Burbank restaurants are on the road to recovery after a statewide reopening began for California businesses on Tuesday, June 15.
Starting on this date, businesses within all counties across California were given permission to reopen at full capacity. Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos released a video expressing his gratitude as Burbank entered the new guidelines, which are being followed by Los Angeles County under CDC recommendations.
“The date we have all been waiting for is now here,” Frutos said in the video. “As we open our economy on June 15, I want to say thank you. This is possible as a result of all your collective efforts. I want to acknowledge everyone’s daily sacrifices, from healthcare workers, essential workers, small business owners, [and] our City personnel, including police and fire.”
In Burbank, masks are no longer required to be worn by fully vaccinated individuals in most situations. Exceptions include a continuance of wearing face coverings indoors at schools, healthcare settings, childcare facilities, amongst public transit, as well as a few other additional venues. Most recently, the World Health Organization still encouraged fully vaccinated individuals to continue to wear masks as the Delta variant has been developing rapidly throughout the world, although it’s not a requirement.
Businesses in Burbank have now been able to operate without requiring social distancing or capacity limitations in recent weeks. Individual companies still have the authority, however, to implement rules or safety restrictions if they choose to.
Story Tavern has been providing Burbank with American food and full bar services since 2012 and supports local organizations such as the Burbank Historical Society and Burbank Animal Shelter. Their San Fernando Blvd. location in Downtown Burbank has become a second home for many locals, which was abruptly halted in the face of the pandemic.
“It became a constant struggle just to keep our doors open in an attempt to recover from the economic damage caused by COVID,” Story Tavern owner and General Manager, Diane Slaught, said. “We are currently still adjusting, and will continue to adjust for the sake of maintaining everyone’s health, happiness, and safety.”
Since June 15, Story Tavern has reinstated its pre-COVID bar services and fully opened its game room. Staff members are fully vaccinated and wearing masks, although guests are no longer required to wear masks while indoors. They still haven’t returned their occupancy to 100 percent capacity, however, due to a lack of staffing. Instead, about 75 percent of pre-COVID capacity levels have been reached. In addition, staffing issues throughout the pandemic have resulted in a cutback in their hours to six-hour days, four days a week.
“Staffing has been a major issue even since before the full re-opening,” Slaught said. “Finding the staff to fulfill the positions that we have lost has been a constant struggle because of the lack of certainty within the restaurant industry and the variance in wages.”
Smoke House Restaurant, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, has seen a large increase in business since the reopening date. They are open at 100 percent capacity from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
“It’s been extremely busy, which we’re very thankful for,” Smoke House General Manager, Manny Munoz, said. “[I’m] overwhelmed by all the support from the community and everyone who has been a regular here for many years.”
Their Sunday buffet brunch hasn’t returned yet due to a busy schedule of serving large numbers of incoming customers while being slightly low on staff. Munoz will be hiring a few more key members in the near future, but the majority of loyal Smoke House staffers have returned to their roles at the restaurant.
“I have an amazing team,” Munoz said. “A lot of them have been here 20-plus years. And they did an amazing job during this time of adjusting…they made it very easy, even though it was a very tough time.”
The Burbank Pub, which is co-owned by Walker Roach, Erica Abell, and Frank Howell, has been adapting to the reopening smoothly. After initially opening the pub just six months prior to COVID-19’s emergence, the pandemic forced the co-owners to rethink their operations and implement more delivery and takeout options, as well as convert two back parking spaces into a lanai for outdoor dining.
The Burbank Pub is currently following CDC and State approved guidelines for California businesses, and has strictly operated under all appropriate safety precautions throughout the pandemic. Roach says that although some mandates have been lifted since June 15, customers of the pub have maintained the same caution they’ve adhered to throughout the pandemic. The staff hasn’t yet felt a need to heavily monitor restaurant-goers and will proceed as needed according to how guidelines evolve.
“Most people were still acting as though [restrictions] hadn’t been [left],” Roach said of the reopening date. “So folks were still walking in in their masks, putting them on when they’d go to the bathroom when they’d get up from their tables, all that kind of stuff that they were doing before.”
In spite of seeing a long journey ahead, the path towards replenishing Burbank’s economy is viewed positively by these business owners, who are taking notice of the strong enthusiasm of restaurant patrons.
“Moving forward, I’m excited. Everyone’s excited,” Munoz said. “It seems like everyone’s ready to go out and have a good time and have dinner at their favorite places.”
As traffic is increasing at local restaurants, Slaught says the support they’ve received from the Burbank community “has been wonderful.” This generosity and encouragement from residents across the City will be instrumental in determining the restaurant industry’s future in Burbank.
“The entire restaurant industry is in a massive state of recovery right now,” Slaught said. “Even with the assistance of government aid [and] various loans and grants, it still requires the loyalty and support of small communities who wish to contribute to an evolving industry that relies on patronage.”
To learn more about Story Tavern, Smoke House Restaurant, and The Burbank Pub, visit their websites: