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L'Orangerie Through the Years: 1980 & Women's Lib

Image via Relais & Chateaux

We love L'Orangerie's grand elegance, the likes of which this city hasn't seen since, well, since L'Orangerie opened in 1978. There's something so decadent about the dramatic arched windows, the chandeliers, the three-story-high flower arrangements; the scrambled egg topped with caviar is life-changing (for us anyway). To commemorate the closing of the LA grande dame of French cuisine, we thought it would be fun to reminisce with as many old reviews and news stories as we can find. Stay tuned for more as we approach the final hour: L'Orangerie closes after its New Year's Eve dinner service.

When L'Orangerie owner Gerard Ferry announced the restaurant's demise in August of this year, he complained of losing money due to the changing culinary landscape in LA, plus several lawsuits were filed against him, many by disgruntled employees, some for sexual harassment. But his legal woes go back as far as 1980, as Time Magazine reported, only two years after the restaurant opened:

Kathleen Bick wanted to treat Larry Becker, her partner in a Los Angeles public relations and design business, to dinner. The occasion was a celebration, so they chose an expensive French eatery called L'Orangerie. But after sitting down, Bick discovered that her menu was not so much pricey as priceless. As is the custom in some establishments that aspire to Old World elegance, Bick, as la femme, had been presented with a special white menu that delicately omitted the prices. Becker got the regular green menu.

The couple left without eating, preferring to do their ordering in court. Citing California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, they sued L'Orangerie for sex discrimination, asking for at least $250 in statutory damages. They also asked for a permanent injunction against the restaurant's use of a bill of fare that they consider, well, unfair.

Around the same time, the news generated a spate of articles and letters to the editor in the LA Times with titles like "Libbing It Up at L'Orangerie"...

One group of women wrote in: "Once again, those who wish to "free" us are trying to impose their own standards on a quite unwilling majority--this time, the women and men who prefer to dine at a traditional French restaurant complete with the genteel custom of unpriced menus."

In 1981, seems all was well that ended well. An excerpt from a 1981 Times article proclaimed that the restaurant put away its two menus, and the claws retracted: "The Women's Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund is not mad at L'Orangerie anymore."

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