Archive for August, 2010

   O.K. it is long shot but wouldn’t it be nice to have  some place in the Valley that you could just walk from one happening night spot to another without having to drive down Sprague for several miles and risk life and a D.U.I. ? Downtown is full of such opportunities but you have to drive there and back to be able to barhop on foot. There has always been one obvious potential spot in the Valley and a few years back when Percy’s was rolling and Hotteez was actually hot and the Monkey Bar was staying the course as it always has, the old University City area was our lone opportunity to stroll around sans auto.  

   Things are off to a slow start at the Luxury Box, which has taken over the Percy’s location, but things should pick up once summer is over. Hotteez is trying to re-ignite and has been known to draw a crowd from time to time these days. Eric at the Monkey Bar is doing his part as he has all along and so there is hope that this triangle of night life might rise up to its past. But last night I saw a new spot down on Sprague and Vista that has gone to the top of my wish list.

   Up until last night, the Fubar, which is the latest reincarnation at our old location, has been a pretty lonely spot. But with the help of a KZZU remote and the Shock championship game, they got a great crowd. After the remote they had an exceptional band but the place was a little empty so we walked across the street to eat some great food at Charlie P’s. The place was packed with people who had just taken advantage of all the drink specials at the Fubar and were hungry like us.

   Some stayed and sang karaoke but a lot of them made their way back across the street to go dancing.  If only Charlie P’s was across the street when we ran Rock Inn four years ago. We always got great crowds on the weekends, but I am sure we would have done better with a good bar across the street. It would have just been another reason for partiers to make Sprague and Vista the destination. Maybe even get a cab ride there and back.

   I am pretty sure that Charlie P’s is a survivor and I am hoping that the Fubar will also be a success. The owners are really nice guys and it would be nice for us all to have two places for the price of one. Gas isn’t cheap these days and neither are D.U.I.s.

Starting a new hospitality business is like what I remember trying to get up on water skis when I was a kid. Getting up seemed so hard, waiting in the cold green water, clutching the foam-padded handle of the long striped nylon rope and  finally yelling “hit it” when I guessed I might be ready and  then watching the  rear of that big boat at the far end drop down and churn up the lake taking off just seconds before the  power transferred down to my scrawny arms.  It is tough for a novice to get the skis lined up just right, and have their body balanced every which way in order to spring up  as the boat speeds ahead without mercy. Beyond my own firsthand experience, I watched a hundred kids try from the back of my dad’s boat.

Almost all of us struggled mightily and only got it down after several brief but intense attempts. Every once in a while some kid would come along who was a natural that would make us all look like spastics. They had balance and timing and strength and water skiing was just another sport that they were confident they could master.

Perry Vinson must have been one of those kids. Through the years and several times in the last few months, I have watched new operators jump in the water, get themselves all situated just right and yell “hit it”. Most wobbled and strained as they attempted to get their operation on top and out onto smooth waters. Some never made it up. Others made it up but could barely keep their balance and don’t look like they will  make it out of the boat’s wake and really cut loose . Perry popped up like a cork, dropped a ski and it looks like he will be able to touch an elbow  soon as he cuts deeply back and forth across the water.

Getting up out of the water takes muscle. You have got to have the money to make the right changes when you are going into a place that has experienced failure. Perry is doing that in style. He tastefully closed off the bar with glass partitions, making the restaurant area more family friendly.The walls are coming alive with portraits, posters and paraphernalia of popular people from sports and entertainment He dropped 50k and added a beautiful  outdoor patio, complete with first-class furniture and rock fire pit. He told us the other day that he “just pulled the trigger” on an $8,000 high-definition projection T.V. for the huge screen behind the bar.

It also takes good timing to break out on top. The birth of True Legends appears to be one of those deals where Perry met a few people at a crossroad in their lives and they all left in different directions better off than before. The former business owner needed out and Perry picked up a turnkey, on-going operation at a bargain. The building owners were ready to move on and gave him a deal that made sense. Then he found a couple of key restaurant people looking for a change to help him run the place. Every one that had been working there before kept their jobs and are now making better tips than before. That’s a lot of good timing.

