Bringing another LA Food Show Grill & Bar into the world has been a labor of love for Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield, co-chief executives of California Pizza Kitchen.

The chain is scheduled to open an LA Food Show in Beverly Hills on Oct. 23, a year late and five years after opening the first such location.

Flax and Rosenfield, who founded CPK in 1985 but later left, had opened the first LA Food Show in Manhattan Beach in 2003. When they returned to CPK the same year, they sold the LA Food Show concept to their company.

The Beverly Hills location, which will be next to the new Montage hotel, is in a 50-year-old building that had to be gutted more extensively than planned, delaying the restaurant's opening by a year.

Flax declined to say how much this location cost to build, though he acknowledged it was more than anticipated.

LA Food Show, which features an exhibition kitchen where dishes ranging from fish tacos to rib-eye steak are prepared, has an extensive burger menu, comparable to CPK's pizza list. The most expensive item on the restaurant's menu, steak and fries, is priced at $23.99.

"We tried to price the menu so it's really quite affordable for families, even in Beverly Hills," Flax said. "Just because it's in Beverly Hills doesn't mean people don't want to economize."

Flax and Rosenfield don't necessarily want the concept to become a chain like CPK, and so far, there are no plans for additional locations. While they said CPK will always come first, they don't want to suggest that LA Food Show comes second.

"We can take our time to develop it," Flax said. "We're waiting for this location to help put us on the map."

It's a Go for Caruso

It's been a long fight for Rick Caruso to get his Santa Barbara-area hotel going, but it appears that he is nearing the finish line thanks to an approval by the Montecito Planning Commission.

After the Montecito Water District showed there was enough water to supply the site of the former Miramar resort site, the commission was satisfied, said Caruso, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated.

"Miramar has been a customer for over 100 years this isn't virgin territory," he said. "Once all the facts were in, the Planning Commission went ahead."

The commission's approval can be appealed to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Caruso said he didn't expect an appeal, but that the opponents of the project who objected to traffic and noise could conceivably continue the battle.

"You never know about these things," he said.

He hopes to start construction at the beginning of next year, with a projected opening in spring 2011.

Caruso bought the old Miramar site in January 2007. He has had to make changes to his renovation plan, including moving buildings farther away from the road and lowering the heights of others in order to satisfy critics.

Caruso declined to discuss how much he plans to spend on the project. The renovation has been estimated at $200 million. He said the changes wouldn't affect the overall cost.

Caruso Affiliated, the retail developer behind the Grove and Glendale's Americana at Brand, is known for creating "town centers" to keep shoppers at its stores longer.

The Montecito project will be Caruso's first hotel development. He has plans for another but declined to discuss details.

Fun Fare

Kickball tournaments, bounce houses, scavenger hunts. Sounds like activities at a child's birthday party? Yes, but these are also some of the special activities available to corporate clients holding events at the Pacific Palms Resort in City of Industry.

Robert Nelson, Pacific Palms' managing director, said that corporate retreat bookings, which constitute most of the hotel's business, have been slow due to the lagging economy. But since the resort started offering the activities in the Jump Start 2009 Package, interest in the corporate retreats have skyrocketed, with 1,000 inquiries in the past month. In February, there were only 30 inquiries.

Special team-building activities also include a giant Scrabble game and an "Iron Chef"-style lunch competition.

"Everyone is looking for a way to start 2009 fresh after a challenging 2008," Nelson said. "We've put together a cost-effective package that allows our corporate clients to do strategic planning and team building. They will do the work that needs to be done, but at the end they'll leave with a supercharged attitude."

The package includes meeting space, rooms for one night, food and either a cocktail reception or one of the special group activities for $239 per person.



Staff reporter Maya Meinert can be reached at mmeinert@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 228.

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