Archive for the ‘Spokane Valley Bars’ Category

Back in the distant days of my childhood when I first converted to N.F.L.ism at the tender age of ten, the congregation was much smaller than it is today. Since time immemorial, games were only observed on the Sabbath, but then in the early Seventies we were given a latter day night game on Monday evenings. For me, it was always a bad way to start out the week as far as school was concerned since even the lamest match ups were always more interesting than homework assignments.
Unbeknownst to me as I sat in the living room watching Monday Night Football by myself throughout my youth, there were millions of adult followers faithfully attending M.N.F. parties in bars across the land. Local watering holes would try to build their football flock with cheap food and drink specials and giveaways. It was a competitive game but back then Monday nights were well attended.
In the past few years, however, Monday nights have become less special as the powers on high have chosen to give America more of what it craves with Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. So now we have S.N.F. on NBC., M.N.F. on ESPN, and T.N.F. on N.F.L., all of which can be watched from the safety of your living room with just the basic cable package.
The odd thing is that while the fans stay home for the most part to watch the night games, they come out in mass on Sundays. At the risk of ruffling the same sort of feathers that John Lennon did, I have to say that the N.F.L. seems to rival the Lord in popularity at least for a few hours on Sundays during the football season. There is neither hyperbole nor hypocrisy in my hypothesis as I have been have been dropping in at several different local bars to get a grip on the Sunday gridiron gatherings.
Two weeks ago when the Seahawks played at 10, all the good seats at Goodtymes were filled by kickoff. Owner Debi Smith has added two mega screens that occupy a huge portion of the southern wall. At both ends a trained parrot roots just for the Seahawks. On top of all that, the kitchen puts out a great breakfast buffet for $12.
The 1# ranked Seahawks are a huge boon to the Sunday bar business and while the wily veteran at Goodtymes has built a large patronage with her deft plays, sophomore sports bar, The Ref, seems to have scored most of the remaining Valley Seahawk fans. Somehow last year in its rookie season The Ref came out of nowhere and became Seahawk Central. That same morning that Goodtymes was packed, the Ref was a sea of Hawk fans from the banquet room across the large bar area and into the family dining room. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but blue jerseys being stretched a bit further with beer, pizza and chicken wings.
You would have thought that everyone was at these two places but just around the corner from the Ref, Bolo’s had a good crowd of their own. For years Bolo’s has been serving a breakfast buffet at just $10. Like the Ref, they have the Season Ticket which lets the bar play any game on any big screen. Debi at Goodtymes, on the other hand, has given up on it because she thinks the $200 weekly price is not worth it.
While I can commiserate with her, as a true believer in the power of the game, I see no reason to just watch the Seahawk game when I can watch all the others out of the corner of my eye on several nearby screens at the same time. The Season Ticket is probably the reason the flock ventures from their living rooms on Sunday only.
The Season Ticket helps me relate to today’s youth lost in front of their computers playing games. I am thankful that I was not exposed to it as a kid because it would have been a sensory overload that surely would have zapped all of my desire to live in the real world. It is bad enough that as a middle-aged guy it zaps my desire to live in the real world on Sundays from the season opener though the final minute of the Super Bowl.
Two more great venues in the Valley to catch all the games are the Sullivan Scoreboard and True Legends. The Scoreboard is more of a blue collar, baseball cap kind of a bar, but that can be a good thing when watching football. True Legends draws a whiter collered crowd, though no less enthusiastic of one. Both True Legends and The Scoreboard put out great breakfast fare for Sunday football and are actually neck and neck when it comes to their Eggs Benedict, (which is the only thing Elaine likes or understands about Sunday football). True Legends, however, has the Scoreboard and everyone else whupped when it comes to size of their big screenie weenie and when it comes to football, size matters.
While I highly commend and recommend all of these N.F.L. tabarnacles, there is one that I deem the best place to observe the N.F.L. on Sundays and that would be the Black Diamond. They are really on their game with breakfast served all day as well as a great normal menu. I have been attending there for the past two years and have seen their flock grow. The Black Diamond is a Valley gem that is gaining in popularity each year and deservedly so.
If you are a nonbeliever and would like to see what the fuss and fun is all about, go to the Black Diamond next Sunday. You’ll see scenes like I did last Sunday where grown men in Raider jerseys cheered for their teem in front of one big screen while across the pool hall a group in Chief jerseys watched the same game and erupeted with cheers and boos at the exact opposite times as their counterparts.
Then when all the games are ending you might be lucky enough to catch a cliffhanger like last Sunday’s game between the Saints and Patriots where Drew Brees threw a last-minute miracle touchdown only to be answered by an even more miraculous last-second touchdown bomb by Tom Brady. If you are lucky enough to see that and still don’t believe then I don’t know what to tell you, because I’m thinking that is what the original Miracle Man had in mind when he instructed us to find heaven on earth.

