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Industry Voices: Challenges for the Restaurant Industry:

The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce announced a series of monthly meetings to identify the common challenges and solutions of business leaders in our community. Each of the Industry Council gatherings will focus on a different industry that contributes to the local economy. These informal meetings are hosted by members of the Chamber’s Business Roundtable, an influential cross-section of decision-makers in Santa Monica.

This week’s Industry Council on Monday, Nov. 9 was hosted by Jeffrey King, chairman of the board of King’s Seafood Co. at I. Cugini on Ocean Avenue.

This was the second Industry Council meeting following the inaugural meeting regarding the hotel industry on Friday, October 9. This month’s meeting focused on the concerns of Santa Monica restaurants. The major issues discussed were parking, community involvement, aggregating concerns and potentially meeting on a more permanent basis.

The first issue of concern was parking. Donald Patterson, business and revenue operations manager for Santa Monica was on hand to answer questions on the Walker Consultant Group’s proposed parking changes to downtown Santa Monica.

Many on hand voiced concerns of increased parking rates dissuading customers from frequenting their establishments. Their concerns also focused on the availability, plausibility and safety of their employees.

After acknowledging the difficulty of not only finding parking downtown, but also finding parking information online, Patterson informed the restaurateurs that parking information would be more easy to find when a new parking Web site is opened sometime this month.

King addressed the group and advised them to become more active in the community.

“If you’re not involved, you’re not doing yourself a favor,” he said. “If you’re just sitting back and complaining, you’re not doing your job.”

Chamber President and CEO Laurel Rosen continued with this notion, which was also espoused at last month’s meeting, that not only do they need to be involved in the community, it is in their interest to follow the agendas of the city councils where their establishments reside in order to know when relevant topics are discussed.

Rosen said that the Santa Monica City Council is regularly confronted by its residents, but seldom by its business owners and their policies reflect as much.

Leslie Paoneffa, event planner of the World Café on Main Street, went one step further and proposed the possibility of restaurateurs meeting more frequently in order to organize their concerns as one cohesive industry voice. Rosen said The Chamber of Commerce serves as a conduit of any such consensus.

“Our goal isn’t to report,” she said. “It’s to listen to you (those business persons in attendance) to report and us (the chamber) to address those concerns.”

One such agreed upon mutually beneficial action discussed was how those in attendance could help to attract more events like Cirque du Soleil, The Ashes and Snow Project and BCS Rose Bowl.

The notion of group sales, across the industry, was brought up briefly and received enthusiastic reception, but the meeting ended before the conversation was able to continue.

Comments on the subjects discussed at Industry Council meetings are welcomed by the Chamber of Commerce, and would be of benefit to the entire community as well as the industry involved. Letters to the Editor at the Mirror as well as online comments posted to the article on the newspaper’s Web edition will be forwarded to the Chamber (as well as published, as such letters and comments are generally).

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