Wednesday, October 29, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: Y






Y is for Yelp.

Yelp, the review company, is aptly named.

Merriam-Webster's definition of yelp:  to utter a sharp quick shrill cry.

The review company Yelp certainly allows shrill crybabies to vent, but takes Merriam-Webster two steps further:

1.  Yelp allows fraudsters to post fake reviews anonymously.

2.  Yelp uses such reviews to coerce (some say extort) restaurants and bars to advertise with them i.e. pay them money to bury fraudulent reviews and highlight good reviews; if you don't pay, they elevate bad reviews.

We have no time at BoHenry’s for scams, and Yelp has proven itself to be one big scam.

Early on, fraudsters attacked us with fake reviews.

We have since encouraged customers to write genuine reviews.

But, truth is, we could care less what’s on Yelp, and we will
never advertise with them.

Some folks reside in a virtual world (Facebook, Yelp, et al), others in the real world.  

We exist in the latter and will endure and survive Yelp's filtered review system and laugh at the crackpots who post fraudulent reviews behind fake names.





SUNSET, STACKY'S SEASIDE, SUMMERLAND






…and Beaver Moon with earthshine.





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: W






W is for Well.

As in Well Liquor.

This is the generic booze a bartender serves if you do not specify which brand you want.

Always specify.

Never drink the Well.

Why not?

Many bars cut their costs by serving the cheapest crap they can buy as their Well.  It costs them about $6.50 a bottle and is as near as poison to any booze anyone can drink, easily disguised by mixers.

So don’t say, “I’ll have a Margarita.”

Say, “I’ll have a Margarita with Patron Silver.”

Don’t say, “Rum and Coke.”

Say, “Bacardi Rum and Coke.”

When I first bought my bar, most of the Well booze was a brand called Barton.

Never heard of Barton?

For good reason.




When I gave it a good look, I discontinued Barton and replaced it with Gordon’s gin and vodka, and Myer’s rum, low-end but highly acceptable liquor.

It may cost me more, but it’s gratifying not to poison my customers.







Monday, October 27, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: V






V is for Vodka.

The most over-rated member of the booze family, vodka is odorless and definitely tasteless, without distinctive character.

This is why is market id now overloaded with flavored vodkas for immature drinkers.

Cran-appple, whipped cream and marshmallow are just but a few of the flavors making the rounds.

Every once in a while a vendor tries to sneak in a bottle of this crap with an order.

I quickly discover their “error” and demand it be picked up.

Their invariable response:  keep it, gratis.

So there it sits on the shelf and I can hardly sell it for one dollar per shot.


Fortunately, there are many uses for vodka.  Just don’t drink it.




But if you must drink vodka, try 44 North, distilled the right way, using potatoes, and, coming from Idaho, these are finest potatoes known to mankind.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: T & U






T is for Tequila.

Tequila is the mainstay of my bar:  shots and margaritas.

Tequila comes in three grades:  blanco, reposado, and anejo.

As a bar owner, you quickly discover which grades of which brands are the most desirable.

For instance, you only bother to stock Chamuchos and Cazadores as reposados, while the blancos are Herradura and Hornitos.  With Patron, Silver (blanco) is all you need, and the only anejo worth stocking is Don Julio.

Oh, and Cuervo Gold for those who don’t know any better.


U is for USA and our Drink American campaign.

We do not stock any alcoholic beverages from Russia, which means no Smirnoff and no Stolichnaya.

Instead, we have a wide selection of great vodkas, including four fabulous brands distilled in the USA:

--  Tito’s  (Austin, Texas)
--  Skyy  (San Francisco, California)
--  Cutler’s  (Santa Barbara, California)
--  44 North  (Boise, Idaho)


We also serve awesome American gins:


--  209  (San Francisco, California)
--  Cutler’s  (Santa Barbara, California)




Saturday, October 25, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: S






S is for Stock and Storeroom.

Simple advice for hard liquor:  Lock it up.  If not locked up, it walks, as good as cash.

Check levels already opened at the bar and personally dole out back-ups.

If staff knows you’re watching, they are less likely to over-pour for bigger tips.

Pouring costs should be 28 percent.  Any higher, something is remiss.

The beauty of liquor stock is that is has no expiration date, even after it’s opened, so if you have a sizeable storage facility, no harm stocking up.

The key is organized storing.

When I first bought my bar, the storeroom was a mess, nothing locked, and vendors arrived weekly to take orders that were often erratic.

One of my best investments was a large liquor cabinet constructed especially for my bar.