This was a tastey bratwurst sandwich with carmelized onions that I got at the Black Diamond. I also love their garlic fries. With N.F.L. on every screen, and dozens of pool tables and shuffleboard, there is a lot going  on at The Diamond on Sundays

This was a tastey bratwurst sandwich with carmelized onions that I got at the Black Diamond. I also love their garlic fries. With N.F.L. on every screen, and dozens of pool tables and shuffleboard, there is a lot going on at The Diamond on Sundays

Debi Smith at Goodtymes is for the birds. Beyond the Seahawks on Sunday, she and her daughter raise 42 birds at home.

Debi Smith at Goodtymes is for the birds. Beyond the Seahawks on Sunday, she and her daughter raise 42 birds at home.

(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.

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.

Sunday football is the new Monday Night Football. It used to be that bars competed for the Monday Night Football crowd with drink specials and taco bars and $2 foot-long coney dogs.  These days  Monday Night Football business for the bars  is only a wisp of its former self, with patrons having shot their wads on Sunday  sitting with fellow fans in front of their team’s designated plasma, swigging beers and hurling jeers as all around fans of other teams do the same thing. The NFL’s Season Ticket, which costs approximately $3400 a season or $180 a Sunday, has changed the rules for the bar owners and the how American football fans spend there Sundays.

The hot bed of coals that the NFL is building its fire of popularity on  is the die-hard American adult male fan who latched onto a team during childhood when they became aware of pro football. Often the team they bonded with was going through a dynasty period and had a brilliant leader like Staubach and his Cowboys or Montana and his 49’ers. America’s young boys loved football before they discovered girls and most remain loyal to their first love. Like  geese, most men mated for life with their childhood teams though seldom having the same luck with women.

For me it was the Baltimore Colts who dominated the 1968 season, the year I turned ten. Football had not exsisted for me before then. But in the fall of my fourth grade I got caught up in the drama of Bubba Smith and Tom Matte and John Mackey  and the rest of that mighty team as they barrelled through all foes. I followed their classic season in Sports Illustrated, Sport and Life magazines, only occassionally getting to see them play because we only got one game per Sunday back then. But I watched them each game through the playoffs and though that year’s Super Bowl III with the Jets cruelly upsetting my new gridiron heroes was my first and worst, I have never missed a Super Bowl since and I remain a Colts fan more than 4 decades later.

Each Sunday at the Spokane Valley sports bars that carry the NFL Season Ticket, grown men who have been wearing their favorite team’s jersey since Santa brought them their first one back in grade school gather to watch their team.  Unlike the frustrating days of their youth, it does not matter if their game is being broadcast locally or not. The Season Ticket bars have their game. It is a life-long dream come true.

The Sullivan Scoreboard was the first place I saw this miracle three or four years ago. Since that first year I have watched it go from a light crowd to standing room only with owners Scott and Dianna Reckord rubbing their hands together with delight whenever the Cowboys and the Vikings and the Steelers play at the same time. These are the kinds of teams that go way back in the lives of the Amercan male.  Winning Super Bowls and producing dynasties starring legendary heroes, teams like the 49’ers and Packers have fans loyal to them and them only which adds to the fun as one group watching their team has no compassion on the next table watching their own favorite team getting whupped.

The Sullivan Scoreboard has perfected this game on Sundays, serving a hearty breakfast menu until 2 and offering a Bloody Mary the size of a lineman’s left butt cheek. The place is  mid-sized, blue-collared and ball capped with a neighborhoodly feel which helps The Scoreboard attain the most intimate and rowdy feel of  the Season Ticket bars. Only an out-of-towner would sit down at the large round table on the south end before a Dallas game if it happened to be empty even an hour before the 10 oclock game which it probably wouldn’t be. The Cowboy fans own that table, while the guys in the purple and yellow jerseys or the black and yellow guys have their favorite places as well. They root enthusiastically when their teams make a big play and sit sullenly when the opposing team does well, usually having to endure a few taunts from nearby tables who take pleasure in their misery.

