John Terzian And L.A’s Nightlife Reboot

John Terzian And L.A’s Nightlife Reboot | In episode 51 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks to HWood Group entrepreneur John Terzian.

Delve into the mind of L.A.’s #1 nightlife entrepreneur as he shuffles his deck of blue chip clubs, bars and restaurants in the wake of the global reset. After transforming LA at night, friend-of-A list celebrities like Drake and the Kardashians, John Terzian has to do it all over again. What has the co-founder of The NICE GUY, Delilah, Bootsy Bellows, SHOREbar, Blind Dragon et al. learned from the pandemic? And what’s the next move for his hospitality/media upstart The H.wood Group? John tells all to David on Light Culture Podcast.

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Q&A

Interviewer (00:00):

John Terzian is the Nice Guy. By that, I mean that he’s the proprietor of that scene-making LA restaurant, as well as a handful of others scattered around the city. There’s Bootsy Bellows on Sunset, Santa Monica’s SHOREbar, Hollywood’s The Peppermint Club. The list goes on to include other cities and a growing to-do list. He’s also a nice guy to celebrities, from the Kardashian clan to Drake, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and others who frequent his bars and restaurants and have by association made my guest a bold face name as well. From virtual obscurity, his h.wood hospitality group grew and was raising money and expanding at a rapid clip. And then, it happened, COVID. Welcome, John. I can imagine it’s not too much fun to be in the hospitality nightlife business right now.

John Terzian (01:02):

Yeah. Thank you for having me. And, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s been an interesting roller coaster.

David (01:08):

Yeah. So tell me how you reacted. At first, if you were like me, (laughs), you thought, “Well, okay, this, a week of this is gonna be fine and then we’ll get back to normal.” But… here we are some months later.

John Terzian (01:27):

Yeah. You know, I think like anyone, no one had a crystal ball. It also teaches me and hopefully others that you never know. Something might happen tomorrow that might be thrown all of our way that we just have no idea. I mean, we had probably 24 hours to make, insanely business-impacting decisions, which we did. We made swift, large decisions to close everything. we laid off our entire company, including myself.

We had to do just a bunch of broad strokes to be able to hunker down and outlast it. And I think that’s really the approach that we had. My partner and I both, Brian and I both kinda pride ourselves as entrepreneurs first and restaurant, bar, hospitality second. Reason why that’s important is because you just don’t know what’s gonna be thrown at you. A good entrepreneur adapts. Does what they can and survives.

And we’re not out of it yet.

Interviewer (02:41):

No, we’re not. And, you know instead of hiding under the covers, uh, you gotta figure things out. So what is it, what have you figured out? Are you planning-

John Terzian (02:53):

I definitely don’t think I’ve figured anything out. So if I have anyone telling you that, no. I took about probably, I’d say two, three days of being pretty scared and depressed. Didn’t really tell anyone, but kind of was trying to figure out what exactly the move is. And then you realize you gotta just go forward and be positive. And so for us or for myself, I think, in some way it is a silver lining.

It caused me to really rethink and focus on our core business and what we’re good at and what we’re not good at. And be honest with ourselves. Think it caused me to adapt to changing times. There are things that COVID brought to light that were happening anyway. It just sped it up. We were on the track to focus on a lot of delivery businesses or some fast casual concepts, but we weren’t going to get to it for six months, seven months, maybe a year. This caused us to really hone in on what works, using our marketing skills, using our database that we have and we launched seven actually coming up, but for, you know, delivery based, new menus. We were able to really focus on the core business that we do well and plan and plot for our future. I don’t think we would have taken that time.

Interviewer (04:16):

Yeah.

John Terzian (04:18):

So there are a bunch of little things like that that you do. And I think that kind of relates to a lot of businessmen if there are entrepreneurs in every business, not just hospitality.

Interviewer (04:27):

No, totally. We were all on the treadmill, you know, just sort of doing everything that we had to do on a daily basis to stay afloat and to survive and to prosper, you know, and trying to squeeze in other things within that.

John Terzian (04:42):

Yeah.

