Well I knew it was coming, I just didn't really want to think about it too much, you know?
So I told you I took this journalism class and it was turning out to be fairly challenging, so for my final project (we can write a story on anything! GULP) I decided to make my life a little easier and write about something to which I had inside access - the opening of ONE Sunset, where I am now waiting tables. At the time, we were in the middle of four weeks of training, and I was having fun playing intrepid reporter, interviewing the management and hunting down pre-opening gossip and publicity. I also read up on a few other restaurants in town, ones that might be similar to what we were trying to do.
Throughout my research, I grew slowly more and more uneasy - not everyone involved in this new venture was on the same page, or even reading the same book.
There were two schools of thought.
1) The Altruists - my friends in management and the chef. The folks who asked me to come work with them, and for whom I'd do just about anything. They have this vision of a really fantastic place to dine. For them ONE would be incredible food and drinks, great music in a chill, laid-back but still classy atmosphere. Basically Cinderella after the Ball - she's got money and taste, but she still remembers her roots as a scullery maid. The kind of place where my tables drop lots of dough and realize that every dime was worth it. Here's your 25% in cash, Tara, you were the best server we've ever had.
No Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan-table, surrounded by drunk hangers-on ordering bottle service so they can watch the stars and party in the A-list clubs. We swear you haven't been hired to be a cocktail waitress.
2) The Money People - Ah ha. Yes, I read about New York's ONE (Little West 12th), and how the party gets going at midnight and stays open till 4am. How more booze flows than food. How, cleverly, some one in marketing realized that if you could get the celebrities to party in the back, then you could fill the rest of your tables with looky-loos, at $430 a bottle, minimum purchase required. And if people want one of those tables, well then they have to buy dinner first - come early, stay late, and SPEND.
There are plenty of places like it in L.A. already. They flare up and burn out within about six months. The latest place is Parc, previously Black Steel, and down the street is Le Deux. Celebrities, money, ropes at the door, guest lists, bottle service. I read about all these places, and then I listened to our management talk about class and fine food. And then I looked around at the restaurant, with its DJ booth in the center next to the giant bar, the cozy VIP tables in the back on a slightly raised floor, the varnished dark wood banquettes that switched to cocktail tables like transformers - more than meets the eye! It all seemed slightly contradictory.
Last week at our opening party, Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore showed up (with Ashton in tow). And CAA hosted the crowd, who were all in all very respectful, enjoying the food and promotional cocktails, quieting down for the guest speaker (celebrity psychic Laura Day) and then calmly shuffling out around 10:30. It was a Tuesday night, after all. It all seemed promising.
So last night, Friday, I show up for my first shift since the party. Gather round servers, and hear us well - we said we wouldn't be offering bottle service reservations, and that is now changing.
Flash forward to me squeezing between drunken women dancing on the furniture at 11:30 while I try to bring another round of shots to an anonymous rock band after being at work for 8 hours already. There's Masi Oka at a banquette in the other half of my section, and it crosses my mind so predictably to wish he really could feeze time. One enthusiastic dancer manages to knock over an entire wine bucket filled with ice water. The manager asks - "Do you want to make a lot of money?" as she seats two tables for bottles of Grey Goose in my section. Do I have a choice? I was scheduled at 3:30pm (to polish glasses for two hours??) and my first table was at 8!
But the music was really good (Smiths mixed in to Polyphonic Spree!!), and I was having fun, mostly. I also didn't leave the restaurant till after 2am. Did I make a ton of money? Um... not really. I made about maybe $70 more than I would have made at Asia de Cuba (where I also work). But I also worked about 3 more hours.
So when does the classy crowd show up? I think my friends the Altruists are asking the same thing. Guess we should have seen it coming... Hey, the LA Times called us "Buzz-Worthy."