Posts Tagged ‘hollyrock spokane valley’

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.

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