April seems to be the month that time forgets. It is March and it lasts forever, slogging through the final days of winter, each day taking 48 hours. May is filled with fun as the sun shines, but not with too much heat; everything is green and fresh and vibrant. April just is. My birthday is in April, so it should be the best month ever, but somehow April usually comes and goes without much fanfare. Taxes are due. There is plenty to mark the month of April, but it still seems to disappear into the year.
This year is no different. Half way through the month, I think to myself “Wow. Where the hell did this month go?”
This is not to be confused with the day to day of April. My April gas been filled with friends, family, the flu, a menu change, live music in my bar, and an abundance of life. These high points (and low points) will stand out in my mind, but not as a part of April.
Onto the bar. As i mentioned we are a week into our new menu and it seems to be a positive change. Minus some minor quirks, an exhausted owner, and some tweaking, it has been really smooth. And, besides the bright green sweet relish I didn’t realize had corn syrup in it, I am still very proud of my menu. It is natural, flavorful and good for you. I may never get rich from my food sales, but I will hopefully always be proud of what I serve.
In this process, I realized that I didn’t enjoy eating at my own bar before. Sure, everything was natural and made in house, but the flavors were not exciting. The menu, in retrospect, pretty much sucked. It was neither bar food nor restaurant food. It was boring, fancied up with nice ingredients and unfamiliar names.
For this and this alone is why food wasn’t selling. It was not that people in this city don’t eat at bars they go to nor was it because the feeling of Star Bar is as it sounds, a bar. It is because the menu was a failure. It was high quality ingredients shoved into a catering menu, meaning it looks great on paper and in actuality isn’t all that special.
The new menu goes back to what I know. We have nachos, but they are good nachos layered and with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. We have the artichoke and spinach dip, but we have it because it makes people happy and satisfied and that is what food should do. We have hot dogs now, in addition to our burgers and we have them because they can be bought 100% natural and, again, people know them and enjoy a good wiener (that word never gets old).
I am not trying to change the world through food. I am trying to change it through people, one experience at a time. Okay, while I am hopefully making my community a better place in no way, shape or form am I attempting to change the world.
The experience of a bar or restaurant is a simple formula: provide good service, provide a good atmosphere, and do what you do well. Oh, and work your ass off.
There is also many debatable things to aid in success, but I think they all come down to being true to yourself. If you are a lying cheat, be true to that (and I am not being facetious… I have known many deceitful bar and restaurant owners who have been more than successful). If you are a good, honest person, be true to that. Any bar or restaurant is a reflection of the owner and the staff.
The new menu is, hopefully, a fair representation of me, my partner and our staff. People leave satisfied and happy and with the feeling as though they got their money’s worth. They had a good time during their stay and they deserve that. We all deserve that when we go out.
See what happens when I try to write in the morning? No humor. All preachy and philosophical, and all the while not saying much.
Huh. I guess that I am a politician in the morning. Thank god I am not a morning person.
Star Bar, Portland, Oregon. Somewhere between winter and spring, 2011
Where do I begin? Let’s start with wieners. That is where it all begins anyway, isn’t it?
Two questions in the opening paragraph. My English professors would not approve, unless I was able to justify it as creative license.
On to the serious matters of this blog. If you are smiling, stop. We are serious now. I am in the business of being serious after all.
I am glad that the month of March is coming to an end. I am not sure how material entities, such as bars, equipment, furniture, et cetera know about calendars, but they do. March was no a kind month.
Before we go into details, let’s recap. Do you remember the plumber? I am meeting with the contractors board in May. After he called and promised payment so as not to go on the record, payment never arrived. His word is as good as his plumbing. I did my due diligence and continued through the proper channels with the State of Oregon. It should come to fruition or at least a conclusion in a little over a month.
