Story by Anna M. Park.
Los Angeles’ Koreatown is known for its food, drinks and even karaoke song rooms. What it’s not known for is hospitality, and I don’t mean the old-school waitresses at some Korean restaurants. That is, until now.
A collaboration between the Sydell Group (Ace Hotel New York City and Palm Springs) and celebrity chef Roy Choi, the Line Hotel has officially become Koreatown’s go-to place to stay and soon, to eat and play as well.
Taking residence in the historic midcentury building designed by Daniel Mann Johnson + Mendenhall (formerly a sad Radisson), the Line houses 388 guest rooms designed by L.A. artist Sean Knibb, featuring specially commissioned local art and nods to the surrounding ethnic enclave (stools in the shower, Korean snacks in the minibar). Knibb also designed the cavernous lobby, a meÌlange of materials and soothing hues with its textured paneling (actually made of T-shirts dyed in an ombre of indigo), raw concrete pillars and circular banquettes, a mix of highbrow – marble tables, tufted chairs – and organic, everyday materials. The lobby wall facing the street is now floor-to-ceiling windows with an outdoor patio, opening up the Line to the bustling street life of colorful locals and office workers alike.
It’s a philosophy that seems to permeate the hotel. Guests are constantly being welcomed, almost to excess, a departure that indicates that the Line is definitely not your typical Koreatown experience – it’s actually more of a modern Seoul experience, where customer service has become key in the last decade. Indeed, Choi wanted to duplicate the experience of a classic international hotel bar in Korea with his Pot Lobby Bar, now open.
Though Choi’s highly anticipated hot pot restaurant Pot, as well as the speakeasy-style lounge Speek by nightlife impresarios the Houston Brothers and Choi’s other restaurant Commissary (a “vegetable but not vegetarian” focused restaurant), has yet to open, there’s already plenty of activity in the lobby – a variety of people in suits meeting in the peri- winkle wood banquettes, stylish young women twittering in Korean, their eyes darting about as if trying to spot a lumi- nary. (Indeed, on this day, Choi rushes by, donning his signature T-shirt, slouchy jeans, cap and bright aqua sneakers.)
“We want our guests to immerse themselves in the neighborhood,” says Sana Keefer, in charge of culture/creative at the Line. “Not just stay in the hotel, but have the Koreatown experience.” To that end, specially commissioned Linus bicycles are available for guest use and the in-house mag, Here, features maps and local businesses like Beer Belly, the HMS Bounty and Soowon Galbi.
It’s a fresh attitude starting to take hold in Koreatown. Some may call it gentrification, but what makes these changes different is that much of the growth of the neighborhood is helmed by Korean Americans. (The Houston Brothers, as well as Angie Myung, co-founder of the lifestyle brand Poketo, which will have a store and streetside newsstand on the lobby floor, are Korean American.) “The good thing is that we have a large Korean American base, a youth base,” says Keefer (herself of biracial Korean heritage). A young, hip American hotel, that’s what they’re going for, she says, while embracing the community with its Korean-speaking staff and translations throughout. “It’s a tricky thing to pull off,” adds Keefer, “but so far so good.” Details Thelinehotel.com.
This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here.