Posts Tagged ‘spokane valley nightclybs’

Having opened my own restaurant/nightclub years ago, I cannot walk into a new place without scrutinizing everything and calculating their chance for success. I am also a carpenter/homebuilder and I do the same sort of thing every time I walk into someone’s house for the first time.The new Black Pearl Restaurant and Card Room at Pines and I-90 in the Spokane Valley has some impressive ingredients that may contribute to its long-term success. I hope they are enough to overcome some things I see working against that obvious goal.

Top of the list of things to be impressed by at The Black Pearl is the rich decorum the new owners have sunk a lot of money into. Every surface in the old building has undergone a transformation from the paint on the walls to the coverings on the floor to the trim around the doors to the doors themselves. The furniture, the fixtures and everything else right down to the dishware has been selected to contribute to the overall stylish setting that puts the Black Pearl in rare company in the Spokane Valley.

Another feature The Black Pearl restaurant and card room has going for it is food. I have heard a few disparaging remarks but my experience after three visits is that their kitchen does a good job. The other night Elaine had the Chicken Oscar while my daughter, Jacque, had the Chicken Dane. They were both ecstatic about their meals and ate every bite. I had the barbecue ribs and was a little disappointed. It was not that they weren’t succulent and had great sauce, but rather this time that I had them they were overly fatty as opposed to the first time I tried them there a month or so before when they were great in every way.

The upscaleness of the menu, decor and prices is a feature that is good but could work against their success. While the Spokane Valley needs fine dining  places like The Max and Twigs and The Luxury Box, the truth is that for most us a $70 -$100 dinner date (with dessert and drinks) is about a once a year event. This is the Valley, where Thrift stores are the most prevalent type of retail outlet on Sprague.

Furthermore, I think trying to put the two concepts of “upscale restaurant” and “card room” together  in the average person’s mind is not going to be an easy thing to do. When I think of card room, I think of the old smoky, dingy places like the old joint next PM Jacoys downtown. I suppose card players will have no problem, but the decision where to dine is heavily influenced by the ladies and I saw very few in the Black Pearl’s card room.

The card room’s place in the building is one of my big problems with The Black Pearl as it has been reconstituted. Actually, pretty much the entire layout is a problem. Though hundreds of thousands were spent redecorating and recovering the building’s surfaces, the buildings layout remains exactly as it was before the remodel and it was not a good layout before and it is worse now.

Walking into the building, the first thing seen is the beautiful bar and lounge area. It has always been there but now it has a much more intimate or cramped feel, depending on the crowd, because the old dancing area to the right has been walled off to create the new card room. With large windows and two open passage ways, the partition wall does little to provide any privacy between the lounge and the bright, sparsely decorated card room. It is like those exotic aquarium bars you sometimes see in the movies, only the card players are the interesting creatures on display behind the glass. Personally, I found it more irritating than entertaining.

To the left of the front door is the dining area, I think. That is where we have always been seated anyway, though it does not really feel like a dining area so much as a wide hall way with long luxurious booths along the window wall and nothing along the other side. It is wide open with no coziness or intimacy or even much warmth. Beyond this area is another separate, lonely dining room. That is where the card room might should have gone and then been given a more private feel.

The point is that the Black Pearl’s building is large and strangely laid out since it is the product of something like three different add-ons that served an entirely different business. At one time that business, Mathew’s, was just a restaurant (which is now the bar and card room) that added a nice bar and lounge (which is now the dining area) and then added a niteclub area ( the empty back room). New owners came along and bagged the restaurant and completely switched everything around and never attained any visible signs of success as a bar/nightclub for the many years it kept its doors propped open.

My other problem with the Black Pearl is that it seems like the owner is not running the place hands on. I don’t believe it is possible to open such a complex place, hire some managers and then sit back and think it is going to take off. No one ever cares like the owner  because to every one but them it is just a job. I see a lot of little things that need attention like an incredibly long time between taking orders and delivering meals. While we had that problem, the rest of our service was fine but I have heard more than one complaint regarding the Black Pearl’s service.

One night during their grand opening the sign on the end of their building said “half off the entire menu” and the electronic reader sign on Pines said the same thing but our waiter insisted it was only the entres and not apps and sandwiches or burgers. The next night the sign said all steaks half off, but it turned out they offered just one 8 oz steak for $9 something. I didn’t bother with the $12 bbq rib special they promised on the last night. Little things, but an owner that is sweating out the details notices those things while employees may not care quite enough.

So will the good outweigh the bad at the Black Pearl? I think they will have to fix a few things in order to make a profit. I have heard the owner has deep pockets and he will need them. I know they are not as deep now as they were when he got into this venture. But it is a  beautiful building at a great Valley location where they serve a good meal, furthermore it is locally owned and staffed with people who live here and so I hope the Black Pearl makes the right moves and kicks butt and takes names for years and years.

Not a good sign.  


Black Pearl Restaurant and Card Room on Urbanspoon

The hastily written sign taped on the front door of the Fubar said “closed for roof repairs”. That is the proprietor’s official excuse for having locked the doors mid January.  Having operated our nightclub, The Rock Inn, for nearly four years in that building, Elaine and I can attest to the dilapidated condition of the building’s roof. It is as neglected as a drunk sleeping at the bar.

I remember the worst night we had. It was a December weekend night and so we had a nice 30 person  Christmas party scheduled in the banquet room, a 70-person in another area  and our niteclub was packed. We probably had about five leak spots that required pans to catch the steady drips. The bad part was that one of those pans had to be placed right in one of the chairs at the the table of the 30 person party and one had to be conspicously placed next to the Au Jus sauce on the buffet line of the larger party. The smaller group happened to be our attorneys office and the larger group was from the county courthouse and so there were several judges and prosecutors and their staffs.

It never dawned on us to ask them if the drips they had to endure might be a way for us to wiggle out of our lease. But then why should we want to do that, we were packed and the place was making money. We just called the landlord who sent his handyman out in the middle of the downpour and sure enough the guy got all the leaks patched up. Turns out he had a lot of experience at patching up that roof.

That night was probably six winters past and it was in dire need of a new roof back then. The landlord had been patching leaks for years. A large section had been covered years before with cheap rolled roofing, the type used on old barns and outbuildings. But that was good enough to get by, I guess, and avoid putting out $30k to $40 for a new roof.

Under normal conditions the roof does not leak even when it is raining. But when the conditions get like they were in mid January this year or like they were for us that night then all hell breaks loose and it is like someone turned on the fire sprinklers inside. It basically takes a good snowfall followed by warm and heavy rain. The water gets pooled and puddled up and finds all kinds of places to seep into the building.

For the owner of the Fubar, it was the perfect storm. It was a blast of wet and warm weather that delivered him from a very cold environment. They had opened at the beginning of July and by mid-January they were looking for a way out and it came from above. I know what it takes to make money at that location and they were a long way from it.

I wish the Fubar owner success at walking away from the lease. He is just the last in a very long line of misguided dreamers that the landlord has seduced into thinking that building was a goldmine waiting to happen. Besides our last two years there, I truly doubt that there has ever been a profitable fiscal year there since the original owner passed away more than 20 years ago. There have been four unfortunate, money-losing ventures come and go there in the 4 years since the landlord gave us the boot. I don’t believe in grudges and I say let bygones be bygones. But I can’t help but root for the Fubar and hope they become the first escapees from that building and that lease, which I know has broken and bankrupted more than a few dreamers. Let the landlord fix his roof and say goodbye to the one that got away.