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West Follywood 

How a progressive town founded on renters' rights and diversity ended up gridlocked, angry and elitist

Thursday, Apr 1 2010
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Page 8 of 8

But this is not Los Angeles, or even Beverly Hills. This city has virtually no industry. And unlike the more mixed economic base in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood relies heavily on peddling its partying and nightlife to tourists, young suburbanites, the rich and celebrities. A sizable chunk of its sales tax comes from drinks sold at bars and nightclubs.

So bar and nightclub owners are stunned that Land and Heilman would push such a ban — and with the autocratic arrogance of longtime politicians to boot.

"I was shocked," says Sandy Sachs, owner of the Factory nightclub on Robertson Boulevard, who is angry that no "general meetings" were sought with leaders of the nightlife industry "before the smoking ban got on a roll." Sachs says, "We're in a really, really tough economic time. This is tougher than 9/11, than the earthquake in '94, than the riots. And to add something like this, when times are tough already, what are they trying to do? Stomp us out like a cigarette?"

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Trip Wilmot, owner of East/West Lounge on Santa Monica Boulevard, agrees, saying, "The city has underestimated the impact of the smoking ban, and they've underestimated the people who aren't happy about it. ... It seems like they've really overstepped on this one."

According to Wilmot, bar and nightclub owners are organizing to stop the City Council. If that doesn't work, they may consider backing other council candidates in the future. "I wouldn't put it past us," he says.

Will West Hollywood's seminal political shake-up be over smoking, of all things? Sounding very much like Heilman and Land circa 1984, Sachs says, "It used to be 'Live and let live' around here. ... At what point do we stop telling people how to live their lives?"

Reach the writer at pmcdonald@laweekly.com

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