The uncertainty that COVID-19 brought upon the restaurant industry is well-documented, and for many businesses it’s been wait and see in terms of what to do next. Kitchen24, the trendy diner concept best known for its lively West Hollywood location on Santa Monica Blvd. and its Hollywood eaterie on Cahuenga Blvd. is a good example. While outdoor dining allowances made staying open easier in WeHo, the owners had to make the difficult choice to close the doors of their popular Hollywood location due to lack of outdoor table space, and at the time, they weren’t quite sure what the final outcome for the comfort food spot would be.

Thankfully, Hollywood’s favorite late night and early morning pitstop — known for tasty burgers and salads, hangover-friendly breakfasts, coffee items and fun cocktails — re-opened last week (though hours will be limited for the time being).

The kitchen is open (Courtesy kitchen24)

“The biggest challenge has been the unknown,” co-owner David Dickerson tells L.A. Weekly. “Also straddling the line of safety for our staff and serving our neighborhood regulars. Even the guidelines for health and safety protocols have changed so frequently — to no fault of anyone in particular in my opinion — that they have often qualified as the unknown.” As more people venture out into the world, the challenges for staff at restaurants like 24 have been further amplified, with more pressure and more bodies to navigate in a space that no longer resembles what it might have been like before the virus hit and lockdowns were implemented.

Dickerson says another issue is forecasting sales and modeling labor, and guessing what to expect during a time when nobody knew how things might play out. Like so many others, they scrambled to figure out how to make things work with revenues often 80 to 100 percent below average. In most cases the math simply didn’t work without the anticipated revenue. Landlords had their own challenges as well, with so many of their tenants no longer having the means to pay them.

Dickerson echoes a problem many faced during L.A. lockdown. “With no patio at Hollywood’s Kitchen24, we tried to make a go of it solely on the revenues generated by carry out and delivery, but it wasn’t enough,” he shares. “In West Hollywood, our patio has given us a fighting chance along with delivery and take out but it’s not been sufficient to remain in front of all our bills. It’s still an uphill battle. “

West Hollywood’s tented outdoor patio (Courtesy kitchen24)

Now that the Hollywood location is re-opened, Dickerson says it will be “a cautious re-entry.” One of the things that set the restaurant apart from other nouveau diners of its ilk was its round the clock hours. It is called “24,” after all. For now anyway, the two restaurants will not live up to the name. The future is still in question, though.

“We just don’t know,” Dickerson says about the hours. “It will come down to feeling out the neighborhood. We’ve always hung our hat on answering the needs of our neighborhoods and the communities we serve. Hours will be abbreviated, menus will be more succinct than we or you may be used to. Protocols for protecting staff and guests post-pandemic will be new to many and as we have learned we can count on them changing regularly. Things will be a little wobbly at first, but like a new born baby we know we will eventually find our legs. ”

One new adjustment in Hollywood is sure to be very welcome:  outdoor seating via the strip of space known as the Cahuenga Alley, which runs behind businesses including St. Felix and Velvet Margarita, the latter of which is still TBA in terms of status. No opening date has been announced but word on the street is there will be a V.M. coming to Las Vegas soon.

North of Hollywood Blvd., Cahuenga is a historic block and 24 in particular has an iconic past; it stands on what was once a famous jazz club called Shelly’s Manne-Hole and there’s a plaque outside the front door to prove it. With the new outdoor seating, the restaurant is clearly fighting to remain part of the area’s rich history and mark a notable return to a bustling “Corridor” as it was coined during its clubbing heyday.

“We are eternally grateful to our neighbors on the street and look forward to assuming our place back alongside them,” Dickerson says. “I’ve been doing business in Hollywood since 2000 with the mixed media night venue; Cinespace. I have come to learn that Hollywood has a mind of its own. With residential units sprouting up on every other corner and creative companies like Netflix committing to the area, I’m certain it will not be long before it’s thriving again. Tourism will more than likely return to the attractions of the boulevard as well as the night clubs. But in our dream Hollywood, local eating and drinking establishments are just as commonplace, and even more important. “

LA Weekly