Going coinless can have its benefits


Change comes easily in this eager-to-please town, which is why one Hollywood restaurant’s decision to banish it (in its monetary form at least) is raising eyebrows. If you pay your bill in cash at Charcoal, an American grill in the ArcLight complex -- you’ll get your change rounded up (or down) to the nearest dollar. It’s left some patrons looking elsewhere for quarters to feed their meters.

The changeless policy at Charcoal (co-owned by entrepreneur Adolfo Suaya) came to our attention in the form of a letter from a man who dined at the restaurant, put $60 down on a bill of $47.63 and received $12 back. An undercover trip to Charcoal -- dressed in sleek black and brown hues with leather banquettes, a stone fireplace and an antler chandelier -- revealed mixed results.

Our bill for assorted meats (chicken, ribs, steak) grilled over mesquite coals was $98.51. We laid down $100 and got $2 back. The system appeared to be working to our advantage.


When we asked our waiter about the lack of change, he laughed and said, “If I like you, I round it up; if I don’t, you know how it is.”

We might know how it is, but general manager Leo Medina certainly doesn’t. On a subsequent visit to Charcoal -- at which we paid $28.14, put down $40 and got $12 back (hooray for us!) -- Medina said, “We make it clear at the first orientation, always make the change in favor of the customers and you will never have a problem.”

He also said that the few times he received complaints about the change policy were in relation to a rogue server who was shortchanging at will. That server was suspended and subsequently quit.

Former general manager Dan Smalls, who was responsible for Charcoal’s resistance to change, says change slows the servers down. “People want to eat and go to the ArcLight as quickly as possible.”

That might be true, but nothing slows down the servers as much as digging through their purses when disgruntled customers demand exact coinage, says bartender Kassidy Serbus. “They’re upset that we don’t carry change ourselves; they’re not mad at the customers. They’re, like, ‘Why don’t we carry change? It’s so stupid.’ ”

If complaints escalate, will Charcoal be open to change? Probably, says Medina says. “If someone rounds in the wrong way, people will get upset even if it’s a penny . . . to a lot of people a penny means a lot.”


Small bites

* Hollywood and WeHo are awash with openings: the Michel Richard-Jeffrey Chodorow collaboration, Citrus at Social Hollywood; chef Scooter Kanfer-Cartmill’s the Waffle; and New York transplant STK steakhouse on La Cienega.

Citrus at Social Hollywood, 6525 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-5222,; STK, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-3535; The Waffle, 6255 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 465-6901,

* On the Westside, vegan-friendly Akasha in Culver City and Luckyfish (conveyor-belt sushi) in Beverly Hills are open.

Akasha Restaurant, Bar & Bakery, 9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 845-1700,; Luckyfish, 338 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-9800,