When the pandemic shutdown devastated Los Angeles businesses, Nick Rimedio, the general manager of Kimpton’s La Peer Hotel, swooped in to help. Rimedio created a series of unique pop-ups and opened the trendy property in West Hollywood’s Design District to struggling local companies.
“Since La Peer opened in 2018, we have always focused on local businesses providing 95 percent or more of our services and amenities — most of which are located within walking distance of the property,” he says. “As the pandemic took hold, it was a natural evolution to expand that local feel even further, as the hotel is fortunate to have a number of different spaces suitable for pop-ups of many kinds. As we were forced to suspend most of our operations, the pop-ups became truly symbiotic and a vital part of our strategy in keeping La Peer Hotel energized and as vibrant as possible.”
The Pop-Up Bazaar made the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel a hot destination for well-curated local, exclusive experiences during the pandemic (and of course it’s safe, with masks and social-distancing measures in place). Olivetta, one of L.A.’s most popular restaurants, took up residency at La Peer’s poolside and rooftop terrace. When the Mediterranean eatery from chef Michael Fiorelli debuted in January a block away from the hotel on Melrose Avenue, it became an overnight hit. At La Peer, it’s pivoted to “Olivetta on Holiday” to equal fanfare — the pop-up has sold out every night.
“We like to think of Olivetta on Holiday as an escape from your everyday worries, like a much-needed vacation in a time without travel,” says Bo Burroughs, the restaurant’s director of marketing. “This stylish oasis we’ve created allows our guests to forget all the troubles of today, if only for a moment, and slip away on a European holiday without leaving their zip code.”
Olivetta devotees will be happy to know that staples like the lobster spaghetti and whole roasted organic chicken remain among the offerings, though there are also some new dishes. “The addition of a wood-fired grill and pizza oven have allowed chef Fiorelli to expand the menu to include a wonderful new assortment of grilled meat and seafood, as well as some truly incredible pizzas, such as his favorite pie with duck egg, pancetta, potatoes, rosemary, mozzarella and Parmesan,” Burroughs says.
He adds that the team has noticed pandemic dining trends at the pop-up. “There is no longer a fear of carbs, which is how life should be lived, in our opinion. Our warm toasted sourdough with beurre de baratte [“churned butter”] has not only become the best way to start the meal, it sometimes is the meal. Accompanied by a nice bottle of red wine, of course.”
When the restaurant initially had to close its doors because of COVID, Olivetta wanted to stay close. “The hospitality businesses and loyal customers that give life to Restaurant Row in WeHo have been so supportive of one another that we couldn’t imagine moving away from that community,” Burroughs says. “The La Peer Hotel had been our home base and meeting space as we were building our restaurant in 2019, so it was the logical choice when we began the search of friends who could potentially host us on holiday…Nick Rimedio has always been so welcoming and generous that it seemed rude to even consider another location.”
Gavin Keilly also sought new opportunities at La Peer. “I was originally in the business of creating luxury gift lounges prior to the major awards,” says Keilly, who worked at the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, Emmys and Super Bowl. “I needed to pivot, as there are no events currently taking place, so I created a shop with many of the celebrity favorites over the years.”
The result is GBK Brand Bar, a hybrid celebrity swag suite and hotel gift shop that sells one-of-a-kind items, like luxury knives, William Henry bracelets, woman’s jewelry from Ana Martin’s Filienna Collection, California Caviar and JCB Spirits. “Seventy percent of our items are local designers and artists,” he says. “This is a perfect store to get the gift for those who already have everything or those with distinguished taste.”
Thanks to Keilly’s celebrity connections, the pop-up has established itself as a go-to place among many stars. Viola Davis, Denise Richards, Anthony Anderson, Dulé Hill, Djimon Hounsou, Aldis Hodge and AnnaLynne McCord all have shopped there.
According to Keilly, popular pandemic purchases include stylish masks, Kush Queen CBD bath products, John Kelly Chocolates, sweatshirts and wine. Though, the most soothing buy is arguably the $10,000 4D zero-gravity full-body massage chair — Neil Patrick Harris scooped up one.
GBK also hosts pop-ups within its pop-up, like Brian Ogawa’s Soosh! From Wednesdays to Sundays, the former Nobu Malibu chef sells sushi for carryout or to eat outside (pre-orders are recommended). Mindy Kaling, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Candace Nelson (Sprinkles Cupcakes’ founder) are reportedly fans.
On September 26 and 27, GBK will have a Saint Rue pop-up, featuring the dog company’s leashes and collars; Soosh! will serve “soosh for your pooch” — bowls of salmon, rice and vegetables; and a photographer will snap pup photos.
La Peer offers other pop-ups that are worthy of visiting. One meeting room was transformed into a gallery and studio for James Peter Henry, a painter whose work draws from Cubist, African and Australian Aboriginal influences. Henry showcases paintings, drawings and other hand-painted items, including custom sweatshirts, plateware and sneakers. He’s also conducting art classes.
The WeHo hotel converted its front drive into an open-air training venue curated by celebrity fitness favorite Dogpound, whose outpost one block away on Robertson Boulevard was forced to close with all gyms earlier this summer. Specializing in one-on-one training for professional athletes, models and other high-profile clients, Dogpound provides fitness classes to hotel guests. It also will participate in a Wellness Weekend series later this fall that will include a two-night stay at La Peer, multiple training sessions, fitness classes such as yoga, and culinary and mixology workshops.
Taking over the hotel rooftop is Saved by the Barber, run by Zach Tupaz. Get a dry cut and a shave while peering out over the city. “Zach brings uncanny talent and a passion for service,” Rimedio says. “I’ve never heard more compliments like, ‘It’s the best haircut I’ve ever had’ about one barber.”
In addition, the West Hollywood hotel does pop-ups for one-on-one stretch therapy sessions, a foam-rolling class and appointment-only alfresco manicures and pedicures.
Rimedio says the pop-ups will be around for a while. “There is no definitive end to the pandemic and when we may return to normal operations, so we will continue these partnerships.”
According to Burroughs, Olivetta plans to stay at the hotel as the weather allows or until indoor dining is permitted in West Hollywood. “We set the venue up and tear it down every single day, which is an incredible amount of work before and after each shift. We don’t do this only for the money, we do it because this is who we as hospitality professionals,” he says. “Our industry has suffered in ways that are almost incomprehensible and this endeavor is a true labor of love and passion for our team. To have our friends and neighbors recognize that and show us that they appreciate and care for our family like it’s their own means more to us than any level of financial success ever could. We’re so happy to have created some degree of normalcy, even if it’s just a mirage.”