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Pink’s reopens after voluntary closure: ‘Feels like a hug’ for longtime fans

Pink's Hot Dogs owners stand in front of the Melrose Avenue stand.
Pink’s Hot Dogs has reopened after a two-month closure during the pandemic. Owners Richard and Gloria Pink, right, were on hand for the return.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Pink’s is no longer singing the coronavirus blues.

The storied hot dog stand in Hollywood reopened Monday after a two-month voluntary closure amid a winter surge that sent COVID-19 cases and deaths skyrocketing.

Autumn Streat, 65, who grew up eating at the Pink’s Hot Dogs stand in the Melrose area, said being back for the reopening “feels like a hug.”

“It’s like coming home,” said Streat, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and used to stop by the highlighter-pink stand at La Brea and Melrose avenues when she’d come to visit nearby Tower Records. She drove from Oxnard to grab a dog before the first-day lunch rush set in, saying of the drive: “It’s worth it.”

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In early January, the owners of the 81-year-old stand announced a two-month voluntary closure amid a winter coronavirus surge that sent cases and deaths skyrocketing.

Now that case levels are falling and the vaccination effort is underway, Richard Pink, the son of the stand’s founders and its current co-owner, said it was time to kickstart the family business again.

“People want a sense of normalcy. They want to return to what it was like before what we’re going through,” Pink said just before the stand opened its doors Monday morning for the first time since Jan. 4. “Pink’s gives them that opportunity to kind of return to the way we used to live and dine.”

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Pink’s — famous for both its long lines and its more than 40 hot dog varieties — has suffered financially along with thousands of other L.A. restaurants, some forced to close completely while others relied on takeout or limited service after outdoor dining resumed.

Pink said his restaurant is operating at 30% below its typical revenue intake. That means profit is nonexistent. Every dollar made is going to keep the lights on and the hot dogs cooking, he said.

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Pink’s Hot Dogs, a Los Angeles culinary institution since 1939, reopened March 1 after a nearly two-month COVID-related closure. The hot dog stand voluntarily shut down in early January amid a citywide coronavirus spike.

All 25 employees who lost their job during the hiatus are now back, Pink said. Some are working coronavirus-specific gigs, such as monitoring the line, door and bathrooms for distance compliance and other safety enforcement.

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For many who grew up in or near Los Angeles, the restaurant serves as both a culinary and psychological anchor.

Greg Ramirez, 57, said his newscaster father exposed him to all of the city’s gems — including Pink’s — when he was a youngster living in Hollywood and the Valley. Ramirez now lives in Omaha, Neb., and felt fortunate that his childhood haunt reopened just days before his return flight. He recruited his friend, Westchester resident Annie Becket, 60, to come with him for the occasion.

“I was like, ‘We’ve got to go to Pink’s before I leave because, for the time that I was here, it was not open,” Ramirez said. “We kind of got lucky here.”

Though an emblem of nostalgia dating back to 1939, the stand continues to touch new generations.

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Herbeth Ruiz and Erwin Castillo, both 27, noticed the restaurant was back in business on their way back from a workout at Runyon Canyon, and the two decided to stop. Though neither of the Lynwood residents had eaten there before, they know the eatery’s legacy.

Living in L.A., “we’ve always heard about it,” Castillo said.


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