One down and one ready to go… While Holly Rock is history,The Ref in the Spokane Valley is reving up for take off

Posted: February 9, 2012 in advice on owning a bar, Closing Business in Spokane Valley, Opening Business in Spokane Valley, Spokane Valley Bars
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Last October I blogged on the eminent opening of 2 new bars, Holly Rock and The Ref,  in the Spokane Valley. The Holly Rock opened late that month but not so The Ref. In other words, the people at The Ref are still having fun spending thousands of dollars creating their vision of the next version of a sports bar the world has been waiting for , while the people at Holly Rock are losing thousands of dollars as their eyes well up with tears, blurring out of focus whatever remained of the vision that inspired them to get into the hospitality trade.

While my voice may sound cynical, it is a viewpoint that cost me a lot of money and tears to acquire. So well I remember 9 and half years ago as we excitedly worked at getting ready to open the Rock Inn. It was exhilarating to meet lots of new people from salesmen to band members to soon-to-be-customers. I painted the building, resurfaced the parking  lot, bought a new sound system, and spent thousands on buying the existing business. We couldn’t wait to take over and start counting all the money.

We finally got our liquor license on Halloween night and it was over the top. The next two years, in fact, were over the top with great crowds packing out the dance floor every Friday and Saturday night. But all the money we were counting went into everyone’s hands but ours. It took us a full two years to begin to make a profit and that was only because we were willing to work harder than I’ve ever seen any other owners work.

I fervently hope that the Ref owners make money from the get-go. But I am afraid it will be rough going because beyond my own experience, I have watched very closely every place that has opened in the  Spokane Valley for the past 10 years and have spoken to most of the owners and become acquaintances with many and friends with more than a few. The story is always the same just about every time.

I guess to prove my point , fate delivered me a sad example between the few days since I began writing this blog and now as I sit down to complete it. Just last night as I sat among the revellers at Iron Horse’s 15th anniversary celebration I learned that Holly Rock closed last Friday. A friend told me he had just talked to Scott Lane (the landlord and owner of Hotties) who told him he just got it back from them. That means they lasted about 90 days. I rest my case.

That does not mean The Ref will not last a long time. There is a good chance we will all be celebrating their 15th anniversary 15 years from now. Another person that I visited with last night was Mike Robb, who runs the Iron Horse with his wife Patty. He had told me before that it was very rough there at the beginning and that it took them two years as well to get established and begin making a profit.

From all that I have heard of the Ref’s owners, they have the most important ingredient to making it in the hospitality industry: deep pockets, lots of dinero, capital with a captital C. From what I’ve seen they are spending lots of it transforming their 8,000 square foot space , which they own ( another hugely key ingredient), into a place the Valley can go to spend money and enjoy themselves. And though had they asked my advice I would have said don’t do, I still hope they beat the odds and create a great success that keeps building and building. I know I will be a fan of The Ref.

The Ref Update:  The Ref will be open Tuesday, March 6th. You can read a full article I wrote on Fred for our newsletter by following this link.
Also you can like their page on Facebook or join their group.

While I think getting into the business is a bad idea, I think they have some good ideas. This oval bar is one of them.

This cement bar top is another great idea. Easy to maintain and it'll last forever. Here's to hoping the same for The Ref .

Holly Rock Update

I would have let this blog rest but somebody from the Holly Rock contingent sent me a comment about half an hour after I posted . They said:

“please check your information before blogging, Hollyrock was doing amazing, until Mr. Lanes decided to violate the lease agreement and contract and forcefully remove us from the building. Hollyrock is in no way dead we are just in the process of relocating”

In my reply I told them I had gone to talk to Scott before I wrote the blog but he wasn’t around but the bartender gave me an earful. I really did not care to hear the whole story, I’ve heard it all before. The characters are different, the stage and the props are different but it is still the same old story:

New blood comes into a place with big dreams and some cash, they are so excited getting ready to open. They open and the first night is a blast. Then the reality of what they just got themselves into starts to slowly creep in as they see things like how ugly and sad people are when they get drunk, and how depressing an empty bar is on a Sunday or Monday night . Things really start to get bad after a few months of taking in some times thousands less than it takes to run the place. That is when the new owners start looking for ways of getting out. If they are lucky they find one and it is nearly always the landlord fault.

I saw that same exact movie four times after we left the Rock Inn. Some of the details were different, but the beginning and middle and ending were remarkably similar and Jack Riley, the landlord was always the badguy.

So after getting this comment, I went to down to talk to Holly Rock’s bad guy, Scott Lane. The jist of what he said was that the owners of Holly Rock told him on around the first of February that they would be vacating the premises after they held a big party after Mardi Gras. That made Scott mad and so he told them that he would be taking back his liquer license that they had been operating under since they opened.

