Commission Affirms the Historic Status of the Whisky

With a unanimous vote on Monday night, West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission granted historic status to the famed Whisky a Go Go building on the Sunset Strip.

The Whisky a Go Go (Pinterest)

Located at 8901 Sunset Blvd., at San Vicente, the two-story art-decoWhisky building was constructed in 1923, one of the first commercial buildings on what would become the Sunset Strip. Itoriginally housed real estate offices and later various banks.In 1963, it opened as a nightclub called The Party, a private club for women, but soon went out of business.

Elmer Valentine, a Chicago copwith mob tieswho moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s,took over the lease and transformed it into the Whisky a Go Go.Inspired by trip to France where he saw many young people dancing inFrench discotheques,Valentine wanted to replicate that dance club here. The Whisky openedin January 1964,triggering the beginning of the Strip’s association with rock and roll.

The Whisky becameknown worldwide,showcasingmany emerging musical acts including the Who,the Byrds, the Kinks,Jimi Hendrix,Steely Dan, Aerosmith,Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Blondie and the Go-Gos. In 1966, the Doors served as the Whisky’s house band before hitting the big time.

The club famously featured a DJ booth suspended from the ceiling.In the mid 1960s when one of the female DJs started dancing in the booth between sets, the crowd respondedpositively, soValentine added two more suspended cages for dancers. One of those dancers designed the official go-go girl costume featuring a fringed dress and white boots, setting off the go-go craze.

Because of its association with significant events in the city’s history as well as the events which happened within the building itself, theCommissionhad no issue in approving the designation.

Commissioner Matt Dubin calledit “a great property to designate.”

Meanwhile,Commissioner Ed Levin said, “If the Whisky is not a landmark in this town, we don’t have landmarks.”

“It’s an important piece of history for the city,” said Commissioner Francesco Gallo, the new appointee of Councilmember John Duran, who was on hand to swear him in.

Speaking during public comment, resident Dan Morin urged approval,saying it is an “iconic building.”

“TheWhisky is known,perhaps,all over the world,” said Morin. “There are so many bands of so much note, so much influence in the rock and roll genre, to see this building not continue to exist as it is now, would be an obscenity to me.”

Likewise, resident Sheila Lightfoot said, “The Whisky is at the heart of the Sunset Strip, andof course we know thatthe Sunset Strip isatthe heart of West Hollywood.”

Meanwhile, Victor Omelczenko, president of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, noted that the Whisky was a rare “trifecta,” eligible for historic designation at the local, state and federal level.

With thisapproval,the Whisky joins two other Sunset Strips venues associated with the city’s rock and roll erathat have received the“historic culturalresource”designation. The Roxy Theater and the Rainbow Bar and Grill were both approved for designation at the Commission’s last meeting.

The historic designation also meansthe Whisky is now eligible to haveitsrooftop billboard upgraded to digital. As part of its plan to expand the number of billboards on the Sunset Strip and covert some existing billboards todigital, the city willgive extra consideration tobuildingsthatalso apply for historic status.

Commissioner Jake LaJoie recused himself from the deliberations as he lives within 500 feet of the Whisky. Commissioners Yawar Charlie and Lola Davidson were absent.

The Commission was originally scheduled to consider the French Market complex, but that hearing was delayed. It is currently scheduled to be heard at theNov. 25 meeting. Although the Commission had previously given its blessing to the French Market complex,the developer, Faring, has revised the plans and the Commission must review those changes.

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