Starting this week, South Bay residents can once again sit high atop the Redondo Beach pier with a Fire Chief in hand.
Old Tony's on the Pier is open and serving the specialty Mai Tai cocktail again as well as some food items. But, there's a time limit for the socially-distanced tables and you have to order an appetizer.
On Monday, June 8, at noon, when the iconic restaurant and bar reopened, about three dozen loyal patrons were waiting in line for the occasion.
Like many South Bay businesses, the iconic restaurant and bar faced its biggest challenge yet when the novel coronavirus forced closure of its doors in March. Because pier parking lots were closed, said co-owner Tony Trutanich, Jr., logistics made offering takeout nearly impossible.
The coronavirus downturn in business is probably the worst ordeal the restaurant has had to endure since his father opened in 1952, said Trutanich. Old Tony's has survived harrowing storms and a fire in 1988 that nearly engulfed the entire Redondo Beach Pier.
Trutanich, who runs the restaurant with his mother Jean, said he owes the restaurant's opening to customers who advocated for him by sending emails to public officials.
“They were the troops I guess,” Trutanich said of the many people who wrote emails. "I was putting out the battle cries every now and then. It's like having your own army that you can deploy anywhere, anytime.”
George and Harriet Steele, who were some of the first customers lined up Monday, said they first visited Tony’s a few years after its opening.
“We’ve been monitoring the opening for some months now,” said George. “We’re loyal and regular customers and have been for many, many years.”
Lisa Kamerick, who was in line with her husband Grant, grew up in Torrance and had been eating at Tony’s her entire life. Her parents were engaged at Tony’s. The couple said they had been visiting Tony’s since they met.
“This is our place, we wouldn’t miss it,” Lisa said.
Tony Trutanich was a lead navigator during World War II, including D-Day, and a commercial fisherman before opening Tony’s in 1952. Originally a small restaurant with 12 tables, Tony’s expanded substantially in the early 1960s, creating the landmark known today.
A main concern for Trutanich was getting the restaurant open for the dozens of employees that work there, some for decades.
On Facebook, Trutanich attempted to humanize the impact of Tony’s closure with highlighting some of those employees whose only income was Tony’s and those who had to cancel a wedding or sell their car to pay rent.
“Each human has a story and each human has a family, every person is financially affected,” Trutanich said.
Currently, under the direction of general manager Regina Fong, Tony’s is following the strict Los Angeles County guidelines for reopening.
"Regi runs the restaurant and we couldn't do it without her," he said.
For more information, visit oldtonys.com.