Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Popular with Europeans, underground bands, and beach-goers who don't require fancy frills
Built in 1975, the Erwin (which was named after its first owner) is now a member of Joie de Vivre, a 35-hotel chain that operates hotels up and down the California coast and completed a six-month, $3.1 million refurbishment of this property's guest rooms, penthouse suite, business and fitness centers, rooftop lounge, and lobby) in July 2009. Rooms are pleasantly large and generally comfortable (though bathrooms don't look rehabbed); staff members are courteous, but don't seem highly trained. And the Erwin lacks key amenities (pool, spa, restaurant that serves lunch, 24-hour room service). Plus, it's short on small-property coziness, and can attract shady-looking characters. The hotel installed new carpets and updated some of the common spaces again in 2012.
Entering the Erwin, you're likely to bump up against as many tattoos, piercings, skateboards, surfboards, and electric guitars as you are guests. L.A. tattoo artist Norm created the new mural in the refurbished semicircular driveway, and framed photos of '60s and '70s folk, rock, and R&B legends (Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder) line the hallways.
The Erwin doesn't have an astounding amount to offer (audible street sounds, no pool, no spa, tiny fitness center). Those looking to spend their time catching waves may not mind everything that's lacking, especially given the reasonable room rates; those who prefer a quieter scene and more amenities -- and are willing to pay about $100 a night extra for them -- should consider driving five miles north to the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel or Le Merigot, both of which have a pool, spa, 24-hour room service, and are situated more directly on the beach.
Somewhat limited services at this unpretentious, beachy hotel
Affable parking valets do triple duty as doormen and porters; waitstaff is cheery; and front desk clerks are patient but overwhelmed. The tone is Californian casual: Swamped staffers wear nametags handwritten in bright markers, and there's a bowl of lollipops at the front desk. Just don't expect much in the way of personal attention.
The Erwin is a five-minute walk to famed Venice Beach, but directly on a well-traveled four-lane thoroughfare.
The Erwin sits on Pacific Avenue, the main north-south drag in Venice, about two blocks inland from the well-known beach itself (surfer-dude central); a wide boardwalk chock-full of street performers and snack shops; and a path for bicyclists and rollerbladers.
A thorough renovation in July 2009 has left the large (400- to 425-square-foot) and airy standard rooms (some with ocean views) well-appointed with comfortable mattresses and bedding, flat-panel TVs, and a lot of fun details, including a curved, stainless steel shower rod, a black, tiered table lamp with "The Erwin Est. 1975" printed on it, and lightweight, green, leopard-print robes from Boca Terry. That said, some will be put off by the self-consciously unusual decor, which can combine swirly-print bedspreads with large polka-dot-print sheer curtains and a closet door mural of two naked Asian girls waist-deep in water surrounded by flowers, courtesy of Blik, a local graphics company. In 2012, the hotel replaced carpets in all rooms and added a new suite -- the Red Bull Dogtown Suite -- catering especially to surfers and skateboarders with deep pockets. The design is quirky and the space is expansive, but not many can afford the very un-Dogtownish rates.
On-site extras are few and far between.
Venice Beach, slightly more than two blocks away, is the Erwin's best bonus, but the hotel doesn't rent beach paraphernalia.
The Erwin sits a little more than two blocks away from a stretch of sand more than 100 yards wide.
Although the sea sometimes smells acrid as a result of the enormous pollution Los Angeles generates, the rolling waves at Venice Beach are a magnet for surfers.
Venice Beach is nearby, but no pool or family-centric vibe here
The Erwin isn't particularly family oriented, but hang-ten teenagers and sand-castle-building youngsters may like staying steps from Venice Beach. But the absence of a pool and presence of skaters, surfers, and indie musicians -- in short, a pretty hard-partying clientele -- plus a bar named High might turn parents off.
Though renovated in 2009 and looking fairly new, the Erwin already shows minor scuffs and signs of wear and tear.
The Erwin basically feels fresh, but the lobby sofa has visible stains. In the Partial Ocean View Queen Room, the new sink cupboard sparkles, while the tub/shower/toilet area is clean, but doesn't look newly updated. Several hallways feel like sterile college dorms; and the indoor section of Hash restaurant had a fly infestation during breakfast.
In 2012, the hotel completed minor renovations, installing new carpet and waterproofing windows.
Informal restaurant with surprisingly high prices, especially for a menu this limited and mediocre
Barlo, the Erwin's one option, isn't open for lunch. Across Pacific Avenue, Seed macrobiotic restaurant cooks up tasty, moderately priced sandwiches and salads during the day. For more dining choices, cruise Ocean Front Walk for boardwalk fare or head over to Abbot Kinney for healthier alternatives.
An eccentric 119-room hotel for budget-conscious travelers that's an easy walk to Venice Beach and plays off the area's hippie-centric history. It doesn't quite live up to the laid-back image it projects -- the lobby is a zoo -- but it does have unexpectedly large rooms and remarkably comfortable beds (evidence of a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2009) in a neighborhood with very few hotels.