Beating the Odds: Bullish on Sunset

Evaluating the life of Los Angeles by taking the pulse of Sunset Boulevard would be incomplete without mentioning restaurateur George Abou-Daoud. The city might continue to struggle through a very tough economic stretch but Abou-Daoud is defying the odds by intensely focusing on a niche strategy.

Since opening The Bowery on Sunset a few blocks west of Highland five years ago, Abou-Daoud has gone on to launch four other restaurants along the street, as well as a wine bar and a deli around the corner on Tamarind Avenue. His newest place, District (6600 Sunset) opened last week.

"Sunset, to me, is the main street of Hollywood," Abou-Daoud said.

And while the oft-quoted statistics about restaurant success rates, or the lack thereof, are not always accurate, the industry's three-year success rate still hovers around 40 percent. In other words, three out of five restaurants (like many small businesses) close within three years.

Moreover, according to the U.S. Small Business Association,California small business bankruptcies were up 17.3 percent in 2008 from 2007 and 60.4 percent from the fatter years of 2000. Yet Abou-Daoud's business is going strong. At a time when fewer people are going out to eat, you can still stop by any one of his restaurants in the evening and witness the pleasant hum of local Angelenos eating and drinking,

The key to Abou-Daoud's success might be held in the description of his patrons: local. Farther down Sunset Blvd. "The Strip" is notable for its clubs. To the north, Hollywood Boulevard teems with tourists. "We don't get a lot of the tourists, we don't get a lot of the club kids," Abou-Daoud said.

When the Bowery opened five years ago, that part of Sunset was what Abou-Daoud called "the dead stretch," with no one on the street at night but drug dealers and prostitutes, even though there are office buildings and residential streets on all sides.

"This stretch is one of the most iconic, historic stretches in the country," Abou-Daoud said. A couple blocks south of the Bowery are the venerable Paramount Studios. The Palladium (where Abou-Daoud points out that Frank Sinatra played his first show) is about 100 yards down Sunset.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before old Hollywood became new again.


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