Bolo’s is another sports bar in the Spokane Valley that has bought the Ticket for years. They also do well and have their share of team tables. One major difference between them and the Scoreboard is that families are welcome at Bolo’s while no one under 21 is allowed at the Scoreboard.  They have a large projection TV that is capable of showing 4 games at once, which reminds me of the bingo player who is able to pay attention to 10 cards at one time. My mind does not work that way but I wished that it did so I could visually snort that much more football into my system . Another difference is that Bolo’s has a breakfast buffet for around $8.

I suppose this screen would be perfect for those with more than one favorite. NFL fans are like college students in that they tend to have only one major with a couple of minors .

True Legends out at Liberty Lake is a newcomer but like with everything else, owner Perry Vinson catches on very quick and he bought the Season Ticket last year, his first year in business. He also bought an $8,000 high-def TV projector  to go wth the huge screen that came with the building.  While it is not quite as big as the jumbo-trons at NFL stadiums, True Legends is the next best thing to being there.

Being a restaurant, True Legends serves a killer breakfast and is a great place for die hard fans to suggest when the whole family wants to gather for a special occassion like some kid’s untimely birthday party. If you can’t deter them away from celebrating during game time on a Sunday, you can at least try to get them to go out to True Legend’s, where the  dining room,  unlike Chucky Cheese, always has your favorite game on.

Another thing that adds to experience out at True Legends is the ticker tape feed that runs below the screen and keeps updating the latest developements on all the other games.

In the past, fathers went to church and spent the day with their families since the only place they could watch their team would be on local broadcast which everyone had right at home. The Season Ticket which has every team every Sunday has made it much harder for family’s to stay together as Dad is tempted by Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and the other preachers of pro football. Luckily, The Black Diamond is another Valley newcomer where families can attempt to make Sunday a family day again.

The Black Diamond has 20-some pool tables and an arcade area which can serve as the nursery for the kids while Dad and Mom (more women are being convert to NFLism each year) watch the game. Naturally, the folks are praying the kids will soon understand the meaning of football and accept it as their savior as soon as possible and join the congregation in front of the plasmas. There is no better place for the devout family to worship together than The Black Diamond which also  has a great buffet so the family can also break bread together on the Sabbath.

Praise be ! The Diamond is there for Dad and his delimma. Bring Mom and the kids to the Diamond and keep the Sabbath wholly .... football.

Robin Tuttle and gang recently took over the premises and what little business remained at the old Hotteez in the Spokane Valley on Raymond just north or Sprague. In a move that I admired and appreciated, they shut down the operation for 2 days in order to deep clean the place as I am positive had not been done since  the Sea Galley days back in the mid 80’s when Elaine worked there.

We stopped in recently on the way back from the WSU/Arizona game down in Pullman. Not being night owls, we took advantage of being out late to check out what the Valley’s first gay bar might look like in the hours after our bed time.

It was mostly as I would have expected from a gay bar recently opened in the Valley, but there were a few surprises. It was fairly slow and the crowd was not over-crowding but they were getting into the scene more than I was prepared for. By that I mean that while it was not a scene out of the movie Cruising, there was plenty of hot dancing and at least one same-sex couple making out in plain and unavoidable view. To further set the alternative lifestyle mood, a few queens with demeanors of  drama occupied a barstool or two.

I had no problem with all of this since I was in a gay bar where I felt it best to live and let live. I am not a critic of gays or their hangouts, but I did not like being frisked on my way in. I was more surprised by this than anything and I let them know it and Elaine actually refused to allow them to touch her when they attempted to pat her down after she returned from the bathroom and wanted to join me . They refused to let her even enter the bar, where I was waiting with a round, to tell me she was leaving.

Elaine called me as she walked across the parking lot to the Monkey Bar and I joined her as soon as I finished my drink. Ironically, the bouncer who frisked her came over too and I had the opportunity to ask him why they thought they had to frisk their patrons and then tell him why I thought it was a terrible idea.

He told me that since Hollyrock was the first gay bar in the Valley and since they had received a few threats ( which I find dubious), they were doing it to protect their clientele. I told him that was BS and unfortunate for everyone. If somebody wants to blow away someone at a bar they are going to do it just like crazies do when they walk into a McDonald’s in California or  an Air Force base in Texas.

