WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Many bars in Los Angeles had to shut their doors and let go of employees due to restrictions amid the pandemic, but one West Hollywood establishment thought outside the box to keep their staff on the payroll and get out-of-work chefs back in the kitchen. It's called the Summer Social Club at Employees Only, where there's a different chef and menu each night of the week.
One restaurant concept is La Sorted's Pizza. Every Friday night, Tommy Brockert will be hand making a pizza, something he never thought he would be doing in a full commercial kitchen.
"I truly find myself sometimes looking down at the pizza. I truly forget I am in this restaurant for a second. I pinch myself that this is even happening," Brockert said.
Brockert spent the last 13 years as an event photographer with his own business that came to a halt during the pandemic. During his downtime, he would make pizzas at home and share them with friends on his porch. Soon what he calls "strangers" were reaching out to get their hands on one. This was when La Sorted's Pizza was born. Brockert would pop-up at different places selling his creations to go.
"A couple of weeks later, it was going from 30 to 40 to 80 to 90 pizzas in a day. I put every ounce of my heart into this," Brockert said.
Now, he puts his heart into running his own restaurant every Friday night at Employees Only Summer Social Club. Owner of the bar Tom Sopit created a way to keep his business open and his employees working by designing a welcoming outdoor space and a rotating chef program in the kitchen.
"We knew we needed food to go along with drinks. Not only was that the law but for us, it wasn't really a drinking environment anymore. We didn't think it was going to become this big thing or this culinary incubator," Sopit said.
He didn't expect it to last this long either, hence the name Summer Social Club. It began in July, and now they are open six nights a week with a different chef and menu each night.
"We are used to it now. It's refreshing to see something new every day," Sopit said.
So, restaurant concepts like La Sorted's will come in on their night with their menu and their kitchen crew to make the food, while Sopit's Employees Only team handles the rest.
"We help them with menu creation, with pricing strategy. We provide the dishwasher, food runners, manager on duty, and we help direct them because it's their first time opening up shop for themselves," Sopit said.
Brockert appreciates all the help and guidance. This experience actually allowed him the opportunity to open his own brick-and-mortar restaurant in the spring.
"I have the chills. As bad as this year has been, something really, really great has come out of it," Brockert said.