April 2010

At Caña, All Roads Lead to Rum

  • Rabo de Galo
  • Lead barman John Coltharp
  • Daisy de Santiago
  • GM Joel Black
  • Port-au-Prince
  • Glass-sheltered open-air patio

Cedd Moses’ latest nightspot is a tribute to the spirit of the tropics by TESSA BENSON / photographs by BRIAN LEATART

When a recession hits, hemlines shoot up, lipstick gets redder and drinks flow more freely. Showing skin and adding flash may help boost morale for some, but a little economic relief in the realm of nightlife goes a long way for all. That’s why nightlife-style emperor Cedd Moses and his company, 213, have taken the cue and turned the Doheny, previously a $2,200-a-year-membership drinking club, into Caña—where a onetime fee of $20 gets you all access (and goes entirely toward charity—this month, it’s Haiti).

"The recession made it really hard for people to pay for membership," says Moses. "We decided to open the concept to a lot more people, and the room will be much more vibrant." The "concept," as he calls it, is a premium rum bar headed by lead barman/cocktail wizard John Coltharp, previously of Seven Grand. "With rum, you have a more economically functional spirit, with many options and price points," says Coltharp. "It’s a liquor I’ve seen become popular over the last year."

While the dark and woody decor of the Doheny will, for the most part, remain, interior decorator Ricki Kline has added 1940s vintage chandeliers, island-inspired oil paintings and gas-burning lanterns in the greenhouse (which used to house Mrs. Doheny’s orchids) to pump up the island-chic vibe.

"I also had fun with the bathrooms, with nautical wallpaper and antique mirrors," says Kline. "The lighting in the ladies’ blasts straight on the face and is very flattering. People usually overlook the bathroom, and these have character."

Those who once frequented the Doheny will see the familiar face of GM Joel Black, who remains the gatekeeper at Caña. "We wanted to shift the balance of bars away from Hollywood, toward quality and away from cheesy temporary nightclubs. We deserve a city with a great epicenter of bars that will have staying power," Black says.

Moses agrees: "Our location is next to the Staples Center and L.A. Live. We didn’t want to turn our bar into an ESPN Zone, so we made it members only. It was the first private-club license approved in 50 years, since the Playboy Club, but some people misread it as snobbery or intimidating. With Caña, we want this to be a bar for people to enjoy music, crafted cocktails and dancing if the mood strikes." Sounds like an invitation to us. Caña Rum Bar at the Doheny, 714 W. Olympic Blvd., 213-745-7090, canarumbar.com.