of Blues. For daytime events, the parking is $10 per car and it goes up to $15 for nighttime events. The parking at the Knitting Factory is handled by an outside company so they can help arrange for parking in the complex’s four-level parking structure, but they do not offer valet parking. For Level 3 Hollywood, parking at the Hollywood and Highland complex is fairly easy. With a validation from their venue, there is no charge for self-parking. Without a validation, there is a $2 charge for a four-hour period, with a maximum of $10 per day. There is also a $10 charge if you want the valets to park your vehicle. For Saban Theatre parking, the surrounding garages charge $10-$15 per car. At the Grammy Museum, parking is not included in the rental price, but they do have the ability to tack on validations for guests if it’s within the planner’s budget. That price will vary between $10-$20 per car. At Club Nokia, parking is not included in the basic rental cost. Parking at surrounding lots ranges from $5-$25 per car.

How far in advance do we need to book the venue?
The best thing to do for any venue, no matter what timetable you have, is to call and ask. But six to 12 months is a standard amount of notice for the House of Blues. Four to five months before is good enough for a Knitting Factory booking. For Club Nokia, certain parts of the year are busier than others. The staff at Level 3 Hollywood said they are used to the “drop-of-a-hat nature of Hollywood” and have accommodated last-minute bookings, but most clients prefer to book from four to six months out. The Saban Theatre’s Esther Adir said their availability varies — “We have had a wedding in the rotunda that was only booked four days in advance.” And Marcie Booth of the Grammy Museum said about booking, “The earlier the better.”

The main thing to keep in mind with any venue you choose is that all of them are willing to negotiate for the specific needs of the event. They want to please the guests, so don’t be afraid to make special requests. And don’t forget to have fun yourself — because for at least one day, you will be the proud parent of a world-famous rock star.

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