It wasn't even open to the public yet, but Steven Spielberg's new deli Dive! created havoc last Sunday in the Century City Shopping Center. While hundreds of angry would-be shoppers and moviegoers cruised the crowded parking lot, a practically deserted valet section stood chained off.
"There were dozens, if not hundreds of blocked-off spaces sitting vacant," said one parking-space seeker. "It took me 20 minutes to find a space."
The mall has had a small valet parking section for several years, but last week about 100 new valet spaces were added to accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic for the celebrity-backed sub shop, which was scheduled to open Thursday.
"I heard enough complaints about the big parking problem from my customers and managers that I drafted a letter to the mall first thing Monday morning," says Desmond Young, general manager of the busy AMC multiplex located near the valet parking lot. "I just had a meeting with the mall (Tuesday) voicing my displeasure with what was implemented. (The management) didn't give the tenants adequate notice or an adequate explanation of what they were trying to accomplish. I'm trying to look for better words than \o7 shoved down our throat.\f7 "
Jessie Varela, general manager of Stage Deli in Century City, says that parking has always been a problem, and now more space devoted to valet parking due to the opening of Dive! will just make a bad situation worse. "I asked the mall what its plans were for Memorial Day weekend. 'The Flintstones' will playing here, you've got a major new tenant with all its public relations, and Bullock's and Broadway will be having Memorial Day sales," he says. "It's annoying. It's aggravating. But unfortunately there's not a whole lot we can do about it but voice our concern."
Gelson's marketers were also miffed at the parking situation. "It's inconvenient for a lot of shoppers in here," says assistant store manager Sergio Vasquez, "but there's nothing they can do, and there's nothing we can do about it."
Scott Calcaterra, retail manager for the Century City mall, can't see what all the fuss is about. Sure they've added more valet parking spaces because of Dive!, he says, "but it was the first day of a new system so obviously we are experiencing some growing pains.
"(Dive!) will attract the kind of customer who is willing to spend that extra money for valet parking but they are also going to be at the mall and I'm sure that when they leave Dive! they're not going to go home--they will shop."
"One of the great things about this mall is that we do provide a large amount of free parking," says AMC's Young. "To have a lot of those spaces converted to valet parking is against what we think this place is all about."
CLOSING: Ciao Chow Express, the offbeat fusion of Italian and Chinese cuisines that Remi owner Jivan Tabibian opened seven months ago in Long Beach's Pine Square, has called it quits.
ON BROADWAY: All those nasty rumors about Broadway Deli are false, says co-owner Bruce Marder. The Santa Monica deli--now in its fourth year on Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade--is not up for sale and co-owner Michel Richard has not sold his interest in the restaurant. "Michel consults on the food," says Marder, "and (co-owner) Marvin (Zeidler) and I do the wine shop." But the owners have made a few changes recently including reopening the wood-burning ovens (which were closed after the deli stopped baking many of its own breads), adding a coffee bar and a long table with newspapers and magazines, and reducing the grocery inventory. "Santa Monica's not like New York, where you go to a produce store and then stop by Balducci's for some cheese," says Marder. "People out here shop at the supermarket, and maybe do some impulse buying." So Broadway Deli now specializes in olive oils, vinegars, pastas, cheese, cookies, crackers . . . and other impulse items.
Marder also plans to to make a few changes at his West Beach Cafe, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in February. "I'm going to cover the patio with rollaway glass, change the menu and then lower the prices," he says. "I am going to become a rustic Italian/ French/ American/ Jewish restaurant."
CHEFS MOVES: Arnaud Briand, who cooked Le Bernardin in New York and then at Caesar's Palace, will be heading back to New York to take over the kitchen at the luxurious Rainbow Room nightclub/restaurant on the 65th floor of RCA Building in Rockefeller Center.*