I believe in restaurant dress codes. I think that if the proprietors of a certain eating place decide that they would rather not serve patrons who are wearing blue jeans, or that they would prefer to have their male customers garbed in coat and tie and their female ones in skirts or dresses, or for that matter that everybody coming in on Friday night has got to dress up like a fish, I think that's their business. Diners in a restaurant are part of the decor, whether they like it or not.
If a particular dress code is not within reason, chances are that it won't last very long. The exigencies of the marketplace will take care of that. There aren't very many oceanfront bistros hereabouts, for instance, that insist upon black tie (except maybe on the waiters).
Having defended dress codes, though, I must quickly add that I think the existence of such a code at a particular establishment ought to be communicated to potential patrons at the earliest possible opportunity (on the phone when they make reservations, for instance), and that such codes should be consistently enforced. I sympathize, then, with Richard Vane of Hollywood. Arriving at a restaurant in Palm Springs for dinner one evening, he writes, wearing a jacket and a pair of new designer jeans, with his wife dressed in "an expensive silk jump suit," he was told that the restaurant dress code forbade jeans. Fair enough, he said--though he did think he should have been told of this fact when he made his reservation.
In any case, he continues, he and his wife returned to their hotel for him to change, promising to return as soon as possible. When they did return, the proprietor reportedly looked at Vane's wife and loudly exclaimed, "But you're wearing the same thing!" But hadn't it been his jeans, not her suit, that were objected to, asked Vane. Well, yes, the man conceded, agreeing to seat them after all. Later, though, Vane noticed another customer who was wearing jeans, When his wife pointed this fact out to the proprietor, the man replied, says Vane, "It's my restaurant and I will seat who I want to seat." Bad marks for consistency there.
I sympathize, too, with Sandra Summers of Chino. Arriving for brunch at a Newport Beach restaurant with her 25-year-old daughter, who was wearing walking shorts, Summers' party was turned away because of the restaurant's no-shorts rule (which, again, they had not been informed of when they made their reservation). Because this was a special occasion, says Summers, the group went to a nearby shop where the daughter bought and changed into a pair of $40 pants, then returned to the restaurant and were seated. Then, as they ate, two women wearing shorts were brought into the dining room and seated without demur. "We complained to the manager," says Summers, "who more or less said, 'Oh well, too bad.' " Surely said manager must have realized how the Summers party felt; surely it must be admitted that this was at least a minor inequity, and one that perhaps called for an apology, if not for a round of complimentary drinks or desserts.
CHECK THIS: According to a survey of restaurants in 138 American cities conducted recently by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, one in eight restaurant guest checks are incorrect. And just in case you are saying to yourself right now something along the lines of "Aha! Just as I thought," you might perhaps be interested to learn that about 70% of the check errors reported were in favor of the customer--to the tune of $5.39 per check on the average . . .
NEW TABLES IN TOWN: China Wok has opened recently on Overland in Palms, bringing Monterey Park-style Chinese seafood to that part of the city. . . . Irv's Malibu Deli has been slated for a berth in the soon-to-be-renovated shopping center at Cross Creek Road and Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, where it will occupy part of the premises that now houses the Hughes Market there. . . . Restaurateur Jean Leon will construct a 4,500-square-foot home for his La Scala Malibu near the future Irv's. . . . And in Santa Barbara, Steven Sponder of the Palace Cafe has expanded his restaurant's Cajun-Creole menu to include South-Florida-style Caribbean dishes.