In other news, without writing at length a situation happened to begin this month. Basically, without permission, without a verbal or written contract, without even a quote, people came in and did a lot of work at Star Bar. The details of how it came about are superfluous. Nonetheless, on a Friday afternoon, I walked in at the beginning of March to all of my equipment dismantled and being cleaned. Now at this point, you are pretty much caught with your wiener in your hands and your pants around your ankles. There is not much you can do. Then, when all is said and done, the job was done correctly. And no prices were discussed. And nothing was agreed upon. But you can’t tell them to shove it up their arse. You negotiate. And think to yourself that this month is starting out pretty rotten, but it is a long month and things will get better.
Then you have the slowest week since you’ve been open.
Then your fryer goes up in flames, literally.
Then, somewhere in between, your sink comes off the wall in your bathroom.
And the leaks were everywhere… water dripping from every corner. Dripping, not pouring, and being fixed, but dripping elsewhere after each fix.
Did I mention that I maxed out my personal credit card for only the second time in my life to buy outdoor seating?
And all of this is to hammer the point and add dramatic effect (for example, my credit card was carrying a balance). March sucked. But we had our busiest day since we’ve been opened in March. We are minutes away from a new menu. Our liquor store told us we were in their top three bars and restaurants for ordering liquor from them (keep in mind Portland has several liquor stores and nobody is required to order from the same store, or all of their inventory from one store, so that can be tempered somewhat). And we passed the six month mark.
We are a small, but scrappy business.
Nobody was hurt in the writing of this blog or the fryer fire. Some words were exchanged that might have offended the more sensitive of listeners with the “repairs” at the beginning of the month, however, but no blood was spilled. No bones were broken.
And we move forward.
And we hold our head up.
And we, because I am not alone in this by any means, move forward.
Star Bar. Rock and roll. Hoochy coo.
To assure you all that neither myself nor the blog is not dead, also to assure you that am I am a zombie (although that is the latest craze), I thought I would update the blog.
I also realized that with my last post, I am that guy. I am the guy who not only leaves his Christmas lights up year round, but can’t seem to haul his brown and dried Christmas tree carcass to the curb. It is there in his yard everyday, like a Charlie Brown Christmas, and somedays it even seems to make progress toward the curb, but it never actually gets to the trash for pickup (yet one day in the following October the tree is gone and I am sure that is a story for another blog).
But again, I digress. This blog is a series of digressions—literally and figuratively.
I write to give updates. I write to spread the word that is not yet on the street. I write because all these words are always before me and I see no other use for them.
To get down to the brass tax of the pressing matters, the bar will now be the focus of the rest of my words.
We move forward. We do not strut, but we do not hang our head either. I, the author of this blog, the father of this diatribe, am a cook once again. I am still a bartender and a bar owner, but I am in the kitchen as well. The food that sets upon your tongue when you eat here had my hand in it somewhere. I hope you trust my hand, and where it has been. I do.
I am no chef. But I am competent. The person I had originally hired for my current position was not. I would like to think that it was not that he didn’t have the ability, but it is that he didn’t care. Because if he cared and created the mess he did, he is going to have a difficult life and/or cause a lot of people some grief. I put him in the same category as the contractor I fired.
Oh, and I am still bartending. In that field I feel more secure in my abilities than that of a chef.
Anyway, that is my badmouthing for the fiscal quarter.
A friend of mine has made the comment that this bar should be called the bar, “If anything wrong can happen, it has.” I would like to point out that while many things have gone wrong, I know for a fact that not everything that can go wrong has. Many more things can go wrong and I fear them. I am not cowering or living in feat of them. I just fear them, like a cat fears a dog or a marshmallow fears fire.
My goodmouthing (odd how goodmouthing is not a word and badmouthing is) is that by the skin of our teeth, we broke even in July. We actually made money… kind of. We made between $ .50 and $3.00 in February. That is a feat. It does not matter that I paid myself $ .02 an hour nor does it matter that bills were late. I have never paid bills late in my life and I don’t take it lightly. But those bills are being paid.
My manager is now my partner. She is the best at what she does and she has proven her mettle time and time again.
Speaking of time and time again, I am changing my menu. Once, a long time ago in another bar and another life, the most talented chef I have known gave me these words, “We’re a bar, dammit!”
We are not a restaurant, we are not trying to be the next Wolfgang Puck. We can, if fact, say our food has more integrity than what became of Mr. Puck’s product, however. We still sell real food. No preservatives. No hormones. No corn syrup. No bullshit.