On the one hand, I don’t like it on a personal level because I don’t want to go anywhere besides the airport or courthouse that I have to go through security for weapons. Actually, I don’t like going to either one of those places any more than I have to but sometimes I have to. The Holly Rock is sending the message that it is a dangerous place to go even though they are intending to send the message that they are protecting their patrons. Like I said, if someone wants to start shooting up the place, they’ll just start with the guy who wants to frisk them.

Then on a less personal note but still a bit offending, I take objection to the idea that the Valley would be more dangerous for a gay bar than downtown where the gay bars don’t frisk their clientele. We may be further east, but this is not Aryan Nations territory any more than the Northside is less tolerant because it is closer to the backwoods home of the MLK Parade would-be bomber.

All this being said, I can forgive HollyRock for their paranoia and over-zealous attempt to protect their people from the gay-bashing crazies that they fear populate the Valley. The truth is that they are newbies and have the right to make a few innocent mistakes. The trouble is that they don’t have time to make very many mistakes, innocent or not. Opening a new nightclub, gay or straight, is a brutally unforgiving and risky undertaking.

I believe that while they don’t need the intolerant, they cannot afford to not welcome everyone that is tolerant. Frisking everyone who walks in the door will neither deter a terrible hate crime nor welcome the tolerant non-gay crowd which I believe Holly Rock must have to succeed in the Spokane Valley.  The Valley, compared to downtown is the hinterlands as far as the gay nightclub scene is concerned, not because of backward thinking but because of demographics.

I think Holly Rock’s only chance is to welcome everyone that is either practicing an alternative lifestyle or tolerant of those who are. The gay community alone  is not enough to support them, but even if it were why would you want to discourage more business? There are actually a lot of free-thinking people in the Valley, like everywhere in America, who may not live an alternate lifestyle but they might enjoy having the alternative to go there once in a while for a drink or a dance. The Holly Rock needs them to survive and they need to welcome them, not pat them down.

 Read an earlier blog on Holly Rock

The above Scoopon (poop on Groupon) may seem a bit meager and not worth the effort to those unfamiliar with Deanna Reckord’s daily lunch special which she makes one at a time with as much love as your gramma put into anything she ever cooked just for you. The photos below depict a few of the reasons why my eyes well up with tears of sadness and joy each time Deanna sets my midday meal before me. Sadness because I’m reminded of both of my dear grandmothers who have long ago moved up to that big kitchen in the sky, and joy because I know I’m about to eat something that they would have been proud to feed me.

This is what I’m talking about. Elaine and I always have to split her sandwiches. There is too much ooey-gooey, cheesy-weezy, yummy-nummy goodness stuffed into each one. Forgive that I took a bite or two before snapping this picture with my Droid. I started to take the picture first but as soon as I got this juicy thing into focus, my left hand reached into the picture and snatched up the sandwhich to my mouth as my stomach over-ruled my brain. It was a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.

This is the same kind of sandwich, I think she calls it her turkey-bacon melt (her specials could be called “uniques” because they aren’t on the menu). This day it was like super special because it came with French Onion soup. Forgive that this picture is out of focus. I was crying so hard that this was as close as I could get.

I’m not even sure what kind of wrap this was besides fantastic. I had to go without Elaine on this particular day (you do what you got to do) and so I could only wade through half of it. The other half served as dinner since Elaine was still at work.

This is what a “grilled ham and cheese” looks like at the Sullivan Scoreboard when Gramma Deanna is cooking it up as her lunch special. This was so good that I had this pic enlarged to about 36×42 and professionally framed. It now hangs above the fireplace.

And this is the grandmotherly gourmet who sees to it that none go away hungry. By now these pictures have given you a pretty good picture of how special things are around lunchtime at the Sullivan Scoreboard. That  is why our “one dollar off” Scoopon is a better deal than any of those screaming Groupon deals that the masses flock to. Truth is, anyone who reads this should be sending me ten bucks for giving them the scoop on this remarkable repast that deserves to be remarkably reknown.

