Hollywood isn’t known for following the rules, but those who find themselves at San Vicente Bungalows should be prepared to follow some unique ones.
Hotelier Jeff Klein’s private-membership club, which reopened in 2019 after a six-year, $50 million renovation, has become the de facto watering hole and meeting spot for those who dominate the entertainment industry. It replicates the clubby insider sensibility that Klein previously perfected at Sunset Tower’s Tower Bar.
It’s also a very far cry from the club’s previous incarnation. For many years, its whitewashed bungalows housed the San Vicente Inn, a seedy, men-only motel that was once referred to as the “sin bin.”
There’s no simple application. Members must be invited to apply. The 1,500-ish lucky ones include chronic lunchers Reese Witherspoon, Lorne Michaels, and Bill Maher. Regular dinner guests include Oliver Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Andy García, James Franco, Corey Hawkins, Dree Hemingway, Tracee Ellis Ross, Emma Stone, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Duke Nicholson, son of Jack.
Margot Robbie hosted a pre-Oscars screening and Q&A for Promising Young Woman there; CAA and Netflix held Oscar parties in the $2 million gardens. Wallis Annenberg had her tête-à-tête with Prince Harry at S.V.B., although she is said to be the member, not the young royal.
The first members, called “the OGs” (although “original gangsters” they certainly are not) were well-resourced regulars at Sunset Tower. A second wave was invited a few months later, and now a rotating committee of about a dozen people decides who to invite and approve for membership.
The essential rules of conduct for members put in place by Klein seem to be an experiment in changing human instinct when it comes to celebrity. Beyond a contractual prohibition of even discussing S.V.B. and its guests or members, the central rules are as follows: no photos, no paparazzi, and no talking to guests you do not know.
In separate incidents, two members are said to have been thrown out for approaching a well-known guest who was not an acquaintance. When paparazzi appeared one night in late March of 2020 to catch the Biebers exiting—apparently having been tipped off—Klein was said to be angry. After a quick investigation, the culprit was found out and banned, along with the paying member who had brought the gossiper inside.
The member who leaked word of a meeting between Netflix boss Ted Sarandos and Steven Spielberg to the tabloids met with the same fate. The only rule breaker still at large, so to speak, is the person who made known Prince Harry’s appearance at the club.
The old hospitality mantra “The customer is always right” doesn’t hold much water at S.V.B., despite members under 35 paying $1,800 a year and older members paying $4,200 a year. (One-time initiation fees are slightly more than the annual dues.) Demand for membership is said to be high, but disobey the rules and it doesn’t matter how much you pay or how rich you are.
“What I don’t understand is how they find out who did what,” a member says. “Are there cameras? Can they see our phones or something? Granted, they do a good job of keeping things quiet.”
Certainly, quiet is the goal, even if it has given the place an air of “real paranoia,” as a member puts it. And to answer that question, yes, there are cameras.
But S.V.B. is not a hot spot in the traditional sense, unless you’re turned on by studio executives talking shop.
And it’s not the site of many wild nights, members and guests have noted, unlike Sunset Tower, which has returned as a very popular meeting spot and hangout post–pandemic paranoia and bar closures in L.A. And rival Hollywood outpost Chateau Marmont, dimly lit to keep all manner of dirt unseen, is still a standby, as is Cecconi’s, for a power lunch, and Giorgio Baldi, for dinner.
Reasons for S.V.B.’s relative solitude are many. Members often go there simply to work, to some degree. There are two bars but no dance floor. There are a few small private dining rooms, wallpapered and complete with fireplaces.
The area called “the Living Room” is, as the name implies, a casual place for drinks and conversation when it’s not being used for private events. There is a quiet screening room fitted out with plush seats of light-blue crushed velvet. The garden pool is compact and pristine—it’s there for ambiance, not swimming.
The nine bungalows themselves are reserved for members who can post up longer-term, if they like. The overall décor is that of an English cottage, designed by London-based Rita Konig, the eldest daughter of Nina Campbell. For decades, she has operated as a go-to decorator for both royals and Beatles.
S.V.B. is striped and patterned and cozy, at only around 10,000 square feet. “Cottagecore” is the sensibility of 850 SVB, too, the new mini-hotel Klein recently opened directly across the street from the club.
The hotel has about two dozen rooms, and it’s open to the public. A suite goes for around $600 a night, but that doesn’t include stepping past the green-and-white-striped awning a mere 10 yards away, where Hollywood is supposed to be letting its collective guard down.
Although there is technically a dress code of “business casual” or fancier, S.V.B. members say even the most recognizable actors tend to dress down—jeans and tees, flannel shirts, designer sweats, and eyeglasses instead of contacts. This invitation to relax is what Klein is really selling.
Klein, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is said to personally maintain a keen watch over the place. He is frequently on hand, holds a weekly meeting with the entire staff, and keeps in contact with maître d’ Dimitri Dimitrov, who was the gatekeeper to the Sunset Tower’s Tower Bar for many years.
But a little paranoia and stuffiness isn’t enough to keep anyone away. The forest-green phone-lens-size stickers guests are required to use as camera covers have become something of a status symbol. Often, non-members who managed to get inside keep the stickers on the back of their phones.
Members are not required to use the stickers, but they are forbidden from taking photos. And there are a few perks—half off menu prices, invitations to a growing slate of events, and even discounts for luxury brands.
Perhaps most attractive, S.V.B. is not excessively sensitive to so-called cancel culture or to tabloid scandals. Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp are still said to be members.
Kali Hays is a Los Angeles–based writer