With a 3-1 vote Thursday night, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission rejected a plan for Equinox gym to add a rooftop restaurant, citing noise concerns.However, the Commission did approve interior renovations for the club, located at the 8590 Sunset Blvd., at Alta Loma Road.
An upscale gym attracting many celebrities and wealthy patrons, Equinox hoped to add a full-service, 5,417-square-foot rooftop restaurant with alcohol sales,which would be open the same hours as the gym. Plans called for a dining area, a cabana area and a lounge area as well as kitchen and storage facilities. The rooftop restaurant would have been in addition to the gym’s already existing first-floor juice bar.
Residents living at the adjacent Park Wellington condominium complex at 1131 Alta Loma Rd. raised concerns about potential noise problems from the rooftop restaurant, noting how sound would flow downhill from the Equinox roof to their building.
“If they have ambient noise, amplified music all day long, how do we know that it’s not going to impact our quality of life which is currently pretty peaceful and blissful,” said Jean Allen, secretary of the Park Wellington board of directors.
“This could open up a Pandora’s box with us,” said Robert Countryman, president of the Park Wellington homeowners association. “It would be noise, it would be constant complaints, it would be a nightmare.”
Meanwhile, resident Annette Kazmerski, who lives on San Vicente Boulevard near the London Hotel, said any kind of noise disrupting people’s homes is a problem. She reported hearing noise from the London hotel at all hours of the day, especially from conversations happening on hotel balconies.
The Commission shared those concerns, referencing the noise problems from the popular Catch rooftop restaurant on the northwest corner of Melrose Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard disturbing residents living in the adjacent West Hollywood West neighborhood.
Commissioner Sue Buckner said that a rooftop sound wall should be required at the very least. Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner concurred.
“I think the potential for disturbing the neighborhood is significant,” said Hoopingarner, adding that she feared the restaurant, if approved, might one day morph into a nightclub, noting that the rooftop area would have a capacity for 291 people if seats and tables were removed.
Initial plans called for the rooftop restaurant to only be open to Equinox members, but Hoopingarner wondered whether the gym had a large enough membership to sustain a restaurant. Meanwhile, Commissioner John Altschul asked whether Equinox would allow a non-member to go the restaurant for a drink.
Luba Sanitaroba, vice president of entitlements for Equinox, said it did not plan to operate it as a standalone restaurant, but conceded they would not turn away a member of the public who wanted to go to the restaurant.
“We will not deny people if they want to get a martini,” said Sanitaroba. “We have not finalized our program,but we believe there won’t be anybody who is not a member wanting to go up on the roof.”
Although he also worried about noise, especially the rooftop water feature which could amplify sounds, Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro cast the only vote in favor of the rooftop restaurant. Carvalheiro had suggested cutting off alcohol service an hour before closing rather than the 30 minutes before closing, which is what Equinox proposed.
The West Hollywood Equinox closes at 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, at 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and at 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The club opens at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends.
Normally, approving a minor conditional use permit to add alcohol sales to an existing business would be decided by the Director of the Planning and Development Services Department. However, Director John Keho considered adding alcohol sales to a gym/fitness center to be a major overall change to Equinox’s original conditional use permit and opted to let the Planning Commission determine the matter.
Several public commenters questioned the logic of a gym adding a restaurant that serves alcohol, something Altschul also questioned.
“Your business, which is quite successful, is fitness. I don’t understand how you encourage somebody to work out for an hour or two and then go have a couple of martinis,” said Altschul.
Sanitaroba replied that some studies have shown drinking alcohol to be healthy. However, Carvalheiro, who is the new commission chair, cut off that discussion, saying it was beyond the scope of what they were considering.
While the Commission rejected the rooftop restaurant, it did approve interior changes to the gym. On the ground level, Equinox plans to move and expand its lobby and reception area plus annex the adjacent vacant 2,100 square foot space (previously occupied by a salon) for an enlarged retail area. On the second floor, the gym plans to reconfigure the layout of the yoga studio and spa area.
Commissioner Adam Bass recused himself from the deliberations because he helped organize a protest rally outside Equinox in August following news that Equinox owner Stephen M. Ross was hosting a fundraiser for U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Likewise, Commissioner John Erickson also recused himself because he had made negative remarks about Ross during a Commission meeting earlier this summer.
Commissioner Stacey Jones was absent from the meeting as she is on vacation.
Commissioners Buckner and Carvalheiro both disclosed they are members of the West Hollywood Equinox, but neither recused themselves. Carvalheiro said he felt he could be impartial despite his membership in the club.
The Commission was originally scheduled to consider plans for the French Market restaurant-office complex at 7985 Santa Monica Blvd., but that hearing was postponed. The Commission will likely hear that project in November.