REEDLEY – The Bear Club, a Reedley staple known for its steaks and pistachio-crusted salmon, is slowly reopening, offering residents a taste of its fine dining tradition and ambiance.
After closing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, The Bear Club quietly opened its doors for lunch Oct. 18, with regular hours set to begin the following week. Although nearly two and a half years have passed since The Bear Club’s last service, executive chef and manager Juan Reyes has kept everything Reedley loves about the restaurant in tact.
“We need a place like this (because) … if you want to go out to dinner, there’s almost nowhere,” Reyes said. “We need something like this for the locals here, and I think everybody’s excited and ready to go, and hopefully we do good.”
The menu will be the same as it was previously; however, some items like the pork shank will be missing because the product is no longer available for the restaurant to order. Reyes said that he experimented with his own menu for the restaurant since it’s been closed, but ultimately decided to keep the original after speaking with customers and hearing about what they’d like to see.
Reyes’s father, Heraclio, bought the restaurant in 2013 from long-time owner Jon Koobation and his wife. Since then, Reyes said they have recognized how much of a staple Jon’s Bear Club was to the city, with customers coming in from Dinuba, Orange Cove, Sanger, Lemoore, Visalia and even Madera.
Much of the restaurant’s interior has remained the same, with soft lighting, white table cloths, bright linen napkins and an inviting, cozy atmosphere. Reyes said part of what he focuses on, alongside high-quality food, is providing customers with an enjoyable experience.
“Our slogan, it says tradition with vitality, and that’s basically what we’re emphasizing,” Reyes said. “Nowadays anywhere you go, you don’t find customer service almost anywhere; it’s difficult to find that. … I want anybody that walks through that door, it’s not just customer number one or two or three or twenty, it’s somebody with a name.”
Reyes said he hopes that The Bear Club’s continuing presence in Reedley will also lead to more restaurants of similar style in the area. He said he wants customers to be able to go to another restaurant, say that they had an extraordinary experience at The Bear Club the other day and push that restaurant to set their own goals a little bit higher.
“For us, presentation and food, flavor and customer service is the main priority for us,” Reyes said. “I believe that if we do that, other restaurants are going to follow suit with it.”
What Reyes loves about going out to eat at restaurants like The Bear Club is the experience; if he can have a good time somewhere and be well taken care of, it’s worth the money spent, he said.
Reopening the restaurant took much longer than Reyes had initially planned for due to a series of setbacks and necessary repairs, but now that they are open, he hopes word will get around and locals will come back in to support the establishment.
Reyes said that when the pandemic hit, they determined offering to go meals would not be a viable option, and so the restaurant sat dormant for some time.
Once they decided to start reopening, they discovered they needed to repair two of their A/C units and replace the entire main line to their sewer system. They also put down tile flooring in the back of the house area and had to replace some refrigeration equipment, Reyes said.
As many other businesses have experienced since the pandemic, it has also been challenging for Reyes to find new staff for the restaurant. He said that out of about 12 people he hired, only two have previous restaurant experience, and so he hopes customers will be patient and understanding when they first dine in again as the staff learns the ropes.
After only planning on being open for lunch on Oct. 18-21, The Bear Club opened for dinner Friday and Saturday nights as well due to customer requests.
Beginning Oct. 31, it will be open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and for dinners from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Its address is 1695 Manning Ave. in Reedley, on the southwest corner of Manning Avenue and Buttonwillow Avenue.
Reyes said that so far, customers have been delighted to be back in The Bear Club, and that they’ve said the food tastes just like it used to. He asks that residents just come and give them a shot, as he believes the areas of Reedley and Dinuba do not have many restaurants like this one because the community does not support the local businesses enough.
“Sometimes we’d much rather run to Fresno, Visalia or Clovis when we can very well spend money and keep it here in the city,” Reyes said. “We need the support from the locals, and I think that’s what’s going to either make us or break us.”