In his 15-year campaign to pass a Los Angeles anti-smoking ordinance, City Councilman Marvin Braude has preached to more than a few smokers on the evils of their habit. Now that the ordinance has passed, he's dispensing advice to restaurateurs.
Last week, in response to restaurant owner complaints that the ordinance has hurt business, Braude told the Daily News: "When restaurants suffer from declining sales it's because their prices are too high, their food is not very good and the service is poor. There is no evidence whatsoever that (their bad business) has anything to do with the prohibition of smoking in restaurants. If you provide good food, good service and prohibit smoking, your business is going to be better."
"I can't believe this guy," says Mauro Vincenti, owner of Rex Il Ristorante in downtown Los Angeles. "Is it Marvin Braude's place to talk this way about Los Angeles? In the last few years we've made gigantic steps. Now even New Yorkers say we have some of the best restaurants."
"This isn't the first time Braude has said this," adds Ron Salisbury, owner of El Cholo, the Original Sonora Cafe and two other Los Angeles-area restaurants, "and I really resent him telling us we don't know what we are doing, when he doesn't even know how to be a city councilman half the time."
Braude says his quote was taken out of context. "Los Angeles has the finest restaurants in the world," he tells Calendar. "But L.A. is also very competitive and unless you're top-notch you don't stay in business very long."
Braude, who eats out three or fours nights a week, says his favorite restaurants are Souplantation, the Bistro of Santa Monica, Masa Sushi in West Los Angeles and the buffet lunch at Little Tokyo's New Otani ("when I want a nice piece of fish," he says). He used to dine at the Brentwood Bar & Grill. "Then it went out of business because its prices were just too high," he says. "Now it's operated by the Cheesecake Factory and it is a tremendous success."
"These fanatical nonsmokers, these so-called ecological people, eat the worst food," Vincenti says. "This cheap, cheap, cheap thing is going to take us nowhere."
"I can afford to go to expensive restaurants," says Braude, "and I am willing to pay for what I want."
And what does he want in a restaurant?
"I want good quality," he says, "I want it to be convenient, I want it to be attractively served, I want it to be clean and I want a nice ambience."
"He's one of these little people that has tunnel vision," says Salisbury, "and I don't like him."
"I'd like to choke him," says Vincenti, "and I don't even know the guy."
RAINED OUT: Picnic, the West L.A. restaurant opened 18 months ago by Ilene Resnick and Claude Segal (he walked out six months ago and is cooking at Drai's on La Cienega), closed last week.