Interviewer (04:43):

And this sort of flipped the script on all of that. So the treadmill was like, turned off and suddenly we had a chance to think and for a lot of people it’s been very productive in that respect. So what did you land on after all of that? Did you have to close any restaurants or stop any of the developments?

John Terzian (05:07):

You know, a couple of things I can say is it caused us to realize that our two strongest brands, our three strongest brands actually, from a financial standpoint and from a growing standpoint, are Delilah, Nice Guy and Slab. So Delilah is our 20’s throwback, our fun, live music, you know, restaurant. Nice Guy’s, kind of old school, Italian feeling lounge restaurant and Slab is our fast, casual, barbecue place. That’s centered around a famous pitmaster, Burt. And for varying reasons this period of time caused us to realize it’s our strongest, it’s what we do best. We have 12 places in LA and rather than you know, rather than try to focus on a bunch of things at once we’re honing in on those. Growing those both stronger in LA itself and growing outside LA when we are able to. I don’t know if we would have stopped and taken hard looks at the way we did, if, if you know, this time hadn’t happened.

Interviewer (06:18):

Yeah. I understand. But at the same time, from an entrepreneurial perspective, it’s exciting to have all these new ventures and properties and, you know, people wanting you to do things all over the place.

John Terzian (06:31):

Yes.

Interviewer (06:32):

That’s kind of a different kind of high and a buzz, right… That’s very exciting. And you just want to keep that going as long as possible.

John Terzian (06:41):

Yeah. You know, it’s tough when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, all you want is for people to want you. And then, all of a sudden the hardest thing is how to say no to things because you, you know, you just don’t, you can’t take all on. And my, my type of thinking is I wanna do everything.

So it’s a very hard position for me. And I think this time has caused me to really focus on being able to choose. We were in the middle of opening up a place in Miami. We stopped that. We were in the middle of finding a space in New York. We stopped that. And we’re just taking our time and doing things the right way. I guess I shouldn’t say the right way, but we were forced to say, “Hey, let’s focus on getting LA back. Let’s pick the right things. I have Delilah opening at Wynn. We’ll focus on that being amazing and hit it out of the park.” You know, um, those are the types of moves that we do. We have a great property for Slab in West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, that the building is paying for, you know, helping put capital in and is behind it. Those are the types of moves that we need to make versus being scattered and doing 12 different projects at once.

Interviewer (07:54):

You think you would ever get back to that. Is this still part of the master plan?

John Terzian (08:00):

Which part?

Interviewer (08:01):

To expand to other cities, other countries.

John Terzian (08:06):

I guess that’s what I’m saying is what we want to do is focus on growing Delilah, Nice Guy and Slabs in other cities.

Versus having 20 different concepts at all times in other cities. You know, and then look, we have a great live music venue, Peppermint Club. I think it’s a valuable thing because it’s the small version of House of Blues. Sometime again, you know, I don’t think live music is ever going anywhere. I don’t think social gatherings are ever going anywhere. It’s on pause right now, but I don’t think the digital age is ever going to be able to replace people getting together and actually physically experiencing things together.

John Terzian (08:47):

Now, when that comes back, I don’t know, I’m planning on a full year of people being very careful. There are things that we’re taking our time on versus right now, you know, I want to find the next Nice Guy space in New York let’s say.

Interviewer (09:08):

So is that more of a franchise model? Is that something you would look for partners or would it be still owned and operated?

John Terzian (09:14):

I think we want to operate all of it for quality control. By the way, that question is the hardest question. We get asked that all the time. Very scary. (laughs)

Interviewer (09:28):

I know. It’s a tough one to navigate because you’d have less risk, obviously, if you have partners, but then you have partners. So that’s (laughs) that’s the downside.

I also wanted to ask about that. How did your investors react? ‘Cause I know it’s not your decision alone. And so maybe it is your decision, but you also have other people involved in your business.

John Terzian (09:53):

Yeah. We’re at a level where we have a board and have, I have a couple of main investors and luckily they were more like mentors and sounding boards. They were amazing. I think if I was caught in a bad situation with bad investors, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through it. It teaches anyone who asks me now, it’s going to be my number one statement, “Choose your, choose your partners wisely, because… Plan on the worst case scenario.” It’s the age old saying. You don’t know someone’s true colors until you’re really in that foxhole. You know?

