Fire shuts down The Dugout
Owner pledges return after repairing legendary Burbank eatery
By Steve Metsch
There’s bad news and good news regarding The Dugout, a longtime fast food restaurant in Burbank that last year joined the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame.
First, the bad. A fire swept through the kitchen in the wee hours of June 14, forcing closure of the restaurant for the first time since it opened in August 1984.
And now, the good. Owner Mike DiStefano, who earlier this year nearly sold The Dugout, said that he will reopen after repairs are made.
“I almost had a buyer, but he backed out with 48 hours to go. The sale fell through, but then, everything was going good. Sales picked up. Then, this past week, I got a phone call which was the most shocking call of my life,” DiStefano said.
A fire in the building, 6300 W. 79th St., started early June 14. Large plywood boards now cover the windows and doors. Fire damage can be seen on the roof near the kitchen.
The fire surprised many devoted diners, along with a Pepsi delivery truck driver who on June 16 parked on Mobile Avenue, got out and was surprised to see The Dugout shuttered.
“What happened?” he asked a reporter, adding that he had an order to deliver.
Burbank Fire Chief David E. Gilgenberg II was surprised as anyone. “I’ve been going there my whole life,” the Reavis High School alumni said. “I hope it reopens.”
The fire department received news of the blaze at 1:07 a.m. June 14 and was soon on the scene, as the Dugout is just a few blocks east of the fire house.
“We quickly brought the fire under control, but the damage was done,” he said. No neighboring houses were damaged, and there were no injuries, Gilgenberg said.
“The cause was not intentional and possibly could have been from an electrical source. It is not being classified as suspicious. It looks electrical and accidental in nature,” he said.
DiStefano, who lives in Mokena, said damage was contained to the kitchen. His sports memorabilia in the dining room was spared damage.
“I have to gut the kitchen, re-do the kitchen,” DiStefano said. “I’m hoping and praying we can get it together.”
“This was really a blow, a punch to the gut. We never in a million years expected something like this,” DiStefano said. “We’re going to make it better than ever, reopen strong and get back to all our faithful (customers).”
When he was there June 19 with an insurance adjuster, about 50 “devastated” well-wishers stopped to chat with him.
“I love that. I love our town. I love The Dugout. My goal is to get us open as soon as possible,” he added.
In September, DiStefano was honored by Vienna Beef, which included The Dugout in it’s Hot Dog Hall of Fame. Two months later, he decided he was tired of working – he had been there pretty much every day since 1984– and put the 875-square-foot restaurant on the market.
When the deal fell through, and sales picked up, he decided that it was too early for him to retire.
Firefighters from the Hometown and North Palos fire protection districts and the village of Bridgeview assisted, the chief said.
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