Funeral services were held on Sunday for the influential bar owner Craig Trager. Trager was responsible for launching culture-shifting Hollywood bars, including the now shuttered Daddy’s, Lucky 7, and El Bar. His legacy lives on with LA mainstays like The Well, Parlour Room, The Woods, The Fifth, and NoBar. Trager died on September 23.
Trager got his start under Silvio De Mori, the famed owner of Cafe des Artistes and Mimosa. He also worked with Brent Bolthouse as managing partner of Hollywood’s famous Babylon club. Trager launched the Vintage Bar Group in 1998, which served as base camp while he opened Hollywood’s new wave of bars and lounges throughout the 1990s, which included the aforementioned establishments, as well as competing hotspots Three Clubs, Lava Lounge, and the always classic, Jones.
Some well-established hospitality figures spoke with Eater to paint a picture of what Craig Trager meant to Hollywood’s bar scene.
Jeffrey Best of Best Events: “I met Craig in 1990 when I was hired to take over running The Olive where Fred Eric made kooky, amazing, and challenging food. I was outside smoking, and a Mercedes convertible pulls up, and a guy wearing a leather jacket with trim, bold necklace, bracelet, and twinkling eyes went to the bar. I couldn’t tell if he was the Warren Beatty character out of shampoo, or a CAA agent. But he knew everyone in the room, including all employees’ first names. He would ask them what was going on.”
“We were part of the Hollywood scene for more than 25 years. We put together Lucky 7 and Daddy’s where he had majority ownership and made all the decisions. He also launched The Well. He always was someone who always had the courage to do a deal. It was a testament to who he was. Even when Daddy’s was facing eminent domain, Craig hired an attorney to negotiate a better deal before it became the (Vine) Metro station and The W hotel.”
Mario Melendez, founder and creative producer at King King: “He was a gentleman. I opened the King King in 1988. After me, a bar explosion happened with The Olive and Jones. When I closed in 1993, you had the next group of what I call the third wave with the Lava Lounge and Daddy’s. Craig knew how to take care of people and design places that were comfortable for people to go where people knew your name. Because Craig was old school, he’d make you drinks, he’d take care of you and make you feel special.”
“At the time you either went to Jones or Daddy’s. Those were the hip places to be. I think Daddy’s was his favorite place. This is our city. New Yorkers always thought we were a JV team. Craig and I loved our city, so we gave LA the best that we could.”
Marc Smith, co-owner Three Clubs: “Craig and I have known each other for over 25 years. We came up together during the Olive and Burgundy Room days. He had Lucky 7, which became Daddy’s, which was a great bar. But most impressive was his move to the Valley. He successfully brought Hollywood to North Hollywood. Which I believe is his professional legacy. He will be greatly missed in our community of pioneers in the nightlife scene. It’s truly a tragedy to lose one of our own so young.”
Trager is survived by his sister Jody, brother-in-law Bruce, niece Avery, and nephews Ezra and Sean. He was 58 years old.