And I can take pride in that. Right now, I am losing money because of that, but there are some things worth doing.
We’ll leave it at that.
A bar, and a damned good one at that.
The holiday itself does not matter to me. My significance, my personal designation of what the holiday is to me does, however, have meaning to me.
And that meaning, for me, is the amazing beauty and completion I feel because of the friends and family I have.
Physically, I am not around many of my friends and most of my family. That being said, I am nothing without them. I am who I am because of my father, brother and mother. I am who I am because of my girl, my friends past and present and my dogs. Physically or no, the people that I love make up the subtle and obtuse lines of my life.
Star Bar would not exist without them, and I am not entirely sure I would want to exist without them. I would be empty.
But I am not empty. I am waking up alone on Christmas day and I am not empty. Because of you. I am lucky.
Oh blog. You coquettish little vixen. You sultry minx. You devilish little fiend.
What can I say that I have not said already? Do I speak of the changes? Do I write about the past? Do I use you as my diary or Dear Abby or Scientific Journal?
Or do I write a 100% non-biased account of the facts as they happened, through my completely biased version?
How about all of the above?
For the second time in my life, I have filed an official complaint against a business. The first time was Midas and that was 20 years ago. Midas tried, albeit unintentionally, tried to kill me. The plumber I filing suit against was just sloppy or lazy or negligent and not nearly as exciting.
Last Sunday, in the throws of karaoke passion, I was about to shut down all power and cut off the entire bar. People were drunk. Not like Irish singing drunk, or even Irish fighting drunk, but like Keith Richards falling out if a palm tree drunk. It was both horrifying and exquisite at the same time. No bones were broken. No egos bruised.
For the first time since the bar has been opened I believe that I may be able to do my books. Can you imagine running a business for three months, taking money in and writing check after check not being able to accurately document what is going on because nothing… not the bank… not my Point of Sale system… not my credit card processing system… not my accounting program… not one matching up? I still can’t Imagine it, yet it has happened to me.
I have found some good DJs. Every DJ in Portland says they have a following and spin great music. Rarely do they do either, much less both. Don’t get me wrong… I love that this city has music loving, vinyl buying, cocky (in a good way) fools (like myself) out there, but we are not all the best rock ‘n roll DJs of all time. Some of us are just dorks.
The final noteworthy event is that I will be promoting and at the same time demoting manager to partner. My most worthy adviser will stand to my left (I am left-handed) and, well advise, console and take ownership of all that is Star Bar.
In conclusion of this mighty soliloquy, I will say that even though I will probably not be making too many entries in this blog in the near future, the blog will preserver. If you are dying to know what exactly is happening with Star Bar, stop by, because that is where I will be.
Stat Bar, going where no star ha gone before
The inaugural Star Bar karaoke has come and gone. It is but once that you have a first.
And much to my surprise and chagrin, I enjoyed it. People came in, sang and enjoyed themselves. A very simple and honest reason ingot into this business is because I like to be there to help facilitate a good time. I like to see people smile. I like to help people crawl out from under their overcast skies and shine. And people did that last night. There was dancing and singing and the making of merriment. People had fun singing rock ‘n roll. People having shitty days stayed because their days got better.
What more, really could I ask for?
Oh, how about to not be annoyed? That would be something to ask for given my previous disdain of the art form known as karaoke. I was not annoyed.
We also hosted a successful holiday party over the weekend. We had fun as a bar and they, as party goers, enjoyed themselves.
Other than that, it has been slow going at ye ol’ Star Bar. I guess that is what happens when bar and restaurant sales are down 11% city-wide from last year, eh?
Signing off. Keep your nose between the ditches and smokey out of your britches.
Star Bar, Portland Oregon. Dec 6, 2010
I have another chapter in the already too long of my plumber situation. We are going to arbitration.
Sigh. The reason the plumber feels he should not have to compensate me for the second plumber is because, according to him I have vandals.