Interviewer (10:39):

I’m in Montauk on Long Island and go out occasionally. And there’s this whole mask thing that everybody’s discussing, right. Should I wear a mask, should I not wear a mask? And it’s especially disturbing when you go into a place where there’s a mixed group. You’re waiting to pick up some food, half the people are wearing masks, half aren’t wearing them. It just leads to all kinds of unease, and it made me think about something with regard to the future, and I’d like to know what you think.

Do you think there’ll ever be a moment that they’ll have like, clubs or bars, where everyone is masked and you could only enter and stay … obviously, you couldn’t drink. You know, you’ll have to figure out how to do all those kinds of things as well, but where everyone is sort of in agreement that masks are a good thing and we’re gonna try to maintain the social distancing even while we’re in a space where there are other people around? Because I don’t see how we could ever mix, you know, those two groups.

John Terzian (11:56):

Yeah. Well, (laughs) uh, I could tell you, I’m gonna start finding out tonight.

Nice Guy is open for the first night, and I already know, based on this past week. We did a couple of private dinners, 10-person dinners, and I could already tell you, the hardest part is, from what I could tell, the majority of people are ready to be out and not be restricted to anything. They don’t wanna be wearing masks, they don’t wanna be doing anything. They wanna be back to normal life.

Interviewer (12:30):

Yeah.

John Terzian (12:31):

I, as an operator-owner, I have to be extremely protective, specifically of the staf. Customers have to wear masks unless they’re seated in their place. And so we’re gonna have to stay really strict to that. If they’re up and around, if they walk to a bathroom, if they’re in any common areas, they have to have a mask on. I do know it’s gonna be a challenge because they’re already fighting it. Guests or customers do not wanna be told what to do; they don’t think they should and it’s definitely a battle.

Interviewer (13:06):

Yes.

John Terzian (13:08):

It’s going on, it’s going on right now.

Interviewer (13:10):

It’s going on. It’s also has a political dimension as well, right, because it seems as though, you know-

John Terzian (13:15):

Yep.

Interviewer (13:15):

… the more you know, quote, “conservatives” types are, “Well fuck this mask. We don’t need this. You know, we’re macho-”

John Terzian (13:22):

Yeah.

Interviewer (13:23):

I don’t know, it’s weird. I’m sure it doesn’t break down, you know a hundred percent like that, but it has that dimension as well.

John Terzian (13:32):

It sure feels that way. And, you know, I will say, you know, there’s also a clear difference in the younger crowd. I can just see it, for the most part. Obviously this is a generalization, but it just seems to be true is, the 20s age group just doesn’t seem to think it’s a concern at all and have complete caution to the wind, and older, 30s, 40s are a lot more cautious, people with families, people … you know, there’s just a difference in opinion. And my type of places are a mix of everyone, anywhere from kids to grandparents are in these places. So it’s, it’s a tough mix, you know?

Interviewer (14:14):

I didn’t realize that the California rules were so specific with regard to restaurants and how people should conduct themselves as far as the guidelines go, because here, it seems to be every man for himself. I mean, they have signs up that you have to wear masks, but they don’t really have the people to enforce it.

John Terzian (14:35):

I’m on the County Task Force for restaurants here in LA, and there’s a group of us that are on it, and that’s part of my thing is I’ve been kind of outspoken. I’ve been pretty disappointed in the local leadership. There’s zero clarity.

You know, our mayor, our governor, no one talked to any of the restaurant owners, you know, um, and rather than find out how it all works and get down to really hear how these businesses operate and what we should or shouldn’t do, they, they just kind of just operate in a vacuum. And frankly, there is no regulatory system. So one place can be just operating freely and completely carelessly and another could be following the CDC guidelines, and it’s just, I don’t, I don’t see how that’s fair-

Interviewer (15:31):

No, it’s not.

John Terzian (15:32):

In a lot of ways, and I don’t think that’s good for the public.

Interviewer (15:34):

No, it’s just more confusion. And how about you? What is your policy?