When I open its doors, I know within sixty seconds exactly what we need, on a monthly (not a weekly) basis. 


S is for Scotch whisky.

We have it.  But we rarely sell it.  Our bar, sadly, does not cater to the world’s most refined drinkers.


S is for Sales tax.  

In bars like mine, sales tax it is built into the price though customers don’t seem to know it.  We eat the staggering 8.75 percent California sales tax.


S is for Scams.

Here’s one:  Safety Services Company.

These telemarketers call your bar and try to sound official, as if you are required by law to buy and post their product.

They try to get a bartender to agree and a few days later two state compliance paper posters arrive by mailman a tube.  Followed by a bill for several hundred dollars.

The tube of posters arrived.

Did Safety Services Company get their bill paid?

No.

But the representative who called to chase up payment got an earful from me.  And he hasn't called back since.



Friday, October 24, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: R



By Sean Kirkpatrick
Hangs in…



R is for Regulars.

These folks are golden, the bread and butter of your business.

They arrive around the same time every afternoon or evening, order the same drinks, and stick around for the same amount of time, day to day.

If they’re celebrating a special occasion, they’re in your bar.

If they’re commiserating a tragedy, they’re in the bar.

If nothing out of the ordinary is happening, they’re in your bar, their second home, where everyone knows their names—and the bartender has their drinks plunked down before they reach their favorite bar stool.

Downside:  They like to think they own the place.

They don’t.


R is for Rituals.

Drinking alcohol is a ritualistic exercise.  As mentioned above, drinkers drink the same drinks at the same time, often in the same place.

Bar paraphernalia is part of the ritual:  Glassware and shakers and garnish.  You wouldn’t drink a gin martini from a wine glass. 

Some folks, like myself, are very particular about how a martini gets made:

Never shake the shaker, it bruises the gin, just gently stir it around.  If you’re adding vermouth, pour a couple drops in the martini glass, swash it around and pour it out.  Take your lemon twist and rub it around the rim, plunk it in.  Make the bartender give you the whole shaker and strainer so that you can keep it ice cold, give it time to dilute, pour a little bit at a time and render it a long drink instead of something akin to injecting a vein with alcohol.


R is for Rum.

Nobody drinks rum unless they go on vacation in the Caribbean and think they need to drink sickly rum concoctions as part of the tropical experience.

Not good for your weight nor your head.

The best way to drink rum:  Choose a top shelf bottle like 10 Cane and sip it straight.  Even better, stir with ice in a cocktail shaker and pour it into a martini glass, lime twist.

(Who says only gin and vodka can be served in a martini glass?  Do the same with bourbon, too.)




Thursday, October 23, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: O-Q






O is for Opening hours.

Alcoholic Beverage Control dictates that we cannot be open between 1 - 8 a.m. during the week (two a.m. weekends).

Beyond that, we are free to decide.

Decades ago, a number of neighborhood bars opened for business at 8 a.m.

Two things changed that:

1.  Industry moved away and with it industrial graveyard shifts, whose laborers would go out for a drink to unwind before sleeping through the day.

2.  Alcohol has been vilified and, just like tobacco, society’s trend is to diminish its use—along with places that dispense it.

We open mid-afternoon and we insist on responsible drinking.


P is for Pabst Blue Ribbon, America’s cheapest beer.

We used to sell it.

Now we don’t.

Reason:  Pabst recently sold out to a Russian company and we do not stock any alcoholic beverages that come from Russia or Russian companies.


Q is for Quinine, found in tonic water and known to prevent malaria.

Q is also for Quick-witted, or tongue lubrication, a bar-room phenomenon.

And Q is for Quenching everyone's thirst.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: M & N






M is for Media.

These days, it’s about social media rather than the traditional variety.

Early on, we cultivated good press…


…but it matters not to a neighborhood bar.

Sure, people who read or hear about a new bar (or an upgrade to an old bar) may drop in from Montecito or Summerland or Goleta, but no matter how much they like it, they won’t be back often, and you must cater to your neighborhood regulars, not the occasioners.  

When it comes to drinking, people mostly stick to their own neighborhoods.  They are addicted not just to alcohol, but also to their regular drinking places; alcohol is a ritualistic experience.  

Others are addicted to Facebook.  Our crowd is the former.

Bars and drinking are about real life, mixing with real friends.  

There is no such thing as a virtual drink (as trendy as virtual friends may be).

Though we run a BoHenry’s Facebook page, I rarely use or even look at it.

I do run a blog about my bar, but this is less about publicity and more about my own learning process with regard to booze, and about sharing what I learn with interested readers. 


