Welcome to H.Wood
By Scott Huver
FROM LEFT: John Terzian, Loyal Pennings and Brian Toll at H.Wood
Hollywood and the Highland has never been a great launchpad for nightlife. Two-story clubs rarely succeed, and even the coolest scenes get annoyingly undone by looky-loo tourists, random club-crawlers and celeb-seeking paparazzi.
So how has H.Wood, secreted off Orange Drive in the shadow of a shopping complex, become one of LA’s hautest hangs, drawing an elite enclave of the arty, the A-list and the suitably savvy? “We’re breaking the rules and making it work,” says Loyal Pennings, who, along with co-owners John Terzian and Brian Toll, has made H.Wood an oasis for the übercool.
Pennings, 39, is the impresario behind “proto” clubs LAX, Las Palmas and the Garden of Eden, while 29-year-old, LA-bred, former USC classmates Terzian and Toll matured from clubhoppers/ promoters to entrepreneurs, luring all the right people to all the right places. “Ten years ago, these guys were the 19- and 20-year-olds trying to get in with their phony IDs, and I was the 29-year-old who was trying to manage it all,” laughs Pennings.
Their eventual business associations led to the establishment of H.Wood in the unlikeliest of locales. Terzian and Toll carved a nightlife niche perfectly suited for their semi-privileged posse—an industry-centric, fashion-forward and artistically inclined assemblage of young Angelenos connected via private school, college and, of course, the club circuit. The trick was to make it their own.
“We thought we could do a better job of making a place a home,” says Terzian. “We’re so local, homegrown, and we have a huge hometown following.” They took advantage of the club’s discreet driveway, filled its outdoor patio and mingling-minded bar with luxurious accent furniture and placed a high-energy dance floor on the second level. “It’s an upscale Cheers-type feel here,” he says. “That’s what we wanted to achieve.”
“We have a grasp of LA people,” says Toll, explaining why H.Wood’s tough-to-breach door has admitted patrons from Paris Hilton (beau du jour Doug Reinhardt is an investor) to the Mad Men cast and Jason Bateman’s starry birthdaybash guests. After nondrinking diva Cher became a regular and Terzian desperately combed Hollywood Boulevard for tea, an investor who’s in the tea business provided a full supply, and now a luxe tearoom serving H.Wood’s branded blend has been added.
There are other big plans—expanding the brand to other locations and bringing LAX back to its Latin-themed, super-club roots by resurrecting it as Las Palmas (its original incarnation)— and old tenets will continue to be broken. “There’s a lot of rule-fracturing around here,” says Pennings. “The music’s never perfect until it’s a little too loud; the club’s never the right occupancy until it’s a little too packed; you’ve never had enough to drink until you’ve had a little too much.” 1738 N. Orange Dr., Hollywood, 323-871-2262; thehwood.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY JENN KENNEDY
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.