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RESTAURANTS | RESTAURANT JOURNAL

A space shuttle to the rescue

July 18, 2007|Leilah Bernstein

THEY emerge from a white Ford Explorer -- one, two, three, four valets -- looking spiffy and ready for action. Valet party bus? Not quite.

As evening descends on Beverly Boulevard, the street lined with tempting boutiques and inviting restaurants quickly turns into an impenetrable parking jungle, with every meter from La Cienega to La Brea occupato.

Few dare to venture into the no-man's-land of residential street parking, where every block seems to require a permit. That's the territory of valets, and if you're at Hatfield's wondering why it's taking so long for them to get your car, it's because they're in deep.

Enter the Ford Explorer.

For the burgundy-vested valets who service Hatfield's, BLD, Grace and Angelini Osteria, it's kind of like a cross between a military rescue vehicle and an MTA Rapid Express -- part "get me the heck outta here" and part "get me where I need to go, fast, because there's a really impatient lady in high heels waiting for me when I get there."

Express Valet Parking Inc. parks cars for the four restaurants, located within about four blocks of each other along Beverly, and it uses the Explorer as a shuttle to collect the valets.

The pressure is high for the valets, says Express Valet supervisor Carlos Alanis. "I saw the necessity to help the guys," he says. "They have pressure to move fast and think fast, and if they drive fast, we'll have problems with the neighbors."

So when "it's raining people," Alanis says, and as many as 12 valets are working those four restaurants' stations, location manager Gustavo Oropeza drives through the neighborhood in his 1999 Explorer to quickly transport the valets to customers' parked cars as well as return the valets to their respective restaurants after they park -- as far away as Vista Street and Rosewood Avenue. (On the valets' portion of the ticket, they'll write "Vista lejos," or "Vista far.")

Alanis says guests' waiting time is now usually about five minutes, as opposed to as long as 15 minutes before the shuttle was introduced.

To help out, Alanis sometimes drives a second vehicle, his Toyota RAV4. He and the others communicate by radio to coordinate their movements.

If a valet parks a couple of blocks away and it's a busy Thursday night, for instance, he'll radio Alanis or Oropeza, telling them exactly where he is and wait a few minutes for his pickup.

Once the shuttle circles back to the restaurant, it might pick up a valet waiting on the north side of Beverly to transport him to a parked car.

Drive that bus, Gus.

Leilah Bernstein

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Small bites

* Tanzore, formerly Gaylord of India, is open on La Cienega Boulevard. On the menu: tandoori tiger prawns, "drunken" scallops and specialty drinks such as the Shakalaka DQ.

50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 652-3894.

* For Saturday and Sunday brunch on the Terrace at the Sunset Tower Hotel, guests receive a complimentary peach Bellini and two hours' free parking and get sent home with a little coffeecake. During the week the same holds true for breakfast and lunch, sans the Bellini.

8358 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 654-7100.

* Windows Restaurant on the 32nd floor of the AT&T Center in downtown Los Angeles will close at the end of the month. Last chance for those steaks and signature martinis with a panoramic view of L.A.'s skyline.

1150 S. Olive St., Los Angeles, (213) 746-1554.

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