"These two are the wildest DJs I have ever met," says Dan, their lighting man. "They'll leave the decks alone, say, 'I need a beer!' jump around, go in the middle of the crowd. They perform at the same level as a lead singer. One party at X-it, they drew close to 1,000 people. The vibe is unreal."
"Once I stop serving alcohol, I can have DJs all night long I can have DJs 24 hours," says X-it Nightclub's owner, Bob Gale, who still seems confused by the logic behind Mayor Mara and Hollywood's bizarre anti-DJ law.
Gale's an affable guy with a jolly belly and squinty blue eyes, his gray hair combed neatly back. "This was the original City Hall and police department. It's where the City of Hollywood was founded," he says as he leads a tour of X-it, which looks like it was cobbled together from the remains of several buildings from different eras. "The city sold it when they built a new City Hall. It was various nightclubs, and then it was most famously known as a restaurant called Hemmingway's. In the old days, when the old Diplomat Hotel not the new one but the old one was the hotel, it attracted Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and all those guys. They've all eaten here." And while it was a fine dining establishment downstairs, upstairs, Gale says, Hemmingway's was a brothel.
Newspaper clippings, yellowed with age, and photos of Tiny Tim visiting the restaurant hang on the walls of a back hallway. Gale's general manager, a burly but friendly 30-ish guy named Juan Alboniga, says, "If Tiny Tim and them were hanging out, then this must've been the place! We'll get regulars coming by here to reminisce. It's awesome. We let them walk around, and they'll say, 'The piano was over here; here's where Frank Sinatra was at. '"
As for the club's present incarnation, Gale explains that Hollywood's government practically forced him into hosting raves.
After buying the place in 2000 with a partner he refuses to name, Gale ran it as a nightclub with a 4 a.m. license. But Hollywood's draconian DJ law meant that he'd have to spend a lot more money to bring in live musical acts if he wanted to keep serving alcohol past midnight. But a band is out of his price range and wouldn't be practical considering the club's layout four separate rooms on two stories.
When Gale bought X-it six years ago, the area was a "ghost town," he says. "Then as clubs opened, they brought business. But Hollywood has an ethnically diverse population a large black population. The black clientele changed the color of downtown Hollywood." With developers spending millions on redevelopment, Gale charges, city leaders cast a wary eye on black partiers. "The city is afraid to lose those multimillions of dollars."
"I was the largest dance club," he continues. "I had a large black clientele. One of the only clubs that was really, truly affected was mine." The law does allow some businesses to have DJs and serve alcohol but only if they serve meals and have tables and chairs covering 75 percent of the floor. In which case, says Gale, "You can't have a dance floor. You can't have a club atmosphere. So I chose to give up the 4 a.m. license."
"A DJ has nothing to do with the problems in the city," Gale says. "Everyone knows they wanted to whiten up downtown Hollywood."
It's a shame, he says. "We had a wonderful Haitian party here on Sundays. The people looked like they were going to church, dressed nice. They had their party, it was peaceful, and they left. And I had hip-hop on Wednesday nights."
After Mara's law took effect, however, business tanked. "Revenue-wise, it's like nonexistent," Gale says. "If we do $2,000 a week, we're doing well. When we could do six to seven times that in one night before. Let's put it this way: Between the mortgage, electric, gas, water, what we pay for the parking that we have, and basic staff, I need approximately a minimum of $25,000 a month. I'm pulling the dollars every month out of my pocket."
Gale says he's fortunate he gets other income from rental properties he owns. But he's had to cut a lot of jobs. "Now, I have two permanent people and a couple of part-time people. Before, I had a total of maybe 35, 40 different staff."