Getting his place up out of the water so quickly took balance and agility more than anything. While going to high school and college, Perry worked six and a half years in two successful Valley restaurants, though owning a place is lot different from working at one. That takes a lot of business acumen which he picked up starting with a degree in business and then managing at different levels in the convenience store trade for several years. He eventually owned and operated two convenience  stores for eleven years. Then he went into the beverage field as a rep and then a manager and finally acquiring and successfully operating Alert Distributing, which handles all the Red Bull in the Spokane region.

That is why Perry looked at the situation and figured it was something he could do. But before he jumped in the water he looked at it from every angle, crunched the numbers and came up with a business plan. When he yelled “hit it”out at Liberty Lake, he was going for it full tilt with everything he had and he made it look easy. Now he is on top and putting on a great show. The patio is packed on weekend nights and every seat in the bar is full. But the place is huge and there is a lot of room for him to continue show us how it is done. You rarely see it, but it is sure fun to watch when a local novice jumps in and takes off like a bat out of hell in the highly competitive hospitality trade.

True Legends is located just north of the freeway on Harvard Road.
True Legends on Urbanspoon

   It had been 18 years since I last took the time to float down the Coeur D’ Alene River and as I laid there on my floatie in the warm sun gently bobbing along over the kiddie-sized rapids, I realized that I had missed out on one of the great free pastimes that this area has to offer. Though Elaine has taken the kids nearly every year, I gave it up because I did not like the idea of baking in the sun on an inner tube. Besides, they always went during the week to avoid the crowd and so I reasoned that I was too busy. This year was going to be the same. But then a job I was planning on got moved back and I did no reason not to go except my old negative opinion.

   I got up  and got ready to go to work with a strong sense that I was going to miss out on a opportunty to have fun with my family. My oldest boy, Jesse, is 22 and Eli is 20 and I wondered if there would be many more times they would be able to join Elaine and our two girls Crystal,17 and Jackie 15. I thought about how Eli was only 2 the last time I plunked him and Jesse in their own little raft and watched how much fun they had going over those monster rapids. I thought about how I had not gone with the girls and how quickly the summers had gone by and how few we have left with them at home. I was literally walking out to my van when I told my boss that he could take this work day and shove it, I was going to take the day off and go have fun with the family floating down that fool river. My boss told me that I was the fool and that it was about time. Of course I was talking to myself.

   Every one was in shock when they got up and I told them I was going. They had grown up thinking I would never float the river because of the sun. I hated to blow my cover after all those years but the last time I went the strongest sunscreen I could get was probably SPF 15, just this summer I got my hands on some SPF 85. The sun was no longer the problem, my work ethic and stupidity had been the real problem for quite a while. But the old man was changing his ways and so off to the river we went.

   It was so relaxing. One time I got stuck on some shallow rapids and I just laid there for about 10 minutes. I might still be there  if I had not heard another group coming. The kids still thought it was great fun even if the rapids had gotten smaller. In fact they said that if they had to choose between floating the river and Silverwood, they would choose the river.

   After years of going with her sister, who is a fanatical fan of floating, Elaine knows the ins and outs of floating the Coeur D’ Alene. She says the key is the floatie. They can be very hard to find at the end of the summer. This year she looked at several places and ended up finding the ones she wanted at Rosauers. Just about anything will do in a pinch, in fact we saw one guy at the end with only a small portion of his floatie in tact and he seemed to be having a jolly time. The one I used had a backrest and arms and I thought I was in heaven. Take a special floatie to carry a cooler and supplies like an extra floatie in case one goes down midway. Just tie the supply floatie to your floatie and you won’t even notice it’s there.

  The perfect run lasting about three hours is easy to find. Just head east on 90 and get off on the Kinston Exit and follow the river north past the Snake Pit at Enaville and go until the road goes over a bridge. Just on the far side of the bridge there is a dirt road that you take back down the river for about half a mile. Drop one car off by the big  jump-off rock and swimming hole and then load everyone up and head back up the river on the main road. After about ten minutes you’ll come to a convenience store that has a compressor which will take your quarters but it will also run without them.

  Once your’e all blown up get back on the road and bear left at the next intersection and soon you’ll come to another bridge. Just past the bridge there is a pinic area on the left and that is where you embark. It’s that simple. You drop off one rig at the first bridge and jump in at  the second. The river is just waiting to give anyone with the wisdom a ride for free. It has nothing better to do and I now know that I certainly had nothing better to do than to take it up on its generous offer.


The perfect passport to a pleasant pastime