LA County restaurants reopen outdoor dining with varying success

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Vincent N. Medina

Customers enjoy an outdoor meal at Fronk’s bar and restaurant on Feb. 5. Fronk’s has observed safety restrictions since they were implemented. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Vincent Medina

LA County lifted restrictions on outdoor dining on Jan. 29, after the COVID-19 infection rate began to decline. One week after the restrictions were lifted, some restaurants are still struggling to stay open, while others are profiting from the extra business.

The Bellflower Diner at 17018 Bellflower Boulevard, in Bellflower, has followed Coronavirus safety restrictions since its implementation by only serving takeout and serving food outdoors when it is allowed.

Bellflower Diner co-owner Jonathan Padilla tries to remain optimistic despite his struggling family restaurant. The diner has reopened its outdoor dining since restrictions were lifted on Jan. 29.
Bellflower Diner co-owner Jonathan Padilla tries to remain optimistic despite his struggling family restaurant. The diner has reopened its outdoor dining since restrictions were lifted on Jan. 29. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Since the diner opened in 1978, it has remained a family business. It is owned by Ollie and Martha Padilla, as well as their son, Jonathan.

“Business is not like we expected it to be,” said Mrs. Padilla. “We set up the tables outside, but nobody came. They would rather have the food to go.”

Ollie estimated that the diner serves one customer an hour. They have laid-off four employees due to the slow business.

Jonathan stated that they would continue to obey restrictions, even if their business gets worse.

“At the end of the day, it’s about people’s safety,” Jonathan said. “I don’t want more people to get infected. We have a lot of older customers, and their health comes first.”

Despite having an Instagram @bellflowerdiner, Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash and GrubHub, they are still struggling to compete with other restaurants.

“Taco Nazo takes the whole street to do business, and here there is no parking in the front of the restaurant,” said Ollie. “The city does nothing to help us, but they (Taco Nazo) gets to take the whole street.”

Taco Nazo at 10326 Alondra Blvd., Bellflower has acquired a city permit to have a designated street lane to do their business.

“People come from different cities, but when they come and find no place to park, they are going to go somewhere else,” he continued. “We have tried calling the city, but nobody answers. We have been waiting to hear back from them.”

Just up the street, Fronk’s at 16922 Bellflower Blvd, Bellflower, is having better success since reopening outdoor dining.

Fronk's general manager Tony Ac
Fronk’s general manager Tony Acero (left) and owner Craig Frisinger (right) reopened their outdoor dining patio after restrictions were lifted on Jan. 29. Their sports-themed restaurant features nods to notable sports teams, as well as a memorial to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

The sports-themed restaurant and bar opened in 2010 and has obeyed Coronavirus restrictions since they were set in place. Since outdoor dining restrictions were lifted, they have reopened their outdoor patio to eager customers.

“It was definitely a struggle before outdoor dining was allowed. We were checking our finances daily,” said Tony Acero, general manager of the restaurant. “Our success was dependent on our regulars and our customers. We made it through because of the people that support us.”

Despite their financial struggles during the pandemic, Fronk’s decided to put customer safety first.

“Staying open despite restrictions is a short-term mindset. If you do that, you are losing customers,” the manager stated. “People who see you are open will tell others not to go to that restaurant. Then people who do come and break restrictions are usually not the most savory characters. It would create a hostile environment and put the health and safety of employees at risk.”

Acero went on to say that Fronk’s wanted to set an example to other restaurants in the area to observe safety protocols.

“We are one of the largest restaurants in the city. If other businesses see us breaking the rules, what’s to stop them from doing the same?”

The restaurant has managed to promote its business through social media. They are on Instagram @eatatfronks, and Fronk’s website gives information about their meal options.

Ahead of the Super Bowl on Feb. 27, Fronk’s will continue to promote Coronavirus safety measures and encourage no large gatherings.

Acero said, “If we offer a big platter of ribs, that’s literally saying, ‘party with 20 people!’ We are probably going to offer nachos but not much else.”