This winter’s rainy weather onslaught has been good news for a state that was stuck in a years-long drought, but it poses a particular challenge for some of Los Angeles’ most prominent restaurants. Because of all the downpours, particularly on important money-making weekends, some of the city’s most stunning (and mostly outdoor) restaurants have been stuck with low numbers of diners coming through, or with cancelling their night altogether.
Neither is an issue you want to have when already faced with perilously thin margins and increasing costs elsewhere (rent, labor, produce), but when those losses start to mount up over a particularly rainy season, it can spell disaster for even the heartiest of restaurants.
LA Weekly critic Besha Rodell mentioned the rain’s impact on the industry over a series of tweets a few days back, citing some pretty unappealing math. While she didn’t talk to anyone in particular about their financial losses, it’s easy to see them slide into the tens of thousands of dollars for a few particularly wet evenings of service (or lack thereof).
Eater talked to a handful of prominent indoor-outdoor restaurants around town to get their take on all this rain (yes, there’s more on the way this coming weekend), and how folks are managing to keep their bank account in the black.
Restaurateur: Louis Tikaram
Restaurant: E.P. & L.P.
Reaction: “The rain has actually led a lot of people (including many first timers/walk-in's) to experience the EP restaurant portion of the venue and sample our beverage program, which has been a positive.
A few rooftop events in January had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather, but otherwise there haven't really been too many woes to the business. Funny note: ironically enough, EP & LP actually opened its doors back in May 2015 on an unexpectedly rainy day, so it's almost been a reverse good omen for us in a way.”
Restaurateur: Randy Clement
Restaurant: Everson Royce Bar
Reaction: “If you want a good sound investment, throw a pile of your money in the propane market because we go through a tanker truck a week powering all of our patio heat making devices.
We now have an enviable arsenal of tents, large and small, square and rectangle, with enough different styles of heaters to go with them that we can take on any weather pattern. We have conquered the rain and cold. If it snows we are also ready.”
Operator: Zach Brooks
Reaction: “It's funny because when we first opened in June of last year all our vendors asked "What do we do if it rains!?" And we would just laugh because it NEVER rains in L.A.! In New York Smorgasburg is rain or shine and it rains there all the time... so why would it be an issue?
Of course we get hit with the wettest winter in how many years? Thankfully the rain has only been bad enough for us to cancel just one Sunday, and even when it is overcast or drizzly we are enough of destination with so many vendors, and great parking, that we draw a couple of thousand people out. But there's no denying that overcast and/or drizzly days have a real negative on impact on everybody — except our vendors selling soup, donuts, and hot coffee!”
Restaurateur: Billy Silverman
Reaction: “Has it been raining? Hadn’t noticed.”
Restaurateur: Lauren Behrle
Restaurant: Wax Paper Co.
Reaction: "The rain can really go either way. We see it keep people away sometimes, and other times we can't keep the door closed, it's so busy! We are a quick service restaurant that takes phone orders, so that really helps. Communicating with customers that you are open through the rain or even doing a rainy day special can help a lot!"
Chef: Fernando Darin
Restaurant: Ray’s and Stark Bar
Reaction: “With the rain we actually noticed a lot of visitors coming to LACMA. I think they are trying to get out of the rain and spend the day in the museum. And of course, that means we’re getting a lot of people coming into Ray’s for some comfort food and pizza.”
Manager: Benny Bohm
Restaurant: Cliff’s Edge
Reaction: “For us the rain is of course a challenge as we are well known for our patio dining. Thankfully we have a great indoor dining room in the bar area. We also have about half of our patio seats covered so it’s actually quite romantic out there with the rain drops falling on the roof.
In general I think Angelenos tend to go out less when the weather is poor so all restaurants are feeling it.”
Restaurateur: Alex Sarkissian
Restaurant: Momed, Atwater Village
Reaction: “Our biggest struggle with rainy days is not the rain itself but our guests’ perception. Our patio is completely covered with heaters and all, but for some reason many of our clients think otherwise and at times even argue with us about it! Ultimately the rainy days do affect our business, I would say as much as 30%.”