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Where Are All the Corner Taverns???

I just saw the hours of another ‘bar & grille’ cut by almost two-thirds.

The reason?

“Staffing” – the owner just couldn’t justify paying his staff to work because some hours had slowed down after Labor Day. He said the sales didn’t justify the bar being open more than five hours a day.


Speaking as a bar patron who’s worked as both a bartender and a bouncer, I have to call bullshit on that one, right out of the gate, right here and right now.


A bar owner would rather cut hours and shoo money away to some other bar than work those slower hours himself?

And he didn’t see anything wrong with preventing potential business, either.


Times sure have changed.


Over the last few years, the landscape has decidedly gone through many changes, but one song remains the same – if you’re not open, you lose money.


There seems to be so very little visible owner commitment or involvement anymore.

They’re too quick to blame Waitresses and Bartenders and Bar Girls for problems and they call it all a ‘staffing issue’.


A lot of the bar owners nowadays want to play the part of “bar owner” and enjoy the status but don’t want to put in the time it takes to actually own a bar.

It’s as if they want – and expect – the staff to cover all hours and be responsible for any and all failures. But it’s not their investment. A bar is the bar owner’s investment.

Why isn’t he doing anything and everything possible to keep his doors open for every possible hour of business that the law will allow?


For as many local bars and taverns that went under over the last few years, the ones that survived have one thing in common…they stayed open just like they always did.


They don’t blame the economy or their staff and they certainly don’t use either one as an excuse to cut hours in an attempt to cushion failure.


There was a time when bar owners were fixtures in the bar they owned.

They were always there. Think of Sam on the TV show Cheers…that is how bar owners really did act – always there, always working and always covering the gap…running their businesses.


And they still enjoyed the status and position of ‘bar owner’. For some reason, it’s always been an enviable title. Maybe it’s because you control so much legal vice when you control the flow of alcohol. A bar owner does hold a goodly amount of power.


But at the same time, owning a bar like that was always a double-edged sword. The power can be easily abused and lost.

You get all the glory and inherent power of owning the bar but it could suck the life out of you as you go.

And let’s not forget there is always just as much alcohol around to temper your blade as there is for everyone else in the place.

When those corner tavern owners weren’t working behind the bar, they were drinking at it.

Not all but a lot did.

The ones that didn’t drink in their own bars worked 16-20 hour days covering every possible avenue and facet of their bar.

They went to work early and they worked until the very early morning hours of the next day.

Only then would they go home and get some rest.

But they went back to the bar as soon as they could drag themselves out of bed.


Doesn’t sound so glamorous working a bar that way, does it?

Too bad for today’s bar owners because that formula has always worked and always will.


Even with the craft beer and pub & grille push, the corner taverns do still exist, albeit smaller in numbers than before. My city used to have a bar or tavern on damn near every corner.

Now the bigger, ritzier swank places are pushing them out.

But even so, none of that changes the simple fact that people like to drink and people like to have fun and they like to do it in familiar and comfortable surroundings.


With the lockdown and all the nonsense that went with it, it became almost cliché to blame faltering numbers on staffing…


People got lazy and now no one wants to work for a living!


Here’s the thing…while there is a lot of truth to that sentiment, there is just as much truth to the idea that business owners are now copping out of their own responsibilities.


They are taking away the familiar and comfortable surroundings that so many people cling to these days. Everyone needs that happy place after a hard day. It’s not always a bar, but again the song remains the same – people still need and want a familiar and comfortable place to go.


Bar patrons are a loyal bunch. Always have been.

BUT…

If you take away their happy place, they will find another one to fill the void.

Once that happens, the seed has been planted and the longer they are forced to stay in that new happy place, the more their loyalty grows toward it. You could likely lose valued – and consistently paying Customers because you chose not to work your own bar.


Sucks, doesn’t it?


It’s such a strange turn of events because the bar owners that willingly push away business instead of working it themselves have an inheritor’s attitude, not an entrepreneurial mindset.

It’s almost as if they feel entitled to own the bar and never worked to own it.

Ironically, we all know that is absolutely NOT true!

Anyone who buys any small business works damn hard to get there.

So, what is going on after they get there?


I sincerely love the rebuttal that ‘corner bars are dives and it’s entirely different from my hi-brow pub – you obviously don’t understand the business’.

But here’s the fly in that ointment. Both types of establishment serve the exact same purpose.

Both types of establishment serve the public the vice they crave, they just do it in different ways.

The underlying fundamentals still apply equally to both of them.

As hard as you might try to argue it, they still apply equally to both.

They are both in the business of serving their Customers’ wants and needs.


From my barstool vantage point, I’ve witnessed the pub & grilles fail because they believed they lived by different rules. I will never understand how that came about because they are a desired and provided service. That means they rely on Customers, and that brings us back around to the beginning – if you’re not open, you lose money.

No, I don’t claim to be a guru of alcohol purveyance.

No, I don’t claim to be a college-educated business mogul, either.

But I don’t have to be either to see what lays there in front of me.


What I am is a simple Customer that feels a growing frustration with establishments that punish not only their Customers, but their Waitresses, Bartenders and Bar Girls for something they could – and should – be addressing themselves as the owner.


The glory of being a bar owner dissolves in an instant when the bar is lost, and the blame will always settle on the owner, no matter how hard he tries to blame everyone else.

I’ve seen it happen too many times.

The same old song and dance plays again and again.


Maybe being a working bar owner won’t save your bottom line and maybe your bar will fail no matter what you do, but you chose to invest and become the owner, no one else.

Why in hell would you NOT fight to keep and grow every scrap of it until the last life line was gone?

Makes no sense to me, but I guess I’m just another ornery, obnoxious drunk with a loud mouth who doesn’t understand business, huh?


Funny that it always works out that the ones that say that, sooner or later, end up sitting right next to me at some other bar bitching about how their staff killed their bar.

The song remains the same.

So sad.


Where in hell are all the Corner Taverns???


PLEASE NOTE: This piece is not about The Last Shot Bar & Grill. The included images were taken there by Mr. Mike Miller of Erie, PA, and that's all. Again, this piece is NOT about The Last Shot Bar & Grill.


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