N is for NFL Ticket.

This is what bars subscribe to from Direct TV for tuning into NFL games during football season.

It means opening the bar all from 10 a.m. on Sundays. 

When I first acquired the bar, it opened at noon every day.  

(I scaled that back to 4 p.m. most weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends.  The idea of people consuming alcohol from early afternoon through the evening does not sit well with me.)

We also replaced the old boxy TV sets with large HD 
flatscreens and Bose surround-sound speakers.

On Sundays, during the season, we provide complimentary snacks:  hot dogs, chili, or BBQ ribs, and our bar becomes a football festival.

N for Neat:  no mixer, no ice.

And N is for Nightcap:  that last drink you wish next morning you hadn't drunk.



Monday, October 20, 2014

PAREIDOLIA






LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: L



For whom does the bell toll?

It tolls not for thee, but for liquor wholesalers



L is for Liquor.

Alcohol, booze, liquor… that’s what it is all about, everything else is window dressing.

Liquor must be purchased only from wholesalers approved by Alcoholic Beverage Control.

This is a bit of a racket.

Two companies own the wholesale distribution rights to most brands and there is little competition between the two because each carries different brands without any overlapping products.

Which essentially means that these two companies have a monopoly on their brands.

“You mean to tell me,” I said to one of the two suppliers, “that in the State of California I can only buy Jameson whiskey from you?”

“No,” he replied.  “We have 33 states tied up.”

(Whatever happened to antitrust law?)




And even though liquor may be cheaper at Costco, Smart & Final and CVS Pharmacy, bars are not allowed to buy liquor at retail outlets without threat of major penalty.

I said to the other supplier, “I could buy Jack Daniels on sale at CVS about 20 percent cheaper than you charge me—what’s that about?”

His reply:  “They buy from us in such large volume, they get a huge discount and pass it on to the consumer.”

But bars are not allowed to partake in such consuming.

Many bottle sizes are different between wholesale and retail booze, and they are also coded, which renders enforcement easy.

The snitches are usually the wholesalers themselves.

L is for Liquor.

There is always something new to be learned about liquor.

On a recent trip to England, I learned that Jameson offers a brand even better than their 18-year reserve:  Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.  

Of course, I bought a bottle duty free departing London’s Heathrow Airport.  


(It will be a very Merry Christmas, indeed.)

I also happened upon a new gin produced by Beefeater called 24.

Infused by Japanese teas along with botanicals, 24 has now replaced 209 as my martini gin of choice.

And while engaged in fine dining, I rediscovered port as the perfect way to finish a meal, accompanied by a selection of fine cheese.

The very best (without getting too fancy) is Graham’s 20-year Tawny.  

(Needless to say, I grabbed a bottle of that, too.)

L is for Liquor license.  

To own and run a bar you must have one, and they are expensive, not least because Santa Barbara County no longer issues new 48 licenses—the kind one needs for a real bar without food.

Liquor licenses are bought and sold as assets, whether they come attached to an actual bar or not.

In Santa Barbara County, the value of a liquor license has increased in value by 50 percent over the past two years.

L is for Last Call.

For us, last call is 12:30 a.m. (Friday & Saturdays, 1:30 a.m.).  This gives time for stragglers to finish their drinks and git.

Soon after a bought my bar, I bought a formidable antique bell on an iron stand that came from a South American banana boat.

We ring it for last call.  And it means business.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: K






K is for Karaoke.

Karaoke is as much a mainstay in bars these days as Monday Night Football—but never both at the same time.

It has largely replaced live music in bars.

The reason for this is that the world has become interactive.  People don’t just want to watch and hear other people play instruments and sing; they want to participate in the performance.

Karaoke, of course, provides that opportunity.

Until I started doing karaoke in my bar, I had never before experienced karaoke.  The idea of it sounded, well, cheesy.

But the reality is something quite special:  

You, the singer, are the star, backed by the original music of your favorites tunes.  

Forgot the words?  No matter, you can read them from a monitor. 

In addition to entertaining yourself and others (assuming your voice truly entertains the latter), karaoke is excellent therapy.

There is nothing like singing your heart out to feel better.  And you don’t have to pay a therapist $175 an hour.

Karaoke soon brings in a new crowd:  The Karaoke Krooners.

These guys and gals follow the karaoke circuit from bar to bar, night to night, all around Santa Barbara.  They live for karaoke.  The moment after they sing a song, they scribble their name down for another, and another, hogging the mic as much as possible. 