Scotty's Sullivan Scoreboard on Urbanspoon

I often wonder how places can keep their doors open when it is obvious they are not making a profit. Scotty’s, which closed a few weeks ago on Argonne appeared to be doing better than some that continue to defy gravity. Many years ago I stopped trying to figure Scotty’s out. To me it did not seem to be a big enough place to turn enough tables to make it a profitable venture. Since it seemed to stay fairly consistent through the years, I just figured the owner had other sources of income and the business was at least paying it’s own way.
Given that the doors were finally closed with the owner reportedly in debt, chances are that the place never did make a profit in all the years (around 8, I think) it was open. It would surely shock anyone who has never owned a small business how many small businesses operate without the benefit of a profit. In the restaurant/bar industry it is probably realistic to say that more small independents are not making a profit than are.
But that seems to be impossible for people to grasp. I have watched over and over again as someone threw their lifesavings at a venture with odds far greater for failure than success. I talked to the guy who came into the Plantation right after we had been kicked out. I assured him that he needed to have enough money put aside to get through a year or two of no profit. He looked at me like I was crazy and said he planned on making money from the day he opened. He was obviously mistaken because he only lasted 6 months.
We were still at the Rock Inn when Scotty’s opened and I remember wondering why would they spend $250,000 to remodel the old Wolfy’s so that they could give the Valley another watering hole and themselves a money pit. I guess they were just dying to play the game. I have a very strong feeling their initial investment was never recouped.

Now I see where someone is going to open an Oriental buffet at the old Mojo location behind Shari’s on Sullivan. I also heard the owners of the fitness center behind Owens Auction are planning to put in a sports bar in the strip mall between them and the auction’s space. That one so far is hearsay but the Oriental place is taking place for sure. The sports bar will likely come to fruition because it seems like such a fun business to be in.
They should talk to a friend of mine who bought into the industry at a well known Valley location not long ago. There he is tied to a long term lease with thousands of his savings sunk into a building he doesn’t own. “What was I thinking?” he said. “I would love to have my life back like it was before we got into this.” He can get out of the lease by filing bankruptcy or gut it out for another 8 years or so like Scotty’s did. Either way, his money and life as he knew it are long gone.

    During the four years that we ran our niteclub, the Rock Inn, we hired a lot of bands to play at our place. For a while  we had three different bands performing each week ; one on Tuesday’s Blues Night, one on Thursday’s Country Night and on the weekends we had another band playing classic rock. I came to view them as a mixed blessing. On the one hand they were entertaining and a few of them could bring a crowd and deliver the goods to them. On the other hand, they were relatively expensive and most of them thought I was in business to give them a stage to wow the world.

   I always wanted to write out a handbook entitled “What Bands Need to Know About What Bar Owners Need.”  While my points would have  been just common sense and courtesy, I’m sure it would have been a revelation to many of them, judging by the way they so often seemed to lack either one. For example, it could be 10 degrees outside when they came to load in their equipment and they would almost always prop open the side door rather than opening and shutting it as they came and went. Within 5 minutes, the entire place was so cold people were donning their coats and mittens.

     I don’t know how many times I had to go flying out from the kitchen to tell a band they could not do a full sound check during lunch. I would about come unglued and they would look at me as if I was nuts, apparently oblivious to the fact that our lunch customers enjoyed visiting with one another as they ate a relaxing meal. And then there was the way they left the stage after they left. It serve as both ashtray and garbage can for many of them. It was bad enough that bands often left their ground-out cigerettes and beer bottles strewn all over the stage, but it really amazed me when they would leave their empty whiskey or vodka bottles. I guess they figured I never cleaned the stage and would not know if it was them or a previous band that left the contraband refuse.

   Elaine even caught the great bluesman Curtis Selgado, our most famous performer, doodling with a Sharpie on a table cloth in a private banquet room while he ate the cheeseburger I cooked and Elaine served him after his concert. When he realized that he had just ruined the tablecloth and that Elaine had caught him in the act, he quickly signed it and told us to keep it for a souvenir. It was easy to laugh at that and forgive a big star like Selgado, but I thought, what is it with musicians and trashing things?

   But as I said, they were also entertaining and from Curtis to the people who came out and performed on jam nights or open mike nights, they all had talent and I always respected that. Beyond having God-given talent, the local musicians love to play and perform. They have stayed true to their talent and developed it  with years of work . Motivation has to come from more than the pay because, for the most part, they barely make more than a decent wage.

