When the opportunity came for enVus Motorsports owners Sammy Lakhany and Ali Hojat to open a lounge in the space previously occupied by Ten Nightclub in Newport Beach, they accepted the challenge of turning the club around. Ten Nightclub ironically closed down after ten years of operation. The space is now home to Lakhany and Hojat’s 1920’s gangster-themed establishment, EnVy Lounge.
Lakhany recalled that the idea for opening a lounge was not a recent development. He said, “Part of our original game plan with enVus Motorsports was to open a huge showroom that had a VIP-member-service-type lounge, where [our clients would] be given after-hours access to a private lounge that had beautiful cars underneath.” Hojat was the VIP manager for Ten Nightclub, so when the owners of Ten closed up shop, Lakhany was offered a chance to step up to the plate. Given the opportunity to take over the space, Lakhany proceeded with a particular vision he’d always had. He pointed out, “I don’t believe in the club model; I think that it’s too short-lived, but lounges have a long shelf life…some of them have been around for 10, 15, 20 years if they build a good brand, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Lakhany previously had his eyes on Ten Nightclub, and he had talked with Hojat about how the space could be put to better use. Lakhany recalled, “We would joke about it, saying: ‘Hey, the owners of Ten should turn the club into a lounge,’ and as they were on the last leg, Ali came and said, ‘Do you remember how we used to joke about Ten turning into a lounge? I think I can get you in.’” Hojat then arranged a meeting between the owners and Lakhany. Despite the fact that Lakhany was, at that time, extremely busy, this was an offer he couldn’t refuse. He said, “At that time, I was looking at throttling down; I’d been on a long run of doing business; my girlfriend was pregnant at the time (I have a 3-month-old now); I’d just build enVus Motorsports; and I had other business interests. [However,] it was one of those opportunities I couldn’t pass up, so we did it.”
In regards to the gangster theme, it started with the aesthetic. Lakhany elaborated, “I’ve always enjoyed the rustic brick and the luxury era of the 20’s, you know, like the velvet and the velour and the tufted leather. That type of feel always felt good in a lounge space.” Furthermore, the criminal connotations of that era were also appealing to Lakhany, who embraced the gangster theme through the names of his designer drinks. He explained, “A lot of it is John Dillinger-focused…We have one called the Jackrabbit; that was John Dillnger’s nickname because he was in and out of banks so fast; we’ve got Bonnie and Clyde, [and another one called] 1205 — December fifth is when Prohibition ended.” Lakhany and Hojat are currently working with their neighbor, Ten Asian Bistro to create a signature menu of high end bar snacks.
Evidently, there is an unusually high degree of cooperation that takes place amongst the neighboring businesses. First of all, Hootan & Associates, the firm that designed the neighboring Bosscat, created the design for eNVy. Additionally, Lakhany points out, “It’s one big happy family here. Each of us owner / operators has a different skill set, and I defer to them sometimes if we’re trying to think through a situation, and we would like some extra insight.”
Beyond the decor, the themed drinks, and the Jazz music, which is spun by guest DJs, eNVy lounge shares quite a lot with its neighbors. Lakhany stresses that this is not a typical community of businesses. If one bar runs out of a drink, they will borrow some stock from their neighbor; if one establishment is an employee short for a night, they might borrow one from another. They don’t even price their drinks competitively. He says, “We don’t step on each other’s toes. What they do, we let them do; what we do, they let us do. If we want their input, we ask for it, and we get it.” Lakhany’s gangster-themed bar has truly become part of the family.