Some of it doesn’t quite add up but over all it sounds about right. Holly Rock could have fought it hard if they wanted to and why did they never bother to get their license. Scott could have worked with them and made a smoother transition for himself instead of getting the place back in his lap overnight. But I really don’t care about all the details. Whether the people at Holly Rock want to believe it or not, I still say it was the same old story and they were lucky that it was a short story. And if they are serious about a part two, they can march right back down to our old place where they were originally going to open at Sprague and Vista. That old building is like a haunted theater that keeps replaying the same old scary movie.

Landlord gets the business back in the middle of the night, his building has been improved while he was away... I am just sure I've seen this picture before.

Lastly, go back up and check out the comments where Fred Lopez, owner of The Ref ,blasts the Scoop and the Scoop sends  back a savory salvo.

  1. anon says:

    please check your information before blogging, Hollyrock was doing amazing, until Mr. Lanes decided to violate the lease agreement and contract and forcefully remove us from the building. Hollyrock is in no way dead we are just in the process of relocating

    • Actually I went by there earlier today. Didn’t get to talk to Scott but the bartender gave me an earful. Between the the two of your widely seperate view points, I find your version a little harder to swallow. Not that I believe anyone verbatum, but I know Hollyrock was not doing amazing, the numbers weren’t there though that is not to say it might not have done well in the long run.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your articles are toxic, you admit you failed and therefore ieveryone else will too. I really doubt i will as my business skills are pretty good based on my other ventures.I am sure I will have set backs and disapointments but those are not failures. A failure is when you quit, i have yet to quit on anything I have started. Come talk to me and hopefully then you will have a little more confidence in what Iam setting out to do-Fred

    • I am only toxic concerning the dream so many fondle for years in their brains of having their own bar or restaurant or whatever. I don’t know how many times people came up to me during the four years we were at the Rock Inn and told me about how they hoped to open up a place someday.
      I also was amazed at how many people tried. Just down the road where the empty “Edge” sits now, four business came and went while we were at the Rock. I was friends with Don Gollogosky who started up Panama Jacks across from Appleway Florist around the same time that we opened our place. Don quickly sold the business to another good friend of mine, Shawn Dooty. Shawn did not last very long and since then there have been two other failed attemps. Because Shawn is an otherwise successful businessman and cannot file bankruptcy to get out of the lease, he continues to pay dearly for wanting to get into the game. He will be done this August, the building has been empty for at least 2 years.
      One aspect of my blog is about trying to warn people of the danger of getting into the business. I am like a crazy street preacher yelling to anyone dreaming about going into the hospitallity business that they are headed straight to hell. In that regard I guess I am toxic.
      But I also say that you are the only kind of person that should ever indulge in the dream of being an owner. You have down well and I hope very well because capitol is the most important ingredient for success. You can set it up right (which you are doing now), you can make adjustments after a few months (which will be most likely), and then you can carry it if necessary (which does happen sometimes). Most importantly you can walk away without having to start from ground zero. Believe me, I hope that does not happen and I believe you have a better chance because of your resourses and business acumen.
      Go out to True Legends in Liberty Lake and talk to owner Perry Vinson, another good friend of mine. He opened a couple of years ago and he is one of those rare sucess stories. He and you are similar in that you’ve done well and have the skills and resourses to make the right moves. He will be very happy to talk to you especially since you are about to become a client of his since he also runs Alert Distributing, the local Red Bull company.
      At any rate, I wish you would read more of my blogs from the past and discover that there really is nothing toxic in my writing. Some cynicism perhaps, but not toxic (I hate that adjective). I will come by to meet you and I know that I will like you and the Ref because I am a fan of the game and every player that is playing it. You will find that once you open I will be a good jock and support your place!
      Lastly, in regards to me being a failure. Do I sound like a failure? Click around a little bit and do some online research. I’m doing fine at the game of life.

      • Hey Craig, I haven’t seen too many of your stories, this being about the 2nd. But after being in business a year and a half, I probably get what your saying better than anyone. People might think you’re rolling in the dough after comming in on a busy night; I wish it was true. You can turn a profit in the winter, but watch it go away in the summer. This is definitely not an easy business, but we are still hoping that in the end, with hard work, it will pay off. We are continually trying to improve and tweak the Black Diamond so that people will enjoy comming back. We have learned a lot in the last year and a half, and still have not got it figured out. We’re working on it!

      • Actually Steve, I think you have done a fantastic job turning your place into a moderately upscale venue. I very much admire how much you have worked at tweaking things. I believe your place will continue getting more and more established because of the smart things you have done and because of the pool tables and gaming you have there.

  3. […] (The Hollyrock closed after about 90 days and the Ref will open March 6th)  recent blogpost […]

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