The Luxury Box in the Spokane Valley will be closing at the end of the month

Posted: February 15, 2012 in advice on owning a bar, Closing Business in Spokane Valley, Spokane Valley Bars
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(The Luxury Box bon voyage party will be Friday the 24th. They open at 3 and will go, as Tina says “Until whenever.” She hopes people will come in and say goodbye.)

On April 25, 2010 I posted my first blog. It was on the opening of The Luxury Box in the Spokane Valley where Percy’s Americana Cafe had been and The Golden Hour before that. Now my 70th blog, coming approximately two years later, is on their closing at the end of February. It is not what I hoped for Tina Bishop and her family. They put their hearts into it and I would say that Tina put in more hours than most owners, by quite a bit.

She sat down with me last night at her restaurant and told me that they had decided on Sunday to pack it up. She said that while her banquet facility had done well, the restaurant and bar were never money makers. She also said that they were hoping to keep the banquet part of the business going if they can work out a deal with the landlord.

Before they opened, I barely knew Tina but I became a friend and supporter as well an admirer of her work ethic within the first few months. Because of that, I feel bad that it did not work out as she had hoped. I know from personal experience that it is very painful to walk away from something that you have invested so much emotion and effort and time and money into. But I can also attest to there being an afterlife, which Tina will flourish at as she continues with the event planning career she has done well at for years. I am not worried about her future, just a bit sorry for what she has passed through.

For me yesterday afternoon was the definition of bittersweet. Before I happened to go into The Luxury Box to meet a couple of friends for a drink, I had spent an hour or so interviewing Fred Lopez who is getting ready to open his new place, The Ref, at the end of the month. Fred is going to make a very good feature  for my newsletter because he has a great story and his new place and the ideas that he has for it are pretty exciting.

The only reason that I got to know Fred recently was because of the last blog that I wrote in which I announced the closing of Holly Rock and talked about the great risks of getting into the business. I was a bit pessimistic perhaps in my references in the blog to The Ref’s imminent opening and Fred took exception to it in a comment.

He also invited me to come in and meet him and see what he was planning. I did on Monday and was impressed by him and his ideas and what he is about to unfold for our pleasure and his profit. We set up a meeting for my interview the next day.

Both Tina and Fred know that I would have all but begged them not to have entered the game. It looks fun but the waters can be treacherous. Back when we owned The Rock Inn, I remember being amazed by what a commonly held dream it was to own a place.  People were constantly coming up to me and telling me about their dream of opening a bar or sandwich shop or bistro.

I think a lot of people are creative and enjoy hosting parties and entertaining guests and so the hospitality industry looks like a lot of fun. And it can be a lot of fun, but it can also be deadly . It always reminded me of a story Elaine’s brother told me that he lived through when he was a young man of about 19 in the Coast Guard based on the Puget Sound.

He said that one day he and two friends decided to go swimming in the ocean. They each had an inner tube and they soon drifted a hundred or so yards from shore. Everything was going fine until they got caught in a riptide. The riptide carried them around its large oval path and even though they tried as hard as they could,  they could not get out of it.

They knew that they were in serious trouble and were scared for their lives. To their horror they saw a fourth friend swimming out to join them. He said they waved their hands and yelled at him to go back but he did not understand, it looked like they were having fun. They were out at the far side of the riptide’s deadly circle as they saw their friend get snatched up by it.

It took a long time but they finally got connected up with the fourth guy and they all struggled in the tide together. Hours passed, the four of them grew exhausted as they struggled to get out. A crowd formed on the beach and the Coast Guard brought out a boat. The riptide’s path shifted and they would pass so close in shore that people were actually reaching out and trying to grab them as they went by. The boys would try to stand up in the shallow water but the current was so powerful that it knocked them off their feet.

The coast guard boat was able to attempt rescuing them just one at a time as they passed on the ocean side of the riptide’s path, but even that was very dangerous as they were only able to shoot out a rope to them and by then the swimmers had prescious little strength remaining. Elaine’s brother was the last one in the tide’s grip and he told me that as he went around close to shore he no longer had any thing left and he let go. As he gave up and sank into the shallow water, someone was able to reach out and grab his arm just before he let go of his breath. Two of his friends made it to the Coast Guard boat but the one kid that they tried to warn off did not and he drowned.

While that is a dramatic and tragic story, it was the one I thought of as I was struggling so hard at the beginning of our time at the Rock Inn and I would see other people opening up places in the Valley. In the four years we were at there, The Edge, just down the road went through four owners, Panama Jack’s went through four and Medley’s went through two. And those were just the places on Sprague that opened after we opened our place.

But that is not to say The Ref will ever go under. I hope Fred does well and I believe that he has a much better chance than most given that he has other succesful businesses and owns the building. But I will keep warning others that, while The Ref may be doing very well and Fred may be having fun, most of the seeminly great opportunies in the hospitality industry are  really waters churning with deadly hidden currents.

The Ref will open Tuesday March 6th.

To read the feature story I wrote on Fred after I wrote this blog, click here.

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