Do you wear a mask when you’re out?

John Terzian (15:42):

Um, I do, I do only because I wanna protect. I represent h.wood. I wanna protect our staff, I wanna protect guests, in that regard, extremely careful. Our company’s gonna stay extremely careful, our places are gonna stay careful, but, you know, I don’t abide by this … it seems like our city or our leadership is trying to make it that the regulations are based on telling on people or snitching.

I don’t understand that nor do I believe in that. I don’t think that’s healthy, you know? Another good thing that’s come out of this is all of the, all of our restaurant owners, you know, there’s probably 40 of us, all kind of knew each other before COVID, but not really. We’re all now talking daily and we’re all on a group text and it’s, it’s really brought our community together in a really good way in that regard.

Interviewer (16:36):

Yeah.

John Terzian (16:36):

People are kind of helping each other.

Interviewer (16:39):

Yeah, exactly. That’s great. Yeah, there are some good, (laughs) you know, results out of this terrible situation.

John Terzian (16:44):

Yeah.

Interviewer (16:44):

You know, humans are pretty resourceful. I think people have figured out, to some extent, that cooperation is really the best way to survive in, instead of, you know, competition.

Then, we have the second thing, right, the Black Lives Matter?

John Terzian (17:02):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Interviewer (17:03):

So did your, did you feel a responsibility to speak up about that and make a statement or in any way address that?

John Terzian (17:12):

I did in a lot of ways because … Well, first of all, I personally am extremely private. I’m barely on social media. With that said, Black Lives Matter has been extremely important to me. I credit a good amount of our success, a good amount of anything we’re doing to black culture.

And to me, I have felt like I had to make a  stance for our company to really make sure that everyone knew we stand by Black Lives Matter’s and, we need to actively change the way the hospitality industry has had this, racist qualities with hiring, with staffing, with all the above. And so our company’s making a real active stance against that and really actively fighting it and putting initiatives in place. My approach is doing rather than posting about it.

Interviewer (18:33):

Well, you mentioned earlier that you had to lay off everyone.

John Terzian (18:36):

We did.

Interviewer (18:36):

That means everyone, right? So when you gear up again, re you planning to try to rehire these people, and also, to address some of these Black Lives Matter issues with regard to staffing and, and putting people in, management positions and giving black people a voice in your company?

John Terzian (19:00):

Yeah. As we start looking toward reopening places, it’s a major part of our plan and practice. It’s not just that though, we’ll be helping find and promote, black entrepreneurs, anywhere from chefs to business owners to interns. I think there’s a whole range of things that we could be doing more of, and that’s hospitality as a whole, not just our company, but I can only control what we do. I think that people need to take a real proactive initiative rather than sit back and just say, “Hey, you know, I only get white applicants.” That’s not good enough. We have to go out there and actually be in the right pools.

Interviewer (19:50):

You’ve had relationships with the police, I’m sure, given that you have a club with a lot of famous people going there. And even, you know, back in your early days, I read that when you first started, you had, your club was closed down as a public nuisance. How has your experience with the police been overall? Do you feel, uh, that there’s a problem there that you were able to identify?

John Terzian (20:18):

Yeah. I think there was a real problem that I saw with aspects of the police, It’s definitely not a secret. In the early years of our first place in h.wood, the police were, to put it lightly, extremely rough. They would handcuff me for no reason, drive me around, drop me off in a, in a random part of town-

Interviewer (20:45):

No shit.

John Terzian (20:45):

… threatening me.

Interviewer (20:45):

Really?

John Terzian (20:46):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. All the time. And to this day, I, what I’m guessing they wanted was some sort of shakedown in some regard. I’m not quite sure. I took it as far up as I can, ended up going to court; they all kind of protect themselves. That was the first lesson that I saw. Everyone kind of covered each other and, we ended up being in a bad situation.

Now with that said, I also believe that there are, are good officers. I’ve had a good relationship with a lot of them. A lot of our places are in West Hollywood. We have an incredible relationship with West Hollywood sheriffs and I’ve had great experience with LAPD.

But I will say, I witnessed a good amount of rough situations firsthand, and I can only imagine how much worse it would be as a black person going through it, because I could just see it with how they handled things. And I don’t know if it’s an ego trip, I don’t know what it is, but it has to stop. And I believe it’s in a good situation to stop. This whole movement has shed light on some things.

Interviewer (22:10):

Yeah, definitely. In, in that particular club that you were talking about, was that catering particularly to a hip hop crowd ?

John Terzian (22:22):

My crowd has always been a very large mix of people. All walks of life demographic. I truly credit a lot of our success with black culture, black population, all people of color though. Even then, part of my thinking was they’re targeting me or us for things like that,

Interviewer (22:54):

That’s what I was thinking. I have a friend who has a bar in Manhattan who has a lot of African Americans coming in. And for years, she has felt that she’s been targeted by the police. ‘Cause it’s like the only bar in the neighborhood that has that clientele. They’re obviously, great people and friends. That’s not the problem, but, she had a sense that the police just didn’t like that. And they were generally afraid when people gathered in that respect.

John Terzian (23:27):

I’ve witnessed a clear sense of that. Like I said, I have had good experiences with individual cops. So I, can’t say it’s personally across the board, but I definitely have seen how bad it is.

Interviewer (23:43):

A big aspect of your business is celebrities. Obviously, they attract crowds. They have money. I don’t know if they actually wind up paying for everything (laughs), which is something people are always curious about. Does Drake have to pay for his drinks when he shows up at your club or not?

John Terzian (24:02):

(laughs) Yeah.

Interviewer (24:03):

(laughs)

John Terzian (24:03):

He tips. He always pays.He’s amazing.

Interviewer (24:06):

Okay, good.

John Terzian (24:07):

He always pays. He’s family to me. His whole group is family to me. They’re very close friends. The difference, I think, with me and our group and a lot of places is, a lot of the celebrities you’re talking about have been actual friends of mine. And I grew up in Los Angeles and for whatever reason, a good amount of friends of mine became celebrities or managing them or whatever it might be.

John Terzian (24:35):

And so, it’s genuine relationships. They happen to be famous. And when they come to the places, it obviously gets attention. And that’s great in a lot of ways, but there’s a lot of stuff we do, you know, extremely private. No one finds out about it. We’re at each other’s weddings or engagement parties. It’s real relationships.

Interviewer (25:01):

But also, these high profile people also attract a lot of attention. And sometimes, things happen, right in clubs and nightclubs, people are drinking. I’m speaking of Drake again, particularly, ’cause I know there was an incident in one of your clubs, right? Where there was some sort of beef that led to some, some were getting beat up, allegedly, I’m gonna say. Because I don’t really know anything about this other than what I read. But, how do you deal with those kinds of situations because they inevitably come up?

John Terzian (25:35):

That situation you’re talking about couldn’t be further from what actually happened. Drake had zero involvement. Just, he gets named if he’s around and, you know I don’t need to even go into that regard. But, a bigger statement of what you’re saying is, I feel almost responsible for a lot of them that are friends of mine. Even the ones that aren’t friends of mine, because it seems like a celebrity story matters more than current affairs now. It’s really crazy. Some minor thing that’ll happen in one of my places takes priority over some crazy major, current affair going on in the world.

It just makes me on high alert for them in the places in that regard. And I think they have to be on high alert. It’s a major reason why we’re really crazy about no pictures. You know, there’s no photography allowed in the places, not videography. I’ve turned down every reality show on the planet to film anything related to me or the places. I’ll never go down that route. To me, when they’re in my place, they need to feel safe. And that’s the end goal for me at all times.

Interviewer (26:55):

You know, when all is said and done, Hollywood is a small town, right? Where big egos are easily bruised, people know each other. The nightlife world is particularly competitive, rife with beefs, gossip and lawsuits. So, there’s the good and the bad. So you have these major people coming into your clubs, which is great for business on the one hand. But then if something happens, it gets way blown out of proportion.

John Terzian (27:31):

Yeah.

Interviewer (27:32):

… is that how you approach it all?

