Established in West Hollywood for over 25 years, The Abbey is an iconic restaurant, bar and dance club that regularly welcomes A-list celebrity guests from the worlds of music, film, TV and sports. Now the subject of its own reality TV series – What Happens at the Abbey – on E!, the venue is constantly evolving and its lighting system was recently completely revamped with the installation of more than 250 ADJ fixtures.
Having grown from humble beginnings as a coffee house in 1991, the Abbey has expanded repeatedly over the years to the point that it now spreads across 14,000 square feet. Following the vision of owner and founder David Cooley, the venue now boasts multiple bars, an outdoor patio, VIP areas and a huge main dance space. It opens seven days a week serving food and drinks during the day and into the evening, before hosting themed party nights and special events that run late into the night.
The Abbey, one of the hottest nightclubs in Southern California, is known internationally as the “Best Gay Bar in the Word,” having been awarded this honor twice by Logo. As a philanthropist, David has hosted many parties and charity events, such as, Academy Awards viewing parties, political fundraisers and an annual toy drive for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. And, the club is the set for the hit E! Television reality show, “What Happens at the Abbey.”
When David and his team at the Abbey decided that it was time to overhaul their lighting system they turned to Ali Tabatabaie at Platinum AVL, a full service production and equipment installation company based in Portland, OR. Having been in business almost as long as The Abbey, the team at Platinum AVL has vast experience of audio, video and lighting installations in leisure venues and relished the opportunity to design a system that would befit The Abbey’s world-famous status.
Having visited the venue and listened to the vision and specific requirements of David, as well as his venue managers and technical staff, Ali arranged for them to visit ADJ’s LA showroom for a demonstration of the company’s latest technology. There ADJ Showroom Manager and Lighting Designer Edgar Gonzalez demonstrated a variety of different fixtures including the Vizi Beam RXONE which particularly caught the eye of The Abbey’s management team due to its powerful output and quick movements. They also witnessed the time-coded lightshow, created by Edgar at the showroom, which demonstrates how a variety of ADJ fixtures can be combined using creative programming to produce an impressive lightshow. The Abbey team were so impressed that they not only committed to an all-ADJ rig for their venue but asked Edgar to serve as the Lighting Designer for the new system.
Following site visits to the venue, and the trip to the ADJ showroom, Ali had a clear understanding of David’s vision and the unique requirements of The Abbey. The next stage was a lengthy design process where Ali worked alongside Edgar to create a plan for totally transforming the lighting throughout the whole establishment.
“The Abbey is truly unique and it has a different feel to any other venue,” explains Ali. “It’s a very special place and one of the most interesting nightclubs that I’ve visited around the world. So our job was to create a lighting system that is just as unique and special. One of the things that the management wanted was a lightshow that hits visitors as soon as they arrive. They wanted action right from when you walk in the front door all the way through to the end of the bar. On a Friday and Saturday night the whole place basically becomes a dancefloor!”
The new system starts with an indoor/outdoor section at the front of the venue which connects its large open patio to the restaurant, bar and club areas inside. This unique space has a retractable roof which means that it can be open when the weather is good or covered on rainy days. To wash the area with colored light ADJ’s new 7PZ IP was selected thanks to its IP-rating which means that sudden showers won’t cause a problem even if the roof is still open. It’s zoom feature is also utilized, allowing the same fixtures to be used for subtle ambient washes during the day and more impactful intense spots at night.
Because the area is used for dancing after dark, moving heads have also been installed (although these fixtures are mounted under cover). ADJ’s powerful Focus Spot Three Z fixtures provide GOBO effects while additional moving washes are provided by ADJ Inno Color Beam Z7 units. Each powered by 7 x 10W quad-color LEDs and boasting motorized zoom varying from 10 to 60-degrees, these versatile moving heads provide both broad color washes and narrow beam effects as required.
In the main restaurant area ADJ COB Cannons serve as house lights that can also be used to create ambient color washes as well as more energetic effects later in the evening. Additional moving head fixtures have also been installed in this space, as it too serves as a secondary dancefloor after dark. Here ADJ’s innovative new LED-powered VIZI BSW 300 units were chosen alongside the larger Inno Color Beam Z19 zooming wash fixtures.
“We choose the LED-powered VIZI BSW 300 moving heads because they are affordable hybrid fixtures that allow lots of flexibility,” explains Edgar. “I made use of the textured GOBOs to create nice static looks for during the day, but then at night they bring the dancefloor to life with movement and beam effects backed up by moving color beams from the Inno Color Beam Z19s.”
