Dealing With the Conflicting Demands of the Outdoor Diner

Someone’s chilly. Someone else is getting their scalp burned by a heat lamp. Who wins?

On a moonlit February evening in the open-air courtyard at Baltaire in Brentwood, all is well in the universe—until the winds pick up. The women with jumbo shopping bags at table 432 want the roof closed. Next to them, NBA Hall of Famer James Worthy and his party say they kinda like the breeze. It is up to general manager Mishel LeDoux to keep the sky from falling.

“People in L.A. think when they go out that it’s like being in their living room,” LeDoux says after discreetly adjusting five of the six overhead panels with handheld remotes. “Dealing with all those needs is something of an art.”

Downtown at Redbird, guests share $118 steaks in a former cathedral so ingeniously can opener-ed that some think they are dining under glass. But then the sun starts blazing. “You have no idea how hot stainless cutlery gets,”
says co-owner Amy Knoll Fraser.

While venues like SoHo House in West Hollywood can quickly press the close button on an electric canopy (most roofs roll shut in 45 seconds or less), a few spots go completely commando.

Wolfgang Puck insists that the roof at Spago stay open at all costs. If the weather is cool, his staff will bring around a leather tray piled with pashminas to make sure no one gets cold shoulders. Still, Steve Scott Springer, Spago’s GM, recalls the VIP diner who felt “overwhelmed” by the sun’s reflection off a white wall onto her table.

“Through the meal, I kept the remote in my pocket and slowly adjusted the roof every 15 minutes as the sun was setting. She just wanted to feel like the world was her oyster. I did my dance to oblige.”

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