John Terzian (27:34):

I have the guest, in this case, the celebrity’s best interests in mind, first and foremost. I wouldn’t be anywhere without our guests, without their heart in our core crowd. And so that’s my priority, is protecting that above anything else.

So that’s how I’ve, that’s how I’ve kind of always taken the approach.

Interviewer (28:00):

Which brings me to a point that I wanted to ask you as well. About, what is the most important thing in a club? You don’t know who your guests are gonna be. I mean, to some extent in LA you do. But if you’re opening in Mexico, which was one of your ideas at one-

John Terzian (28:18):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Interviewer (28:18):

… I don’t know if it’s still happening. Or Chicago, you were gonna open something, which doesn’t have that same kind of celebrity life. What’s the difference between trying to open a space somewhere like Chicago versus Los Angeles?

John Terzian (28:34):

Well, a couple of things. It’s not necessarily about celebrity. It’s about how you’re, how the guest feels. A key is our operation. Our décor. Our design. Our product. The food. The drinks. Kind of everything that would go into it to make those guests feel special, is what I strive our company to do, uh, wherever we are. Regardless of what it is, it’s gonna come down to the product being the utmost high end, as far as quality, possible. And that’s, that’s really all I can go by.

Interviewer (29:15):

So you think you, whether you’re in Chicago or Los Angeles, that’s the priority?

John Terzian (29:21):

Yeah, because, at the end of the day, the way I look at stuff is, I want anyone, whether they’re traveling and they happen to maybe know my places or the brand. They’ve never been to any of them, I want them to know that they stepped into a distinct place. They maybe can’t put their finger on it. They just know this place is special. That is my goal. That’s always been my goal. And, and that’s a combo of things.Tto me, that’s the combo of design and décor, operations, which means, you know, staff and how they treat you, and products, which is food and drink.

David: who are the people in the industry that you look up to that, uh, you feel have done an amazing job?

John Terzian (30:08):

Always been a huge fan of Andre Balazs. I don’t know him personally nor anything about him, but his properties. You know, his Chateau Marmont, and, places in New York. And been a big fan of Sean MacPherson. He’s a big hotelier and bar owner.

Interviewer (30:26):

I just saw him.

I’m friends with both of those guys-

John Terzian (30:32):

Huge, huge fan of his. Do not know him, but I’ve, I’ve studied a lot of his work. Those are two guys that I’ve always been a huge fan of.

Interviewer (30:39):

Yeah. They used to work together too. Right? And Sean is doing the Chelsea Hotel. Which is gonna be amazing.

Yeah. So those guys, they’re both have a very refined design taste. Is that something you share?

John Terzian (30:56):

Yeah. My background is art. My love is design and decor and concepts. Definitely, I share that, share that love with them. That’s why I got into all this, actually. I love bringing people together and love creating spaces.

Interviewer (31:14):

Yeah. I’m kinda surprised you haven’t met, uh, Andre since you’re both LA residents for the most part.

John Terzian (31:21):

I know. Ironic, but I have not.

Interviewer (31:23):

Okay. Well, that’s something.

(laughs) If I’m ever around in the city at the same time as both of you, I’ll see if I could make an introduction.

John Terzian (31:32):

Great.

Interviewer (31:33):

I know you probably have lots of other people who could do that as well.

John Terzian (31:38):

No. I appreciate that.

Interviewer (31:38):

So, how has nightlife changed since you started?

John Terzian (31:44):

I started as a promoter and I worked for DJ AM and his manager, Larry Vavra, who I owe a lot to, from what I’m doing. 2004, five, six, is when I was a promoter and then working for them. The real change is, nightlife went from at least I can talk about here in LA. A lot of the owners were just, it was a shady, grimy business. They would slap together, you know, boxes of, you know, meaning like just four walls and a bar and no rules, kinda lawless feeling. I feel like they were all in it to make a quick buck or whatever it was. My art background, you know. I’m a son of a lawyer and a teacher and extremely ethical and above board type people. And I always thought that there’s a way to actually do a real business out of this. And, and I think over time, a lot of the companies have proven that. Not just ours, but I think we’re definitely one of them.

I think a lot has to do with the attention to detail for design of places. The attention for, the attention to drinks. You know, everything has been elevated to now the guests and customers expect that. When I first came out with some concepts, it blew people away in nightlife because there was so much attention to design. Now I think it’s expected. Everyone’s doing great work, you know. And I think it’s causing other operators to really challenge themselves to do better. In the end of the day, the customer ends up winning because people just have to keep doing better with their places.

Interviewer (33:44):

But everything’s become a lot more expensive, too, for that experience.

John Terzian (33:49):

That’s definitely part of it, but that’s also part of a lot of things. Minimum wage is through the roof, and tax. Insurance is insane now. There’s a bunch of reasons for that. Not exactly just, you know, upping designs and stuff. But, yes. All of it plays into that for sure.

Interviewer (34:11):

Your basic story is that you didn’t want to follow the family business of lawyers, right? You opened some clubs. So were you more of a rebel in that respect? You also understood that there was more to life than just hanging out on the streets, right? Because you attached yourself to some successful people right away, uh, in, in your just sort of figuring out what you’re gonna be doing in life. Is that a fair description?

John Terzian (34:46):

Pretty fair description. I think I would have been a pretty bad lawyer. First of all, I didn’t pass the Bar, so that was an awful time.

Interviewer (34:52):

Oh, no.

John Terzian (34:52):

I didn’t even wanna go to law school. I was an art mind stuck in law school, but it was very good for me. I just had no idea what I wanted to do. All I knew is that I was a creative mind and I knew I always had this vision of being an entrepreneur and I knew I loved bringing people together. And so, I don’t think I could be doing anything else in life than what I’m doing. I definitely have always had my own hotel in sight, creating our own hotel and I think that’ll come one day. At the end of the day, what is a hotel? It’s ultimately to bring the people together 24/7,

Interviewer (35:35):

Yeah.

John Terzian (35:36):

This has been really all I could see myself doing. And so, yeah. In some regard a rebel family-wise, and I think they were completely confused about what I was doing when I first got out of law school. I worked for a DJ and technically worked for a nightclub as like, you know, changing out the banks and making sure the cleaning service happens, you know? (laughs) I think my family had no idea what I was doing. But I definitely, I definitely had a vision in mind. I just didn’t know how I was gonna get there.

Interviewer (36:15):

But you did it, right? Just by going from one thing to the other and here you are. Now I hear, again, I’m asking because plans are in flux constantly at this point, right? But, from what I understood, you have been planning to launch a media division that would go from film to TV content, and et cetera. Is that still in play?

John Terzian (36:39):

Yeah. We actually announced our first project a couple days ago.

We’re co-producing a Magic Johnson documentary. So it was a big, big moment for us.

Interviewer (36:49):

Wow. Which Magic? Is this for ESPN or for him, or how-

John Terzian (36:53):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

There’s only one. It’s the first time he’s agreed to this.

Interviewer (36:59):

Man. That’s a catch.

John Terzian (37:05):

I’ve been working on it, been working on it for a year, and, he’s been amazing, and we announced it yesterday, and, you know, we’re going out there. We have great partners on it, and definitely something that I’m excited about. And we have more to come in TV and film, and in the media. We quietly launched it about a year ago, and we’re just kinda building up our, you know, arsenal of what we’re doing.

Interviewer (37:30):

Is that called the H, the Hwood Group? Is that part of that, or…

John Terzian (37:34):

It’s a division. It’s called Hwood Media.

Interviewer (37:37):

Hwood Media, okay.

John Terzian (37:37):

So, yeah. We have a different partner on, as well, but you know, there’s a music side, film, TV, and branding side. So, it’s pretty cool.

Interviewer (38:23):

One of, one of the names that comes up (laughs) among the younger people that I speak with about you and your group is Zack Bia.

John Terzian (38:33):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Interviewer (38:33):

… who’s a social media star, street wear influencer.

John Terzian (38:37):

Yep.

Interviewer (38:37):

And on his Instagram page, which is kind of strange, because he’s got like over 300,000 followers, but he’s only got three images up there right now, he lists your, your group as a contact.

John Terzian (38:52):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Interviewer (38:52):

What, what is your relationship with him?

John Terzian (38:55):

So, a lot of people think he’s my son, which he’s not.

Interviewer (38:58):

Okay. (laughs) Are you a mentor of his in a way?

John Terzian (39:01):

Yeah. He started with us as an intern, so he started when he was at USC working for and with me and then grew into kinda being like a right hand to me, handling VIP clients. Me not being able to be in 15 places at once, he started handling that. And then I started to notice how good he was with, uh, music and fashion. He started going more DJing and things like that. So now Hwood Media and myself manage him.

Interviewer (39:31):

Oh.

John Terzian (39:32):

As well as he is with Hwood Group, um, and he is, he is definitely poised to be in an amazing situation both in fashion and music. And he’s an incredible guy. He’s got a huge future, you know? He’s a young early 20s, and he’s growing tremendously daily.

Interviewer (39:54):

Is management something else that you’re looking into, continuing it well beyond Zack?

John Terzian (40:00):

Our division is for sure. I think it would have to be a very specific reason. Zack just happens to fit right in with that, so in that regard.

Interviewer (40:23):

I see. Yeah, because he could really, you know, introduce you to a lot of other people I imagine-

John Terzian (40:29):

Yeah.

Interviewer (40:29):

… of this younger generation.

John Terzian (40:31):

Yeah, but, you know, I have some great friends who are managers and they’re amazing at what they do, and I think it’s more about, I think it’s more about us if, if there’s a real fit. It’s more about us bringing in business and opportunities and things like that versus actually being more management. Zack just fit in with what we’re doing, so it made a lot of sense. And, you know, he’s like a little brother to me, and I know, I know his whole story. And it, it just was fitting for us to do that.

Interviewer (41:07):

You have a partner, Brian Toll who is mentioned always. But I don’t really see or hear very much from him. I looked (laughs) I looked online and there’s very little. Uh, can you tell me about him?

John Terzian (41:22):

Yeah. So, we started it all together. both grew up in L.A. Went to USC together. And, you know, he had a-

Interviewer (41:28):

Oh, so you were friends from childhood?

John Terzian (41:31):

Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer (41:33):

Oh, okay.

John Terzian (41:33):

And, he had his own promotion company. I had mine, and on our first project we came together. He’s really a lot more on the business side. I’m more on the art creative side. I can barely add two numbers, so it’s a good partnership.

Interviewer (41:48):

(laughs)

John Terzian (41:49):

You know. So, that’s definitely part of it.

Interviewer (41:52):

So he doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. Does he come to the clubs as, as well, or he just basically does his work-

John Terzian (41:58):

Yeah he’s everything, but I definitely am much more out there in doing that, but we started it all together. Uh, we have a great complimentary partnership and synergy. It’s just he, he likes being a little bit more under the radar in that regard.

Interviewer (42:20):

One’s a Mr. Inside and a Mr. Outside.

John Terzian (42:23):

Yeah. (laughs)

Interviewer (42:24):

A good one-two punch, right?

John Terzian (42:25):

Yeah.

Interviewer (42:25):

And you, you used to play football and I heard, right?

John Terzian (42:31):

I did. I played at, I played at USC. I was like the sixth string, but I was still on the team.

Interviewer (42:37):

That, hey, that’s a lot making the team.

John Terzian (42:38):

There you go. There you go. (laughs)

Interviewer (42:40):

It’s a serious team. And Zack is also a quarterback, right? Or was a quarterback.

John Terzian (42:46):

He was. That’s what initially, uh, bonded me with him was, he had a similar kinda mindset. He was a quarterback in high school and you know, went to USC, and good kid, definitely a ton of similarities and he has a huge heart and a lot of hustle. And to me, that’s what matters more than anything, more than our resume, more than a pedigree, more than anything.

Interviewer (43:13):

Heart and hustle. Those are two important, attributes for success. And I am sure you have a bunch of that as well. Uh, thank you very much, John Terzian for being on my show today.

John Terzian (43:25):

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Interviewer (43:26):

And, uh, catching me up on all the things you got cooking.

John Terzian (43:30):

No, thank you for having me.

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