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Food Festival Called Off for Lack of a Menu

September 01, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

More than 40,000 food fanciers flocked to the "Taste of L.A." restaurant fete last month in Santa Monica, where for about $4 a serving they could sample lobster cannelloni, duck tamales and goat-cheese lasagna from some of the area's trendiest eateries.

But the potential menu for a similar gastronomic extravaganza in Ventura proved a bit too skimpy.

A three-day "Taste of the Coast" food fair scheduled for Oct. 7-9 in Camino Real Park had to be canceled last week after city officials failed to get commitments from local restaurateurs.

The event, approved in concept by the City Council six months ago, was expected to draw between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors to sample the delicacies of at least 25 restaurants from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

"Sure, I'm disappointed," said Assistant City Manager Lauraine Brekke, who planned the event. "It's a successful formula in lots and lots of places, but we couldn't convince them it would work here."

City officials said they sent letters to every restaurant listed in the Ventura and Santa Barbara phone directories, and followed up with phone calls to more than 100. Each restaurant was asked to pay $2,500 for a booth and 7% of the booth's revenues.

Although many restaurants seemed intrigued by the idea, officials said, only four paid the money: Tipps Thai and Old Vienna in Ventura, Bodega Bay in Thousand Oaks and Norbert's in Santa Barbara.

Even with corporate sponsorship from Pepsi, Henry Weinhard beer and KBBY radio, the event would have needed at least 23 restaurants to break even, Brekke said.

By contrast, the Los Angeles festival charged $3,000 a booth and required restaurants to give up 20% of their revenues.

With fashionable eateries such as Le Dome, L'Ermitage and Rex il Ristorante filling the ranks, the promoter had no trouble reaching the event's limit of 41 restaurants. The four-day fete charged visitors a $6 admission fee.

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