LA’s famous OB Bear, a legendary late night bar and restaurant that has served Koreatown for decades, was heavily damaged from a fire over the weekend. The incident was first reported by the Korea Daily, who said the fire began some time early in the morning on Sunday. Eater spoke with co-owner Justin Lee, who said he and his parents, Jason and Hee Soo Lee, are waiting from a report from the fire department on the cause of the fire. Despite the extensive damage, the Lee family is hopeful that they can reopen in the space, though OB Bear will be closed until further notice. No one was hurt in the incident.
The damage to the restaurant was concentrated to the front of the space, with smoke, flames, and eventually water from firefighters damaging much of the furniture and walls. Photos of the destroyed facade surfaced on social media over the weekend. Justin Lee received a call at about 5:30 a.m., and actually thought the entire building was gone. However, the actual damage was less than he thought, as firefighters arrived within ten minutes of receiving the call. After viewing security footage, Lee and his parents aren’t sure of the cause of the fire. “It happened really fast. We’re curious how it happened because our cameras didn’t catch anything. It just started and grew really fast,” said Justin Lee. “I don’t think it was arson. The insurance adjuster will determine all the liabilities.”
Awful photos from today's Korea Daily of a charred OB Bear, home to the LA's most epic Korean bar food. No one injured but bar's closed until further notice. h/t @JeongPark52 https://t.co/EYVHQ1ewsH pic.twitter.com/SiHgXVFeNy— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) November 22, 2020
OB Bear first opened in 1988 by Jason and Hee Soo Lee, who established the popular Koreatown bar as one of LA’s best Korean-style suljips. The bar was known among sports fans and late night owls for its stellar food — especially its spicy chicken wings. The business had endured the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually opened an outdoor back patio for on-premise dining. That area was not affected by the fire.
Asked how he and his parents were doing in light of the fire, Lee said his father was taking it rougher, “He has nothing to now. He has all this time all of a sudden. As a small business owner, a lot of your life is in business.” However, the younger Lee said they would consider finding a temporary commercial kitchen to continue a takeout operation until they can rebuild in the original space. “Hopefully we can [reopen] within a year,” said Lee.