A venerated Beverly Hills eatery has apologized for planning a “Prohibition” New Year’s Eve dinner amid the latest coronavirus surge — and an in-person dining ban — calling the incident a big misunderstanding.
La Scala, a celebrity hangout offering upscale Italian food a stone’s throw from Rodeo Drive, was responding to backlash to an invitation it had slipped into diners’ takeout bags. Written in florid cursive lettering, the invite said the restaurant was considering taking reservations for a speakeasy-themed dinner party “inside,” if there was enough interest. “Please keep this discreet but tell all your friends,” the note said.
The invitation, which was widely shared on Twitter, sparking scores of negative comments, prompted reaction from both the Beverly Hills Police Department and city officials.
With a state order banning outdoor dining initially set to expire Monday, the restaurant said in an online statement that the invite was floated in case it was allowed to offer some kind of table service. Gov. Gavin Newsom has signaled that the dining ban — part of a new stay-at-home order enacted in early December — will continue, as hospitals struggle to accommodate COVID-19 patients amid an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
The restaurant also said it never intended to hold the soiree indoors, calling that part of the invite a joke that fell flat.
“It didn’t come out as intended, how we wanted to be represented, nor how we wanted to represent ourselves,” a message posted on the restaurant’s website said. “That was the intention. If you can find fault in that, there is nothing more we can say.”
Indoor dining has not been allowed in Los Angeles County since the first stay-at-home order went into effect in March, except for a brief stretch with limited capacity right after Memorial Day. County health officials have intermittently allowed outdoor dining but reinstituted a ban in late November.
Beverly Hills City Council members unanimously approved a resolution opposing the ban in early December, a toothless move taken by several other cities, including Los Angeles. Despite the “strong opposition” expressed by city leadership, spokesman Keith Sterling said in an email Tuesday that Mayor Lester Friedman “has been clear that while the order is in place, it must be adhered to.”
Amid its apology, La Scala suggested that ire over the dinner party was misplaced.
“We do want to offer our sincerest apologies and our hearts go out to everyone that has lost a loved one to Covid-19, whether it is from the actual disease, suicide, alcohol, domestic violence, drug overdoses or cancer deaths due to lack of treatment,” the statement on its website said. “We cannot forget all the people that are losing their businesses. If everyone would turn their hate to love and direct it to the people that need it instead of attacking small businesses trying to survive, that would be a much better use of their time.”
Representatives for La Scala declined to comment beyond the statements posted online.
City officials contacted La Scala on Christmas Eve about the event to remind its management about restrictions in the county’s order, Sterling said.
“We understand this is an incredibly difficult time for all of our businesses,” the statement sent to the restaurant read, “however the County Order does currently prohibit indoor and outdoor dining, including in the City of Beverly Hills.”
The city’s police department said in a tweet on Christmas that its code enforcement team was “aware and will be handling this matter.”