   If somebody asked me to list the 10 best bands that  played at the Rock in order by how much I liked them, I would refuse. There were too many that I really liked. By the same token, I’m still friends with many of them and we love to watch them play whenever we get the chance. While we’re fans of a lot of bands, none would claim  us as followers. Truth is that we are followers of Sammy Eubanks but it might not seem like it to him because we just follow him to the edge of our little circle. It is a rare event that we travel beyond  our zip c0de let alone distant destinations like Downtown or Hillyard. Luckily, Sammy is a hard worker and he makes it out to the Valley every so often.

    We caught him  the first time he played at the Black Diamond a few weeks ago. Elaine and I were talking to Steve, the owner, earlier in the day and he was afraid Sammy would bomb like so and so had a few weeks before. When we came back later in the night and the place was packed, Steve came up and said he wanted more bombs like this one. As time goes by and Steve hires Sammy several more times, he’ll  become a fan of Sammy’s for more than just bringing in a crowd. He’ll get used to listening to Sammy playing great  country and blues and rock and roll. He’ll be a fan like us and the rest, listening and dancing to a God-given talent every chance he gets .

   Like us and anyone who has ever hired Sammy, Steve will appreciate him  more and more for being professional, easy to work with and always a pleasure to have around. I see this out at the Sullivan Scoreboard where Sammy plays outside several times each summer. We try going often but only if we can get there early.  It is the perfect menage d’ trois involving Sammy, the crowd and the owners. Sammy because he has a place to play and a crowd that loves him. The crowd because they have a place to go and party with Sammy. And the owners because they have them both.

   Sammy has more friends on his Facebook book page than anyone I’ve seen which did not surprise me. He was performing and making friends long before we first met him 8 years ago when we started working with him at the Rock Inn. Judging by what we see in our little part of the world, he is stronger than ever and adding new friends every time he performs. The difference between Sammy’s friends and most people’s friends on Facebook is that his don’t “Like” him, they “Love” him.

Look us up Facebook, we’re not as popular as Sammy.

My Great Web page


   I called Elaine about 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 2nd of last year and asked her to meet me for lunch  at our usual place, which for lunch is Sullivan Scoreboard in the Valley. She blew me out of the water when she told me that a friend had just called and told her about how the Scoreboard’s owner, Scott Reckord, had been involved in  a deadly pickup-versus-bicycle fatal accident. The news shocked me, but it did not affect my desire to go have lunch at our favorite spot.

   While I think Scott has done a lot of things right at his place, he was never the reason we became lunch special lovers at the Scoreboard and so while our thoughts were with him that day, his presence was not required for us to enjoy our meal. Unfortunately for us, Deanna, Scott’s wife, was at home with him dealing with the tragedy and not in the kitchen at the Scoreboard  where she belongs at lunch. While we certainly understood and were very concerned for her as well, lunch at the Scoreboard is not the same without Deanna.

   But then again lunch is not the same anywhere else either.  Deanna is the special ingredient in their daily lunch special. Everyday she comes up with a new creation for lunch that hits the spot without fail. The only reason I ask her what the special is when I go in is so that I can start to focus my hunger on whatever she has dreamed up that day. I already know I want the special, the only question is what will we be treated to.

   And it is not just me, Elaine and I nearly always share the special. But Elaine is a pickier eater and her self-imposed limitations keep her from trying everything that Deanna comes up with, like say a meatball sandwich. On those rare days that Elaine turns up her nose, we split ways and I adhere to the special while she finds some  safe staple to satifisfy her selective sensibillities.  The only two things in this world that I will not eat are peas and lima beans. But if Deanna said her special was a pea salad with lima bean soup, I would give it a try just to see if she could make a special that I did not like. 

    But that Tuesday Deanna was at home with Scott and the Scoreboard was a somber place to be. One customer who comes in for a while each day to visit with his friends was visibly shaken. I have known the guy, who is retired, for many years and I always enjoy his company. As I talked with him that day, I realized that while he felt terrible about what Scott and Deanna and the other family were going through, most of his concern was whether or not the bar might have to be shut down. The guy loved coming to the Scoreboard to visit his friends and flirt with the staff and just being around people.

   That was almost a year ago and the number of patrons like our friend and ourselves that enjoy the atmosphere and people at the Scoreboard continues to grow.  The place is actually something of a phenemenon. They opened just 3 years ago and they sold more beer than any bar in Spokane this year. Jack and Dan’s was second but stop and think how long they have been around and what a prime location they are at. The Scoreboard location, on a hidden secondary lot behind the Tesoro on Sullivan, is worthy of a dive bar, which is pretty much what it was before Scott took it over.