Yet more moving head fixtures were installed in the narrow VIP seating area which runs down the side of the venue with arches that open out onto the main dance space. Here Focus Spot Twos were selected due to their compact size, punchy output and integral prism effect. Edgar has programmed these fixtures to accent the brick walls with atmospheric GOBO projections and also to shoot beams out through the arches into the main room.
The extensive use of ADJ lighting fixtures throughout the whole venue means that a party atmosphere can be created in every part of The Abbey, but it is in the main dance area that the lightshow is on a truly epic scale. In addition to the Vizi Beam RXONEs that the Abbey’s management team loved when they visited the ADJ showroom, a large number of ADJ’s powerful Saber Spot RGBW LED pinspots have been installed to create a unique focal point for the whole space. A 10 x 10 grid of the fixtures point straight down in the middle of the room while 50 more run around the catwalk that surrounds the main dancefloor.
“We had purchased some Saber Spots for an installation in another club around two months prior to starting this project and were really impressed with their brightness,” enthuses Ali. “So when we were working on ideas for The Abbey, and particularly for a really distinctive feature for the main area, we thought that a pixel-mapped grid of Saber Spots would work really well as a centerpiece for the whole system.
“The Abbey is already a well-known venue,” adds Edgar, “but we wanted to create a centerpiece that would really stand out from any other club. I pixel mapped every single Saber Spot and then programmed orbiting patterns and fade effects that make the dancefloor really exciting. From the nights that I’ve been there, it seems that the Saber Spots really catch the crowd’s attention. I’ve even seen people taking selfies in front of them!”
The beams are accentuated by an ADJ Entourage high-output fazer, while color washes are provided by more ADJ Inno Color Beam Z19 fixtures. Then, to add movement to the middle of the dancefloor, four of ADJ’s Crazy Pocket 8s have been mounted on a low beam that runs the length of the room, putting beams right above the heads of people on the dancefloor. Meanwhile the 14 Vizi Beam RXONE fixtures are positioned around the outside of the room so that their beams can be directed in to the dancefloor from all sides.
“One particularly effective look that I programmed makes use of the RXONE’s 16-facet prism,” explains Edgar. The heads all point back towards the bar, across the dancefloor, to create rotating tunnels of light. It really brings the whole venue to life!”
Four of ADJ’s UV COB Cannons have also been installed, to create a classic glowing black light effect, alongside four Lightning COB Cannon fixtures that are used to inject blinding strobe effects onto the dancefloor. Literally every conceivable type of lighting effect has been brought together to create The Abbey’s impressive lightshow and no part of the venue has been overlooked. Even the bar area between the two dancefloor spaces has been thought of, with two ADJ Asteroid 1200 centerpieces installed above it to add interest and unique effects.
Such a large and complicated installation was sure to present a challenge or two, but it was actually the popularity of the venue that proved to be the only real obstacle that Ali and the Platinum AVL team had to overcome. “The biggest challenge of the install was the fact that the Abbey is open – and busy – seven days a week,” he explains. “That meant we had to make sure that lighting was available every night while we were carrying out the installation – there was no downtime at all!”
Despite these constraints, not to mention the ambitious nature of the project and a tight deadline, Ali and his team successfully completed the installation on time and within the available budget. The result is an awe-inspiring lightshow that fully encompasses every part of The Abbey, is true to David’s vision, and showcases the full potential of ADJ equipment and the talents of everyone involved.
The Abbey Food & Bar
692 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
ADJ Dealer and Lighting Installer:
Lighting Designers: Ali Tabatabaie & Edgar Gonzalez
Lighting Programmer: Edgar Gonzalez
Photography: Brian Dowdle
Vidoeography: Candice Cardenas
ADJ Gear List:
150 x ADJ Saber Spot RGBW
14 x ADJ Vizi Beam RXONE
12 x ADJ Inno Color Beam Z19
10 x ADJ COB Cannon Wash
8 x ADJ Vizi BSW 300
6 x ADJ Focus Spot Two
6 x ADJ 7PZ IP
4 x ADJ Focus Spot Three Z
4 x ADJ Lightning COB Cannon
4 x ADJ UV COB Cannon
3 x ADJ Inno Color Beam Z7
4 x ADJ Crazy Pocket 8
2 x ADJ Asteroid 1200
4 x ADJ D6 Branch DMX Splitters
1 x ADJ Entourage
6 x Elation Professional Opti Par LED
2 x Elation Professional Midicon 2
1 x Elation Professional CompuShow DMX Software
1 x ArKaos Media Master Express
Check out a video tour of the Abbey: