Change is in the air at one of Hollywood’s preferred stomping grounds.
Gabe Doppelt, who officially replaced Dmitri Dimitrov as Sunset Tower’s resident and beloved maître d’ in October 2018 after a year-and-a-half apprenticeship, is preparing to say goodbye to the iconic property and join hotelier Jeff Klein’s other industry hotspot San Vicente Bungalows.
Doppelt briefed the Sunset Tower crew on the job change last Wednesday evening, giving them plenty of warning to sink in. From March 2023, after the awards expire and all the gold is handed over, Dappelt will join the San Vincente bungalows. Focus on membership in a private club.
For Klein and Doppelt, the move will be part-time at first, as she divides her attention by training her substitute while learning the membership world in advance of the planned expansion of San Vicente Bungalows.
Klein has visions of opening a Santa Monica location in a year and a New York outpost in two years, while Doppelt will help spearhead membership in all of the above, eventually returning to New York. The well-connected Brit gained hospitality from a career as a high-profile editor in London, New York and Los Angeles. Tatler, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Wm And The Daily Beast.
Regarding her move to membership, Dappelt said transfer plans were set in motion after conversations with Klein’s husband, high-profile producer John Goldwyn. “I made an off-the-cuff but genuine comment [John] When Jeff announced in February that he had bought Jane’s in New York City, he wanted to move there for a while to open it,” Dappelt relayed the conversation. “Thirty seconds later, Jeff was on the phone asking to meet. We talked about it. I didn’t want to work until 2 a.m. every night for the rest of my life, but I wasn’t ready to leave Tower Bar yet. Jeff was building San Vicente bungalows with new properties, and the timing made sense for both of us. Plus, I Would love to be a part of empire building!
Klein credited Doppelt’s “remarkable” skills with people as key to building membership at San Vicente Bungalows, which is approaching capacity at the West Hollywood location ahead of the expansion. As for Dimitrov, he will remain at his post at San Vicente Bungalows, where he rules the roost on a part-time basis.
“I knew she was going to be a superstar before Gabe started at Tower Bar because hospitality is in her blood,” he continued, placing her in a high-pressure role at the helm of a restaurant frequented by everyone like Lady Gaga and stars. John Mayer brought players Brian Lourd and Richard Weitz to power. “She has an uncanny knack for bringing people together and taking care of people. She’s at once cozy and neat, knowing who to sit next to, who to charm and who to woo, and who, with her unique brand of South African/British reserve, or snub while quietly figuring out who to sit next to, never seems condescending or snobbish. Makes sure not to feel appreciated.In her own stylish way, guests at Tower Bar feel invited to the coveted dinner party she throws every night.
That’s not to say it’s always easy.
“Qualification is never pretty, and I’ve learned to grow a thick skin,” Dappelt says of what she’s learned over the past few years. “But clearly the common thread is the curation of people. The way you seat a room, I imagine, is no different than the way you build a club membership. It’s constantly changing shape, and you can never settle; it’s easy to get stagnant, less to stay fresh. Often I look at a room and say, ‘Gee, That’s pretty cool.”The point is to repeat it [San Vicente Bungalows].”
Speaking of succession, the obvious question for Klein is who will take over for Doppelt in March?
“That’s a tough question to answer,” Klein admits. “Because I can’t articulate what I’m looking for, but I’ll know when I find it. I may not be the best at many things, but I’m very proud of the success I’ve had in who I’ve chosen to work with. A lot of people have questioned my decision to hire Dimitri and Gabe. They were very unorthodox choices, Especially Gabe, who had never worked in a restaurant. I’m proud to say that bringing them both into my business was probably the best decision I ever made.”
Although she has six months before she says goodbye, Dappelt already has a short list of what she’ll miss the most.
“Not to be corny, but did you see the bear? As they show you, not everything goes according to plan, but the staff is key and we are a close-knit team that operates on the same cylinder night after night,” he says. “The restaurant staff, the front desk night team, Johnny in security has eyes in the back of his head and knows most of our VIPs by first name and keeps us all safe. Plus, I really miss the hotel. It sounds strange, but I love the building. She’s old and her pipes are usually not as perfect as ours as she gets older, but she’s seen it all and she’s still standing there, majestically playing it all.