   So why is this one of, if not the most successful bar in town?  The outdoor area, complete with horseshoe pit, volleyball court and a stage packs out from late Spring to early Fall and has done a lot to put the place on the map. This area is probably two, maybe three times bigger than the building. Here is where the beauty of the ugly location comes into play. No place on prime commercial land could afford to donate so much footage to open spaces. The Scoreboard actually does it’s best business in the summer which is the opposite of every other bar. It is a great example of the benefit of being able to zig while everyone else is zagging or should I say, sagging.

    Beyond the outdoor area, there is nothing obvious that makes the Scoreboard different. It is a square cinderblock building with beer specials plastered all over the walls and poorly ventillated bathrooms. (Patrons are well advised to sit at the opposite end from the men’s bathroom and if you must go Number 2 it is a good idea to wander over to Tesoro lest you exit the Scoreboard’s bathroom to find the nearby customers holding their noses and wiping their eyes as they wait to see who comes out.) They do have lots of good televisions and the N.F.L Season Ticket which was a big draw this year.

   The main reason the Scoreboard has done so well is simple and subtle and certainly not obvious because every place has a version of this factor.  It’s just that the Scoreboard has it in quality and quantity. Last Friday I asked Elaine where she wanted to watch the E.W.U. championship game. I let her pick because I go to watch while she seldom gets involved but she loves to visit with whoever is handy. She chose the Scoreboard because she likes the people there. And they are the subtle difference.

     I’m not really talking about the patrons, though the place does get a respectful, friendly and down-to-earth crowd for the most part. The main attraction, however, is the staff. I know from experience that no brand new place opens with a phenomenal staff. It takes time to weed through and find out who the keepers are. Some places never do really get it just right and that is usually a reflection of  the owners or their managers. After three years, the Scoreboard has it nailed. All of the players are keepers.

    Deanna is the key keeper and I give Scott credit for believing that to the extent that he made her his partner in life as well in the business a year or so ago. People like to talk and gossip and Scott gave them a lot to talk about on March 1, 2010. Personally, I simply feel that I was not put on this Earth to pass judgement given the fact that we almost never know the whole story for one thing and for another thing, I am too imperfect and unwise to think I am above anyone else. But I can pass judgement on what Scott Reckord has created at the Scoreboard. It is to his credit that his place is like the lunch specials we enjoy so much, his presence is not required but it is an added bonus especially if his better half is there with him.

Update: Scott began serving today, Oct.30th for the incident mentioned in the above story. He had told that he and his attorney were hopeful that he would end up serving 16 months. I have not heard if that will be the case or not.
Scotty's Sullivan Scoreboard on Urbanspoon

When the Luxury Box opened this summer, they picked up a bit of a bad rap for high prices in the bar but it really wasn’t warranted. Their price for well drinks was $4 , which was 50 cents higher than the rest of the Valley bars, but that was because every other bar was serving the cheap stuff like Monarch while the Luxury Box filled their wells with premium labels like Smirnoff and Bacardi .

All the downtown bars and corporate places in the Valley like Applebee’s or The Max have premium brands in their wells and they usually charge more like $4.50, so the Luxury Box was actually a good deal when you compared apples to apples. For a dollar more you could “Lux it up” and get a double which was the best deal going even when you compared apples to oranges. In other words, if I ordered a double vodka and soda from the typical Valley bar I would pay $7 for the cheap stuff while I would pay $5 at the Luxury Box and be getting the good stuff. But all that was lost on us frugal simpletons in the Valley.

Now they have made it easy to figure out that they have one of  the best happy hour deals going in the Valley. During their Happy Hour, (which is a misnomer considering it lasts two hours), you get a premium well for $3 which is pretty much the going rate for the bottom shelf booze that you get at the other bars. Some places are as low as $2.50 and some are $3.50 during Happy Hour. Additionally, you can still “Lux it up” for a buck, which blows everyone else out of the water.

Beer drinkers and hungry folk are covered as well. Domestic drafts are $2 and micros are $3. And they run a special where you can get a personal-sized pizza and a beer for $7.50. Personally, I love to see the Box rolling up their sleeves and rolling back their prices like that little smiley face at Wal-Mart. Now that I have the math figured out, I have no problem giving them my business. I am just “happy our” money goes further at their “happy hour”.
The Luxury Box on Urbanspoon