Sunday, May 06, 2007

LA Times: Fix Everything -- And the Kitchen Sink!

In today's Los Angeles Times, Steve Lopez's Points West column wrote about all the regulatory red tape restauranteurs go through when opening or expanding a restaurant, highlighting in particular the woes of Larkin's and Oinkster in Eagle Rock (both of which had their openings delayed for months), Delilah in Echo Park (which opened in January after nearly a year of fighting red tape) and Joan's on Third's expansion setbacks in Los Angeles (which LA Eater has chronicled).

One bit that particular striked me in surprise about the bureaucratic obstacles an aspiring eatery owner must go through:

"Instead of running a bakery, [Genevieve Ostrander's] full-time job for nearly a year was the fight to open Delilah, and she ran up a debt of $120,000."

Of course, I understand the city's need to make sure all new/expanded businesses abide by their regulations (whether parking issues, environmental concerns, structural proofing, etc.) but as Lopez pointed out in the article, it'll be great if the process is more streamlined and that the standards and inspections are more consistent so that one person's go ahead is not another inspector or department's no way, Jose.

As Larkin Mackey noted in the article, "Sometimes you get different instructions from the same inspector . . . it just depends on how they feel that day."

Definitely a worthwhile read, and a call to arm for us foodies to provide support for the small food places we love best, 'cause chances are that the chef-owners have given their every last penny to pursue their dreams & passions and they are probably still struggling to get out of the red.


Erin S. said...

yikes! how ridiculous. I always like Mr. Lopez's columns that point out the insanity of city government (did you see the one where he asked the head of the MTA, the guy who is supposed to encourage public transportation, about his Hummer??!?!)

annie said...

It was a good read. I agree some one these people put everything on the line for their chance at making it. I work in City government, it is insane...

Anonymous said...

Well, even 'foodies' have to live somewhere. How one-sided of Lopez. "Opposition by a couple of neighbors over parking issues"? Those jerky neighbors! They should just move somewhere else and let those poor restaurant owners have their parking. Third street? It's a parking - and consequently a driving - nightmare precisely because of the restaurants. I feel sorry for the people that live just off of third.

In my neighborhood, we have restaurant owners that refuse to close their dumpsters (rats?!). An office that throws 'events' (they serve booze and deafen us with DJ's, traffic is noticeably impacted, they lie to the cops about having permits). We have a 24 hour diner that can't (won't?) control the late night rowdy patrons in the parking lot.

Lopez has highlighted mostly pitiable and sympathetic victims here, but he's not telling the whole story. Like many op-ed writers, maybe he just doesn't know it.

Bring on the red tape. I feel badly for the honest and responsible restaurant owners, but I don't have enough of them in my neighborhood.

H. C. said...

I like Points West too but didn't get a chance to catch that particular MTA one-will keep an eye out for it. I did LOVE Lopez' skid row series.

so you work for city, eh? anyway some of those proposals can just magically slide past the red tape? ;)

I completely acknowledge neighboring businesses & residences have concerns too and that, hopefully anyways, that many of these building codes & regulations and not to just annoy the hell out of small business owners. But what I got out of the Lopez piece was the inconsistency in the regulation & inspection process, as several restaurant owners attested to. It is a bit outrageous to have different inspectors (or even same inspector, different days) give completely opposite opinions on whether something's within regulation. It's a building code, not the Constitution, I hoped that the room for interpretation would've been a bit narrower.


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