Ownership of The Roadhouse recently passed from one of my friends to another, and everyone is better off for it. While Fred Lopez had the money, vision and desire to raise up The Roadhouse from the smoldering ash pile that was once the hottest niteclub around known as Hotties, he did not have the time to run the place himself. I watched from a front row bar stool as he went through four managers who, despite The Roadhouse’s initial success managed to run off a lot of business after two and a half years.
Meeting with Fred nearly every week at the time for a drink, I told him straight out that he would one day regret getting into the nightclub business. I owned one for four years and since the day I bought it 14 years ago, I have been watching nightclubs come and go left and right. I tell everyone, not just Fred, contemplating getting into the nightclub business that they will regret it. I would have told Joey the same thing if he had asked but he did not.
But I know Joey well and have appreciated his talents and abilities since we met many years ago at my old place, The Rock Inn at the Old Plantation. He coaxed and coached me into the world of karaoke, teaching me how to host and participate. He insisted that I would sound as good as him if I found songs that suited my voice and practiced them all the time. Though I eventually hosted karaoke at the Rock Inn four nights a week and sang my heart out on the three slow nights to help keep things going, I never came close to sounding as good as Joey.
After we pulled up stakes at the Rock, I went back to being a contractor/carpenter and hired Joey on a big remodel project. I learned first hand that Joey is truly a jack of all trades. The guy could tile or plumb or paint and he was a good carpenter, but it was his skill as an electrician that blew me away. I can still picture clearly the sight of him standing on a step ladder with exposed wires going everywhere as he worked on the garage door opener ceiling outlet. I would have gotten shocked five times just pulling everything apart, let alone putting it all back together. Joey did not even turn the breaker off, every one of the twelve or more wires were hot. He never got a shock and he fixed the problem.
On top of what I used him for, Joey had mastered other trades as well. He had been a sound technician for a long time, starting years before when he ran the sound monitors for the bar band he sang for and toured the West coast with. He ended up going much further with his hearing than his singing, as he went on to run sound for local concerts and even touring with Kenny Chesney. During the time we were working on my remodel project, Joey was running sound for Paul Rogers, former lead singer of Bad Company and the Firm. Paul Rogers did not need to tour steadily and so it was just a part time deal for Joey.
I have heard a hundred stories on a hundred Monday mornings about what a wild weekend some wide-eyed and overly animated co-worker of mine just lived through, but no one topped one of Joey’s weekend weekend adventures . There he was with his tool belt on, saw in hand as he told me about riding in a limo somewhere in Japan with Paul Rogers and his wife during his long four-day weekend. The amazing thing was that he acted like it was no big deal, just like the twelve hot wires that would have been the shocking death of me.
From that job I continued being a carpenter here in Spokane and Joey went to work for Eddie Money for several years. He hired on as his sound guy and then eventually became his road manager. Unlike Paul, Eddie needed the money, and so Joey had a full time job flying and bus riding all over the nation organizing all of the thousands details involved with each of the 150 plus shows a year.
He was still in town a lot and always looking for a good side job and so I introduced him to Fred when he needed some help with the sound system at his new sports restaurant and bar, The Ref, here in the Valley. To make a long story short, the two have worked together ever since as Fred soon opened The Roadhouse nightclub and then The Palimino and found himself, like Paul, Eddie and me, needing the the skills and talents of Joey Shalloe, who had grown weary of the road and left Money behind.
So my two friends became friends but whether they remain friends remains to be seen because they have gone to a place I would have advised them not to go, but they did not ask my advice. Fred was tired of being a gentleman nightclub owner and Joey needed something to do. I would have told Joey that it looks a whole lot funner than it actually is, which is what I told Fred and what I tell anyone who will listen. However, if anyone can pull it off it is my old friend Joey the jack. So far he is doing everything right and once again I am impressed.
During a recent shutdown due to a lapse between Fred’s liquor license expiring and Joey’s arriving, Joey went to the great effort of pulling every piece of equipment out of the kitchen, thoroughly scrubbing it down and then repainting the floor. It is a fairly new and unused kitchen and he did not have to do that. He did it because he has high standards not because it will make him any more money, because it won’t. He also painted the bathrooms and made lots of other subtle improvements.
What I am most impressed with is the food he has been cooking up in his pristine kitchen. I should have known Joey could cook and had the gumption to create a great menu and then take shifts working the kitchen. Rather than go on and on how good his food is, I will just say two words – Taco Tuesday. He took something that every other bar in the Valley is doing and came up with a whole new standard. Every Tuesday The Roadhouse hits the cycle while all the other players are happy with just hitting singles. He does a black bean chili quesadilla for $5 bucks that is so good I now resent Mondays even more for not only ending the weekend but now getting in the way of Taco Tuesday at the Roadhouse.
To lastly prove my point about Joey and his knack at being a jack of all trades, including his current one, consider today’s benefit concert for the firefighters at the Roadhouse. It is a smart and worthy move and one I did not see any of the competition making. Probably the best times Elaine and I had at the Rock were the fundraisers we were fortunate to be able to host. In hindsight I wished we would have figured out how to do more. We let people who had a cause come to us, but The Roadhouse has seen a cause and took the lead since the Washington forest fire crises began. Today’s concert which begins at 2 is part of their impressive efforts.
I recently learned that Joey did not jump into the bar business by himself but rather took on his buddy Joe O’Conner as a partner. If you have to go into it, might as well spread the risk and the worry and hopefully the riches. I know that I could never have run our place alone because there is just too much to do and try to be good at. Joey is good at a lot more things than most people and certainly than I am and so I give him twice the odds I would give anyone else at The Roadhouse, which still only gives him fifty fifty. I would not bet on him and I would not bet against him but then I never bet on anything, but I love to root for a good team and I found one at The Roadhouse.
Elaine and I have a long history at this odd-looking building. It was a smorgasbord when we were kids and we went there with our parents to the annual budget dinner meeting for Pines Baptist Church that both our families attended. Later when it became Sea Galley Elaine worked there as a waitress and I spent too much time at their round salad bar and the regulguarantee sitting bar.
Later it became the Valley’s hottest spot just as Elaine and I moved into the neighborhood and had just reached that blissful time when the oldest is able to babysit the others. We found ourselves there often and were bitten by the niteclub bug. We even made Scott Lane, the owner , an offer that he at first accepted and then reneged on when we wrote him an earnest money check for $10,000. That is what sent us down the road to The Rock Inn.
Years later Fred Lopez bought the building for less than what Scott turned down for just the business that The Rock Inn started on it’s path to destitution. I went there many times as Fred gutted the building and rebuilt it . I found this caricature lying on the desk in the empty office where a decade before Elaine and I had sat down with Scott and his Dad, who owned the building, and offered them our earnest money check. Having competed for four years against Scott I can say firsthand that he was not the fun looking guy to play with that he looks like in the picture.
Scott has gone on to that big nightclub in the sky or perhaps he’s with the Big Hottie down below, and Fred learned to appreciate my powers of prophesy. Now it is Joey’s turn, and I can safely say that no one with his get up and go and high standards has been there since Elaine waited tables there 30 years ago.
All I know for sure about this whole deal is that as long as Joey’s Taco Tuesday is there for me, I’ll be there for Joey.