RESTAURANTS : 'For Sale' Sign in the Cards for Trumps

Michael Roberts has put Trumps up for sale. The last few years have been difficult at the West Hollywood restaurant: One of Roberts' original partners died after a long illness, another left the country, and a third was bought out.

Roberts has been running Trumps by himself for some time now, and he says he has been looking for people who want to buy in. "I'm not one of those people that want to own and run an entire restaurant," he says. "I like the process of a partnership."

The owners of Columbia Bar & Grill have made an offer on the restaurant, sources say. Roberts refused to confirm that such an offer had been made, and a spokesman for the Hollywood restaurant would not return calls.

When Trumps opened a decade ago, Roberts' outrageous combinations--Brie and grape quesadillas, roast duck with black beans and pickled pumpkin--were new, exciting and a big hit with the critics. But these days Los Angeles dining habits have changed. Earlier this year, Roberts replaced some of his signature dishes, and cut back on cream, butter and salt in the food.

"Business is just terrible," says Roberts. "It is terrible everywhere, and people who say it's not. . . . To keep denying, denying, denying that anything is happening is crazy when you know that, with the exception of maybe five, every restaurant in the city is for sale."

SHOCK THERAPY: "Asylum was always misunderstood," says John Thomas. "I wanted to create a sanctuary, and the place became a zoo."

But Thomas, restaurateur and interior designer, says he has learned from his mistakes. He plans to take his restaurant in a new direction. "By the time I'm through," he says, "you'll swear it is a different building."

Thomas will completely redesign the year-and-a-half-old front dining room--the drapes, the mirrors, the booths will go. The upscale Robertson Boulevard restaurant will become a lower-scale bistro/brasserie. The wine room will be turned into a Belgian-style pastry shop and the mezzanine will become a coffee bar.

Thomas says his challenge is to create an environment that harmonizes with the lower-priced menu. "Otherwise," he says, "it would be as if you showed up at L'Orangerie in jeans. It just doesn't work."

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