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A Latte and a Memo, Please

May 27, 1999|CHRIS RUBIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Much as the dinosaur evolved into the more compact and efficient bird, the traditional office has morphed into the cubicle. So it's no wonder that people are always looking to get out of their offices and find another--often larger and more comfortable--place to work.

The neighborhood cafe, with its endless supply of caffeine and sweets, fits the bill for many. In fact, there's a long history of writers and artists working--well, sometimes just drinking--in cafes. Francis Ford Coppola wrote most of "The Godfather" on a manual typewriter in San Francisco's Caffe Trieste--for proof, there's an old black-and-white photo on the wall of the venerable North Beach coffeehouse.

Screenwriters packing laptops and dogeared scripts haunt many of L.A.'s cafes, but all types of business people these days are ditching the rigidity of the office for the more relaxed atmosphere of the coffeehouse, it seems.

"It feels good to change your environment," explains Mark Bankins, a Web site and CD ROM developer who frequents the Coffee Table in Silver Lake when not working out of his home office. Bankins can't do any design work on the portable he totes, but he still comes to the Coffee Table up to twice a day, particularly when his roommate is home. "When she's there, it puts a kink in the creative process," he says. "And it's nice, as a writer, to go to a place where you can pick up other people's conversations."

Bankins is far from the only person doing business at the Coffee Table. Partner Mike Zamarripa says his establishment welcomes writers and others, and they've loaded the place, including the recently opened rear patio, with more than two dozen electrical outlets to make it easier for laptop users to plug in.

"We don't rush anyone out of here," Zamarripa says. "Our customers tell us they can get more work done here, away from the distractions of the home or office."

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Restaurants, too, often function as a second office. Quentin Tarantino frequents the patio at Mirabelle, where he works on scripts and holds meetings. Hugo's is almost a second home for personal manager Phil Gittelman, whose home and office are just up the street from the West Hollywood restaurant. Gittelman, whose cell phone is always close by, has been having breakfast meetings there nearly every weekday for 20 years.

"I work the room," he says. "It's a very interesting place, where a lot of folks from the entertainment business meet and eat."

Hugo's is convenient for him, but it's more a question of the atmosphere. "There are celebrities of all sizes and shapes, and they can come in and not be bothered," Gittelman says. "It's very comfortable and laid back, and that's because of [owners] Tom and Emily [Kaplan]. . . . They don't push you out."

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Set decorator Julie Simms calls her car her home office, but she can often be found at Highland Grounds, a Hollywood cafe, when not shopping for the commercials she works on. For her, it's mostly a question of convenience: Highland Grounds is centrally located, and parking is easy.

"There's room to spread out," she says of the genial cafe, "and always something for everybody on the menu."

For headhunter Jo Page, there's no better place for interviews than Starbucks. She enjoys the chain because the stores are clean and comfortable, and she can sit there for hours.

"I've been doing it for five years," says Page, who also works out of her home. "Now, I only go to the office to pick up my check."

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