Only a few days after it was announced that popular Dubai restaurant CZN Burak was closed for breaking Covid-19 safety regulations, the restaurant is up and running again.
Run by Turkish celebrity chef Burak Ozdemir, the restaurant was closed following a spot check by the Department of Economic Development, in partnership with Dubai Tourism and Dubai Municipality, on Friday.
However, it was back up and running by Sunday, just in time for Valentine's Day.
The restaurant closure happened because of the overwhelming welcome CZN Burak has received in Dubai which, unfortunately, a representative tells The National, had "led to large numbers of guests wanting to visit and meet chef Burak, who is a popular and much-loved figure".
The news is hardly surprising. With his trademark smile and theatrical cooking displays, Burak has amassed a following of more than 20.6 million on Instagram alone – many of whom are also eager to meet the chef in person, and it shows. In December, its opening month, the restaurant served more than 45,000 guests, including celebrities such as Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It has been a bit challenging for the restaurant to control the crowds who came to greet and meet him in person," the representative says.
This in, in part, due to the restaurant's lack of a reservation system. Pair this with its prime location in Downtown Dubai, and the staff's theatrical way of preparing certain dishes at the table, which has a tendency to attract a gathering.
Following the restaurant's closure, it announced that it was going to "take this as an opportunity to revise [safety] measures and enhance them to provide a better and safer experience for our clients and our society, adhering to the local regulations".
Some of these measures include a deep cleaning of the venue and extra staff training, management at the restaurant told The National during a visit on Wednesday. In line with Dubai's Covid-19 regulations, the restaurant had already reduced the number of seats inside and outside the venue and has been conducting weekly PCR testing on staff.
Staff have also been instructed to ensure that diners remain seated during the entire dining experience. If they need to leave their table to use the washroom, they will be reminded to wear their masks.
On the restaurant's first day since reopening, The National found tables spaced out, stickers requesting social distancing placed outside the restaurant for those queuing to enter, and glass partitions between tables. The place seems busy, in part because of the high volume of staff, who are all wearing face masks and gloves. Guests heading to the washrooms are, indeed, being reminded to wear their face masks.
The biggest change seems to be around meeting chef Burak himself. The restaurant is working on a system to prevent crowding that might occur when excited fans gather to take pictures of the famous chef, who is known to pop into the restaurant regularly to greet diners.
During our visit, we were instead asked if we want a picture with Burak. Guests who do are led into another, empty section of the restaurant and politely asked to wait. We queue as another family finish taking their pictures with the chef. When it's our turn, we are led to greet the chef.
“We understand that Chef Burak represents an attracting factor, so we are working on a plan to allow our customers to meet him in an orderly and safe manner, which we will detail in the future once finalised,” the representative says.