The R.I.P., Roaring and Wreckless Journey to Opening a New Joint

Posted: September 29, 2012 in advice on owning a bar, Opening Business in Spokane Valley
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As the doors of the miscarried Blue Kat night club remain tightly locked with eviction and equipment lien papers taped firmly to them, the Handle Bar down in Greenacres struggles to open its doors after a gestation period that is now rivalling an elephant’s. Meanwhile, work on The Roadhouse, located at the old Hotteez, is going along at a brisk pace and looks like it could be ready to go as early as mid October.

It’s like Cindy Lauper wrote a song about: Money changes everything. Never is it more true than when it comes to getting a new place off the ground.

I met Jesse Martinez at the beginning of the summer when he called me up and asked if I would draw him a set of as-built plans for his portion of the Halpins building at Bowdish and Sprague. Things were going fine at that point and spirits were high. Jesse was spending money and having fun as he put together his hot spot, dreaming of the good times to come as soon as the Kat’s doors opened.

Turns out he had gotten the cart a bit out ahead of the horse, and had not dealt with some of the less fun aspects of his new venture like permits and regulations and inspectors. It was the one about having to put in a $16k sprinkler system that finally dowsed the flame and put an end to the party before it got started.

The truth is that Jesse probably never had the kind of money to make a nightclub out of the old Habitat for Humanity store. If $16k blew him out of the water, then he was dreadfully under capitolized. I tell people not to get into a nightclub-type venture unless you have a spare $250k you don’t mind gambling with. That is the number that was lost by all three of the nightclub owners that I knew well enough to talk to about their finances. Of the many others I have watched from a distance, I would guess that the numbers and percentages hold true across the board.

Some may have been able to get out quicker than others and so have lost less. Jesse’s exit was the quickest I have seen, considering he never made it to the entrance but that probably means he lost a whole lot less than some that gutted it out for 2 or three years.

The Handle Bar down at the old Hat Trick location looks like it should wobble its way to opening. I have known its owner, Frank Smith, for a very long time. The only thing that matches his ingenuity and creative energy is his abillity to overspend. He does everything with skillful flair and that usually costs top dollar. When The Handle Bar does open, it is going to be something to see.

Since it is a bar and not a night club, it is a good bit less risky. I personally think the best odds are to open a bar on a shoestring and then bootstrap your way through a slow, pay-as-you-go improvement process. Unless you’re someone with deep resources, like the guy down the road at The Roadhouse.

In a way, Fred Lopez is exactly like Jesse and Frank and myself and every one else that has opened up or bought any kind of hospitallity establishment. I would call owning a place the true American Dream. Look how many athletes and celebs have a place with their name on it or own a piece of Planet Hollywood or The Hard Rock Cafe. I heard it over and over again from our customers when we ran The Rock Inn. Everyone has an idea and a few recipes.

What makes Fred different from Jesse and Frank and the rest of us common dreamers is that he is more like the rich and famous. While he may not be the latter yet, he is the former and that is the most important thing to bring to this game. I can safely say that the main reason I can safely say that the Roadhouse will succeed is because Fred can afford to be successful.

He can afford to do things right as he completley remodels the premises, transforming it into his vision just the way he sees it. Then he can afford to redo or adjust anything that can be improved upon after the place has been running for awhile. Just as importantly, he can afford to let his place run with little or no profit for as long as it takes to get established and running smoothly in the black.

But there probably will be a profit from the get go and it probably won’t be little because on top of the advantages wealth provides, Fred also brings a lot of ingenuitey and creative energy to the table. I was thoroughly impressed with the job he did at The Ref and I have been able to watch him work as he puts together this new place. The guy has good ideas and the energy and resources to make them reality.

I look forward to Fred’s final product, just as I look forward to Frank’s and was looking forward to Jesse’s. I admire their guts and creativity. I find watching their efforts to be a fun pastime and that is why I blog about new places opening up. They are always intriguing and hopeful stories and the supply of new beginnings is unending.

This is a Youtube video I posted made from the 3-d modelling I did for Fred at the earlir stages of the remodelling of the Roadhouse

Comments
  1. Irv says:

    My husband and I went to the Handlebar Restaurant for a quick bite to eat. I ordered a BLT, it came on a plate by it self two pieces of bacon a piece of lettuce and tomato. The bread was thrown on and uncut. It was 1 inch thick and lacking of any flavor. $9.00. My husband ordered chicken strips and fried onion rings.
    There where about 6 or 8 overly deep fried rings dripping in grease and tasting like fish grease. Yuk! $9.00.
    My husbands chicken strips where about 1/4 of a chicken breast and where fried with fish flavored batter, dripping in grease and tasting like fish grease. I had 2 drinks my husband 1. Our bill came to over $45.00.
    This was the most disappointing meal we have ever had and the price is outrageous.The owner/Mechanic
    cooked and served with dirty grubby hands. Hay! for you bikers that don’t mind that, try this place. When my husband and I ride we like to go to a place we can get decent food for a decent price. Not be over charged and given bad service.We could of got stakes at Dave’s for less then that!!!

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