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The Roxy, Rainbow Bar named West Hollywood landmarks

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The Roxy “reflects West Hollywood’s important role in the history of popular music”

The Rainbow Bar & Grill.
Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

The Sunset Strip music venue The Roxy Theatre is iconic—but now it’s historic too. The West Hollywood City Council voted Monday to give the venue landmark status, a designation its owner had requested.

“By designating The Roxy historic, it ensures that we’ll continue to be part of the Sunset Strip yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” Lou Adler, one of club’s original owners, said in a statement.

The club is a vestige of the neighborhood’s history on a rapidly changing Sunset Strip.

“The Roxy Theatre possesses a uniquely diverse history as a live entertainment venue, which reflects West Hollywood’s important role in the history of popular music,” says a city report on the venue and its history.

The building that houses the venue has been on the Sunset Strip since the 1930s, but The Roxy opened at 9009 West Sunset Boulevard in 1973, “in the intervening period between the decline of the Strip’s first postwar heyday and the birth of its second.”

The 1970s were a rough time for the Sunset Strip, which was still suffering from the aftermath of a 1966 riot between the police and teens who had made the Strip a central fixture in local youth culture.

“We want The Roxy to be to clubs what, say, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is to concert halls,” David Geffen told the Los Angeles Times in 1973.
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But The Roxy’s five original owners—a mix of big-time record company executives (including Adler and David Geffen) and veteran Sunset Strip nightclub owners and operators—saw an opportunity to bring people back to the Strip with live music. They designed The Roxy to be a place where artists wanted to play, a venue with good lighting, good sound, and a comfortable backstage area.

“We want The Roxy to be to clubs what, say, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is to concert halls,” David Geffen told the Los Angeles Times in 1973.

With their connections to big-name acts, the owners had no trouble stacking line-ups with winners. The club opened with Neil Young in concert for three nights. In 1974, The Rocky Horror Picture Show made its American debut at The Roxy. By 1977, the Roxy had hosted performances by Joe Cocker, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Etta James, Billy Joel, the Ramones, Lou Reed, Smokey Robinson, The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and Bruce Springsteen.

The Roxy adapted as punk came to the fore (it removed the tables and chairs that patrons used to sit at to make more space for audiences that wanted to stand) and as hair-metal bands took over the Strip.

Adler now shares ownership of the venue with the Maglieri family (owners of the Whisky a Go Go and co-owners of the Rainbow Bar & Grill, along with Adler). Adler’s son, Nic, manages the Roxy.

An application for The Whisky received approval from the city’s Historic Preservation committee at its last meeting in late October, according to WeHoville, and landmark status for the Rainbow Bar & Grill was approved at the same Monday City Council meeting as the Roxy.

“The Roxy has been a passion project of mine for four decades and the city of West Hollywood is doing great things to support historic businesses like ours,” Adler said.

Though Adler did not elaborate, in its updated billboard regulations, the city of West Hollywood created opportunities for landmarked buildings on the Sunset Strip to convert their existing billboards into digital ones—a change that could generate a significant amount of advertising revenue for those businesses.