To update his long-running West Hollywood bar, David Cooley added a differentiated, new concept under the same roof.
Rather than expand the menu or add another dance floor to the Abbey Food & Bar in Los Angeles, David Cooley has refreshed his famed gay bar in West Hollywood by adding an entirely new concept inside the Abbey’s existing space.
Within, an upscale cocktail lounge inspired by hotel lobby bars, opened this summer inside the Abbey, and the new bar-within-a-bar has single-handedly added a new audience—and vibe—to Cooley’s long-running party bar. The venue strays from the Abbey’s signature go-go dancers, disco lights, and mojitos to offer room for dance breaks on sophisticated leather booths; a fresh range of signature drinks including margaritas, caipirinhas, and the Within Martini (vodka, sauvignon blanc, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur); and an elegant nonsmoking lounge that begs for intimate chats.
“I’m already seeing a new group of customers who would rather come up to just drink and hang out at Within. Our regular customers are also excited for this new bar because, by now, they’re a part of our creative process. I’m going on 29 years of having the Abbey, and the customers see that we like to create and give them a sense of ownership and pride in the space,” Cooley says.
While the bars share revenue streams and seasonal food menus, guests have the feeling of visiting two entirely different brands. Beyond signature drinks and less dancing, Within sports a new aesthetic created by Cooley and designer Chad Waterhouse. Rather then play off the Gothic, church-inspired architecture seen in the Abbey’s bar, patio, and dance floor, the duo put together a different look for Within that’s sleek and contemporary, featuring a moody color palette, two gleaming bar-tops, a streamlined fireplace, and cut-crystal glassware. Adding yet another element of separation, Within is encapsulated by its own dark-wood paneled structure inside the larger bar.
Within isn’t the only recent project at the Abbey; a renovation of the patio bar and the dance floor is currently in the approval stages. There aren’t any other updates in the works at the moment, but Cooley says his team is always innovating. “We have a really wide customer base, and they come here for the food, the nightclub atmosphere, the dance, the drink, and now for Within. Our guests like to see that we’re constantly upgrading, evolving, and exploring new ideas,” he says.