Get those endorphins flowing!

So you need a firm (but good-humored) MC to host karaoke and keep the Krooners in line.

When my lawyer told me he had a friend who was about to buy a bar and wanted some advice, I said, “There’s two things he needs to know:  NFL Ticket and karaoke.”







Thursday, October 16, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: I & J






I is for Irish Whiskey, and not much else, though it quickly leads to…

J is for Jameson, the best-selling Irish whiskey in the USA. 

And though I used to be a fan of single-malt Scotch whiskey, such as the honey-like Oban or dank and peaty Laphroaig, the very best whiskey one can drink (in my humble opinion, of course) is Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve. 

Not that I recommend this for a bar.  I ordered a bottle and ended up drinking almost all of it myself (though not in the same evening…)

J is also for Jukebox.

These days, jukeboxes connect to the Internet and therefore have access to hundreds of thousands of songs.  

Given the choice of everything, it is tragic what actually gets played most of the time:  rap, hip-hop, and heavy metal.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: H







H is for Hangover.

You cannot drink a lot of booze without paying the price next morning.  

Essentially, if you put too much alcohol in your system, you poison yourself.

Many cultures worldwide have devised many ways of treating hangover.

We have distilled the data and come up with the best ways to deal with hangover symptoms.

The best "cure"is prevent:

Don’t drink too much; snack while you eat; intersperse alcoholic libations with glasses of water.

Speaking of water:  Life is all about keeping yourself hydrated, whether you’re drinking alcohol or not, but especially if you’re drinking alcohol.

Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning.  Drink a glass of water before you go to bed at night.  And in between, drink lots of water

If you know you are likely to drink too much alcohol (more than two drinks), prepare in advance by loading up on B-Complex vitamins or specialty vitamins for processing alcohol (which are loaded with B-Complex).

The Chinese tested every so-called hangover remedy known to mankind and determined that the very best hangover remedy is this:  

Sprite.




H is also for Health.  As in good health.  

Because alcohol (in reasonable doses) is good for you and also promotes longevity.




H is also for High rollers.


This is your favorite kind of customer.  

High rollers buy top-shelf liquor and like to spread the joy around by buying everybody a round—and then another round, and then…



Sunday, October 12, 2014

LESSONS OF THE BAR BIZ: G






G is for Gin.

Gin is the most civilized of the Hard Liquor Family, which comprises of whiskey (Irish, Scotch, bourbon), vodka, rum, tequila, and this ancient potion distilled from grain and flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals.

Gin is my own favorite libation of choice, served up, with a twist, and with the shaker left in my custody so that I can pour it myself, a little bit at a time, into a chilled martini glass.

Don’t listen to James Bond:  You’re supposed to stir, not shake, as shaking bruises the gin and transforms it into a crystalline mess when its surface should actually be smooth as glass, like a pure lake on a still evening.

Why not pour all at once?

You can if your aim is to get drunk, a.s.a.p. because it’s almost like injecting alcohol into a vein.

But civilized drinkers know that the secret to a good evening’s drinking is to perpetuate the buzz on as few libations as possible.

We have a shelf of the finest main-brand gins:  Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick’s, Plymouth and (the American-made) 209.

In fact, we still have the same bottle of Beefeater from when I bought the bar eighteen months ago.

Because, alas, gin drinkers are rare, especially in middle-class and lower-middle-class neighborhoods.

Although most people associate gin with England, where it was known as Mother’s Ruin, it actually derives from Holland

G is for Galiano.

Nobody orders this Italian liqueur anymore, but every bar has a bottle close to hand.

Why?

Galiano’s bottle is shaped like a miniature baseball bat:  It is the bartender’s last line of defense if attacked.

(In our view, it doesn’t hurt to have a genuine Louisville Slugger behind the bar, along with Galiano.)

If a bartender needs to reach for Galiano, chances are it is due to…

G is for Gangbanger

...the slang given to wannabe gang-members who semi-populate the east and west sides of Santa Barbara (read:  many towns everywhere).  

In southern California, such persons are generally Hispanic and stand out like sore thumbs, not due to their ethnicity, but because of the way they dress:  long baggy shorts, black socks pulled high and baseball cap worn backwards over slicked-back hair, some black face fuzz.  

The irony is that they crave respect yet costume themselves so comically.

When I bought my bar, we had a few gang-bangers in residence. 

Not anymore.

A few got 86’d for ignoring our zero-tolerance policy with regard to aggression; others find it difficult to drink alongside the new hipster crowd that has found our bar to their liking.