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Meet Camila Dizon of The Oaks Tavern in Sherman Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Camila Dizon.

Camila, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My first job was at Islands Restaurant in Encino, when I was 16 years old. I started as a “floor host” which meant I bussed tables, then moved up to food runner, and finally, server. I loved everything about it, except taking out the trash. I was there for 5 years, then The Cheesecake Factory for another 5 years, where I learned how to tend bar. It was during that time that I graduated from CSUN with my BS in Business. After ten years in the service industry, I was over it, I quit! I vowed never to go back. I burned my white uniform and danced around its ashes. I got a “real job” and like so many others before me, I couldn’t stand it. The hours, the inflexibility…I found myself bartending again a few years later, which eventually led me to tend at a little bar called Off Kilt, which is the bar you now know as The Oaks Tavern.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My way into the bar-owning business was not typical. I was a bartender at Off Kilt, then I got offered a partnership if I could dig the bar out of its financial hole. That’s a big jump from bartender to owner. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. I cleaned the crap out of the place, brought on new staff, brought in craft beer, upgraded the alcohol selection and got a popcorn machine. I tried new things like live bands, game nights and karaoke. I made sure it didn’t smell like a “bar.” A lot of things didn’t work, but a few did. The bar didn’t make money for a while. It was really tough, I had a second job doing bottle service on the weekends and then I worked as many shifts at The Oaks as I could, to save labor. It was literally a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, the first few years. I almost gave up a few times. Luckily, I had good friends who talked me out of it. Every time I threatened to run away, they wouldn’t let me. Then little by little, it started getting busy. I was able to quit my second job. I had to hire more staff. Last month was actually the first time in 6 years I was able to stop bartending!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Oaks Tavern – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Some people call us a dive, but what we really are is a neighborhood bar like “Cheers.” We have a kick-ass beer, lots of liquor, bartenders that don’t suck, and of course, our biggest claim to fame is karaoke, every night. It’s L.A. so we get a lot of good singers, it’s a fun time. While all of these things definitely contribute to the business, I believe that the key element to The Oaks’ continued success is the staff. We had to go through a few bad eggs before we found the right people, but I think we have the best staff in town. It’s a family. My “newest” employee has been here for three years. People don’t quit. They’re all great bartenders, but more importantly, they are fun, hard-working people who I am glad I can call my friends.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Well short term, it’s our 6 year anniversary on January 21st! We are throwing a big party, with special beers, food, and surprises.
Long- term, I am looking at opening a second bar. I want it to have a similar vibe, be a little bigger and maybe have a kitchen. Although everyone tells me it’s a blessing to not have to deal with food, so we shall see.

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  1. ralph

    January 31, 2017 at 17:00

    Camilla is such an amazing person. I knew her when we were college age, and I’m glad to see she is still making things happen. Nobody deserves success more. See you at the Oaks!

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