Diary of A Restaurant: reservoir Opening
Part II: Design & Construction
When Gloria Felix opened escrow on the business portion of the restaurant at 1700 Silver Lake Blvd, she knew that it could take some searching to find the right person to transform Netty’s from a glorified Florida porch into a first-class restaurant.
Always mindful of staying local, she solicited a few Eastside architects known for their innovative designs. After being told ‘I don’t do curves’ by one of Silver Lake’s favorites and published as working with yet another (with whom she hadn’t actually made an agreement), Felix and reservoir partner-in-crime Elizabeth Belkind gave up on the idea of hiring an architect. Turns out that the best people for the job were the chefs themselves. So, the chefhyphendesigner team set out across the city in search of, well, everything.
Over the past six months, they have thumbed through endless stacks of Dwell, Metropolitan Home and Architectural Digest. They’ve called in favors from the talented art department crew they met while working on Hell’s Kitchen. And they have driven stretches of the 605 and 710 Freeways they didn’t even know existed. With a working design centered around a dual-purpose bar and a modern banquet – they set out to tackle construction.
I think we all know the drill with construction: make a budget and a determine how long the project should take – and then multiply both numbers by two. Surprisingly, Belkind and Felix have been dramatically affected by only one of these hard-and-fast rules.
They sure as heck are not going to make their original opening date of April 1, 2007 (not intended to be an April Fools’ joke). Like so many others, they are caught in the bureaucratic web of the Health Department and the Department of Building and Safety (read more in Steve Lopez’ article, LA Times, May 6, 2007). I feel like I’ve spoken to them about their plumbing and electrical inspections about 3,000 times. They’re waiting – patiently – for the city's approval.
But they are staying basically within their original budget of $100,000. This good fortune can be almost entirely attributed to parking. Yeah, parking. I was bewildered when I heard this bit –thinking Belkind and Felix would go on to describe the money woes of restaurateurs tied to a tight-wad investor or dwindling home equity line of credit. I had no idea that such spending limitations could be due to a City of Los Angeles requirement for additional handicap spaces for build-outs costing over a hundred thousand smackers.
Staying within such a tight budget means making choices. When they bought the luxe sinks (Veal saltimbocca with mortadella and sage does not pair well with a Home Depot bathroom), they knew something else had to give. The good news is that Tom Salazar of Innovative Renovations is the contractor of their dreams. He understands their vision, is on board with their decisions, and proves his worth to the first-time restaurateurs on a daily basis.
Don’t be fooled by the plywood windows at the corner of Silver Lake and Effie because reservoir is coming soon! It’s just going to take twice as long as we thought…proving once again that construction math does work! Hang in there for more on staffing, sourcing and menu creation – and check out the chefs’ catering menu at www.silverlakereservoir.com if you just can’t wait another minute.
- Courtney Smith