While I don’t discount the possibility of drunken mayhem, I do not think that vandals typically come equipped with pliers to loosen plumbing fixtures. In addition, I find it even less likely that said vandals would know exactly which fixture was worked on earlier that day. And finally, without generalizing too much, I doubt that a vandal would be a 26 year old female wearing a skirt with water all over her skirt due her own sloppy vandalism… but that is conjecture… it is entirely possible that she was a vandal, but suddenly felt vandal’s remorse and decided to tell me of the problem instead of letting it persist to do original intended damage.
Onto other subjects of interest. I housed my first live band the day before Thanksgiving and it felt great. A place gets a certain amount of life infused into it when the heart and soul of a band fills the space. The sound was good. People enjoyed themselves and it was right.
My once nemesis, karaoke, will be invited into Star Bar this Sunday. And while there is some trepidation, I am honestly a little excited. It is, after all, One year ago, if you asked me where I’d be, I bet I would have been wrong on every account.
We are now set to move into the holiday season. Mirth and merriment. Yule and, well, I am not entirely sure what Yule is so I don’t know what to pair it with. Does it even need to be capitalized?
Star Bar. Tis the season.
There are things that one does in life that one never imagined one would be doing.
For example, I never thought I would work in a bar with karaoke, much less run one and have the offering of karaoke be my idea.
Star Bar is officially doing karaoke every Sunday starting in December.
But this is not your normal Portland karaoke. Just like this is not your normal Portland bar. The karaoke, like the bar, will be pure to the core of what this bar is. Just as Star Bar serves fresh an natural food, has no video poker, and is a rock ‘n roll bar… the karaoke we do will have bands like the Buzzcocks, Ramones, Clash and DEVO. It, the karaoke… and the bar for that matter… will not have Boyz II Men, Celine Dion, or Garth Brooks.
We are a rock ‘n roll bar, dammit and we will be doing rock ‘n roll karaoke.
That said, I will be working on Sunday night and I don’t think I could stomach the horrible songs and sounds that come from karaoke.
On a subject that I did foresee, I will be having a live band in here on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I mean, I didn’t foresee the first live band playing that day, per say, but since the onset of this space, I did want to incorporate live music into the master plan.
On other notes, I wish that I could provide the finishing details on the plumbing fiasco, but alas, the tale has not been capped and welded shut as of yet. I asked the first plumber, the plumber who did not tighten any of the hoses down and ultimately allowed for gallons of water to flood my floor, to cover some of the costs of the of the emergency plumber, and I believe the first plumber said “no”… but unfortunately, I don’t feel entirely confident in his communication abilities… thus the lack of conclusion to this story. I am waiting for his response of my response which was, “Sorry, I didn’t understand your email. Are the terms I proposed agreeable or not? Please respond. Thank you.”
I guess no news is good news, eh? Eh?
Star Bar, fighting the good fight.
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was just sending blogs accidentally, spilling beverages on myself, and trying to remember what the hell I was talking about.
I got as far as dreams and can’t remember the rest. I had a point. It was lost.
I got my ass kicked today. Work filled up. And then filled up. Then settled in to being full though we, my cook and I never settled into being that busy.
The food was good, but they waited. The service was good, but they waited and I hate when they wait. I hate to wait and I am better than that. The bar is better than that.
And we were caught with our pants down.
And so is the way of the industry. Can there be a balance. No, no there can’t or would be no movement.
Over and out.
It is odd to mention the smoke filled tendrils of unconsciousness because that means I have them, again. And to clarify, this is not dreams of what I want to be when I grow up, as we have all determined I don’t want to grow up. This is dream of sleep. The labyrinth of muddled thoughts and false memories of an unedifying future.
While on the subject of clarification, I would also like to clarify that I am not sleeping well, yet. That will come over time. I also want to clarify that I have had dreams, many of them, but they were work dreams. They were not the anxiety dreams of working in the nude or customer service lacking. They were the dreams of me working. No anxiety. No fear. Me just living my life both awake an asleep, with no variety.
I dreamt last night. I dreamt of fear and excitement and victory and defeat and the soft tendrils of the unknown.
But what does that mean?