Hot dog! Pink's is ready to re-open – again – Press-Enterprise

Back in January, with COVID-19 raging, Richard Pink had to do something he wished he didn’t have to: close a Los Angeles classic. He shuttered the famed Pink’s Hot Dogs.

It was temporary, of course, but with pandemic case rates at the time rising relentlessly to a level that would begin threatening the entire L.A.-area hospital system, this was no time, he decided, to be cooking up his dogs named for Rosie O’Donnell, Long Island, Guadalajara and other themes — with sides of orange Fanta and grape Crush — to the faithful legions.

All he could do was hope that the virus would wane and that by March he cold open again to outdoor dining and walk-up orders.

And sure enough, that appeared to be happening.

Pink announced this week that his venerable hot dog stand — the one his parents, Paul and Betty Pink, founded in 1939, using a $50 loan from Betty’s mother to buy a hot dog cart — will reopen on Monday, March 1.

“We’re very excited to reopen,” said Pink, who has been spending the week making sure deliveries are in order, the place is well sanitized and that his 25 employees are well informed about the comeback and vaccination eligibility. “We thought it was best to close back January, but now with the indicators trending in the right direction, we thought it was appropriate to reopen.”

It didn’t hurt that L.A. County Public Health has lifted shutdowns on outdoor dining, with keeping some restrictions.

That’s why outdoor tables will be 8 feet apart, waiting lines — and at Pink’s, that’s definitely a thing — will be physically distanced and employees and customers will be required to wear masks.

It’s not ideal — as many businesses know — but Pink was just happy to start serving hot dogs again.

So will his employees.

Pink said he’s been able to hold on to all of them — some who have been working there for years.

“We’re finding a position for everybody,” he said.

Pink’s is re-opening in a relatively optimistic pandemic-era moment compared to the post-holiday, surge-humbled days of January.

On its last day of business back in January, the county had reported 11,513 new cases and climbing. Morgues and mortuaries were filling up. Hospitals ICUs were strapped. And the future was unclear, complicated by a shaky vaccine rollout.

And still, on that last day, Jan. 3, business was buzzing at the La Brea eatery, as the loyal got their last chance at a “Magic” Mushroom Burger or a 9″ Stretch Chili Dog and some vintage soda pop, to boot.

Flash forward to now: On Wednesday, cautiously hopeful public health officials reported declining case rates and hospitalizations.

Eateries were already in dire straits after the county closed outdoor dining just days before Thanksgiving. Indeed, Pink’s itself closed down before during the pandemic, for several months, before reopening and then closing again.

Such public health orders have irked many business owners and leaders, who have urged officials from the state to the county to allow them to remain open.

But Pink was not taking a defiant approach.

The threshold, Pink said, was just making sure employees and customers were safe.

“The number one goal here is safety,” he said. “If we’re not safe, customers won’t come. If the restaurant starts to generate a reputation of not caring, customers won’t come. You can talk about it being a moral issue, but it’s also a business issue. The smart way to conduct your business is to make it as safe as possible.”

Safe and consistent, he said.

Somehow, Pink’s itself has managed to stay consistent over the decades, always in the L.A. zeitgeist.

It stayed opened during World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, recessions and more…

Given that longevity, don’t expect much to change as things open up again — beyond the masks, the scrubdowns and the physical distancing.

In trendy L.A., Pink’s banks on a certain consistency. And after a year of COVID-19, expect more of the same.

“There are people who come to Pink’s, and before they arrive they have a  taste in their mouth about what they want,” Pink said. “People want to return to what is normal … what is predictable.”


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