Category Archives: Owning a Bar

Ladies & Gentlemen: Lucky!

Today I’m waiting for the exact moment that the new moon crests (or whatever new moons do) tomorrow night here on the east coast. That’s when I’m going to launch my IndieGoGo campaign to help fund a flurry of extras for the bar. I’m hoping it will also generate interest and awareness and enroll my extended community in the bar’s success.

Here’s some info everyone has been waiting for:

The name of the bar? Lucky! Not Lucky Bar or Lucky Lounge or anything else. Just Lucky. Aren’t there a million bars called Lucky? You’d think so but…surprisingly, no. How did I arrive at that name? Well, way back when it was all very abstract, I was nevertheless fantasizing about my eventual big opening night. I planned to ask everyone I invited to bring something lucky: a classic lucky charm, something that had been lucky for them, something that represents luck — in whatever culture or belief system — to them. I thought it would be fun to use the lucky stuff as decor. Then, once I’d found the proper space and plans were well underway, I was laying awake one night thinking, “I need a horseshoe to hang over the door, for luck.” I figured I’d email my friend Beany, who’s been rescuing horses and teaching children to ride them, and ask her if she had any extras she could send me. Then I thought, “Hmm, Lucky would be a great name for a bar. But surely there must be a million of them already.” I Googled it and, nope, not really. There’s a Lucky Bar somewhere in DC and another in a foreign country. There are Lucky 13s and Lucky Lounges. Here in NYC there’s a Lucky Jack’s, Lucky Cheng’s, Lucky Burger, Lucky Strike and lotsa other Lucky stuff. My advisor, Ariel, used a super cool image for the business plan we presented to my sister and I loved it; it has been incorporated into the Lucky logo. It’s a flower of interlocking horseshoes, a mandala of sorts, with the negative space in the center forming a star. It’s perfect on a number of levels.

Since the word Lucky all by itself was already taken as a URL, I decided the web address (and Twitter account and Facebook page) would be http://www.LuckyonB.com. Which brings me to the second big reveal: Lucky is on Avenue B in the East Village! I’m taking over the former Boxcar Lounge space at 168 Avenue B, between 10th and 11th Streets. I’ll be doing cosmetic renovations and hope to be open in a few months.

Now, I’d like to show you all the graphics for the IndieGoGo campaign perks. There is, of course, the Lucky logo. But in addition to that, my Burning Man DPW friends and I love to play the Sharpie knuckle tat game: give one hand to one person, the other to another person, and they each Sharpie on a four letter knuckle “tat.” It’s how we wind up with stuff like POOP CUNT written on our hands… Also, there is a cool table in the bar (the only thing I’m keeping) that’s made from an 1889 manhole cover. It says MANHATTAN DPW. Kismet, right?  Anyway, drumroll, please…and thanks to Dre for helping with the designs!

LuckyLogoThe Lucky Logo!
Available on t-shirts, tank tops, shot glasses, pint glasses, buttons, patches and hoodies!

Manhole v2The MANHATTAN DPW graphic!
This will be cleaned up a bit so the letters are more legible.
Available on t-shirts, printed BIG on the back and small on the front,
just like our Burning Man DPW shirts.

Knuckles v2CHUG LIFE!
This will be white on black, available on t-shirts.

My First Week at the Office

I know! It’s been a while! In the days (and days and days) since I got home from the desert I hooked up with Tower Brokerage, who helped me find the space I decided on. They recommended a lawyer and…more days went by. Even though I’d decided on the space before I left for Christmas in Paris, the lawyers dragged things along. And even longer. My lawyer brought on his colleague and they dragged things along together. Then the first guy got his panties in a wad because the seller’s real estate broker was being “too aggressive.” He threatened to “walk away.” I kinda couldn’t believe a professional would actually whine about taking his marbles and going home. Fortunately, my broker talked him back from the brink and things progressed along…and longer still. But, finally, a week ago tonight, I sat down with the seller, the landlady and the brokers (and not one lawyer, harrumph!) and we signed a bunch of papers. I’m not a bar owner quite yet; my ownership is contingent upon SLA approval, as is my 10-year lease. But papers have been signed. And I HAVE KEYS!

I’ve been posting about it on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. Here’s a bit of the photographic evidence, with the accompanying captions:

12742834_10153243276456364_4576727347032405359_nMy big smile of excitement and abject horror. — at Tower Brokerage.

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My first day at the office!

12779114_10153250387326364_3713099626223968893_o.jpgWarming up the space and finishing up all the booze!

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Cleaning out the basement with Nick & Andy.

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Found a fossilized rat and his very alive descendent.

So, having finally signed the (preliminary) papers, I’ve was able to get to work! Andy and Nick helped me clean out the basement. What a disaster. I met with my architect and contractor and hung out with a friend who did such a great job designing his bar that I’m hoping he’ll help me with mine. I’ve been on the phone with all the previous owner’s vendors: bar and liquor distributors, ice machine and cable providers, soda and gas line people, all of them.

I even had my first “crisis”: I’d gone to the bank and had the teller transfer money from one account to another so I could write checks to my new landlady at that big paperwork signing. On an almost-midnight trip out to buy stuff to make bitters (more on that in another post) my debit card didn’t work. I called customer service and found out I was thousands of dollars in the red; the teller had transferred the money into the wrong account. Gulp. That meant the checks I’d written to the landlady would be bouncing. I screamed on the phone for a while and then dragged my ass out of bed at 9am the next morning to take care of it at the local bank branch. There were four people helping me, along with the woman I had on the phone from customer service, and together they managed to fix it. Phew, that was a close one!

I also had a bunch of friends come by to hang out and “warm up” the space. And consume the leftover alcohol. It was an unofficial pre-demolition party. And it was wonderful! I haven’t been sleeping much because I’m so excited and nervous and wish it could all happen at once! All my friends have been so supportive! And curious! I’ve been telling everyone that there will be more news coming up as it happens. Heather asked if I’d be blogging about it all and, well, here I am. Every day posts are probably unrealistic but I’ll update you at least once a week. Keep an eye out here for more fun stuff!

Taking Advice

EDIT (I spaced on two important people!)

In my days — and weeks — of waiting and what felt like inaction, I’ve been pretty stressed out. I’ve been obsessing, as my previous post explained, because it’s all I’ve been able to do. I received quite a bit of unsolicited advice as a result of that post. I’ll admit, most of my life I’ve been quite the know-it-all. Even in circumstances where I know less than I should. But in this situation I have seriously stepped outside myself. I’ve evaluated my flaws, one of which is not being comfortable asking for assistance, which leads to that know-it-all-ism. And I’ve overcome it. I have been soliciting advice from everyone I meet and the vast number of people I know who are experienced in this business. I have been humbly admitting all the things I know nothing about and seeking those who know everything.

This process began in earnest last March when a friend told me about a place that was secretly for sale. I wound up asking Molly if she’d sell me one of her two bars, since, although I was tempted by the secret space, my dream has always been to own a dive bar. Molly wasn’t ready to sell but she did express interest in helping me with whatever other space I wound up with. The machinations that took place before I eventually left for the desert were a little nuts; I may eventually post about them because they influenced where I am today. Molly is a neighborhood fixture and her bars are among my (few) favorites. I hope she’ll continue to be an advisor and supporter.

In the fall, after returning from the desert, I met with a friend of my sister’s who owns a large bar in San Francisco’s Marina district. He started with a small neighborhood joint, leveled up to a big bar/restaurant and then decided a nightclubby type bar was more manageable. His place is pretty fancy and definitely not a place I’d hang out. But he had some valuable advice. He suggested a specific “signature cocktail,” which I initially cringed at. But after some thought, I realized that even Double Down has a “signature cocktail” aka their house shot, “Ass Juice.” (Actually, Double Down even has an “infused vodka,” though it’s infused with bacon and not very highbrow!) So there will be a “signature cocktail” at my bar, the one he suggested, in fact, though I may not actually use the words “signature cocktail” to describe it!

My friend Scott sometimes has me join him at Perdition as a guest bartender. His boss, Jessica, sat down with me to share her years-won wisdom with me, including recommendations of accountants, insurance brokers, payroll companies and more. Probably the most valuable piece of advice she offered was to hang on tight and ride out all the bullshit, though I don’t believe she used those exact words.

Frannie is a fellow burner who has graciously offered the burner Happy Hour open bars at her old place on Rivington. She still owns half of the Manhattan Welcome to the Johnson’s but spends most of her time at her new place, the Bushwhack branch of WttJs. I’ve spent hours talking to her about the bar business; she has been very generous with her time. The one piece of advice she gave me that I’ll be incorporating into my place is the concept of creating intimate, separate spaces for people, even in a small bar. Her place on Rivington was pretty tiny — and slightly subterranean — but it had four different “conversation areas”: the bar (barstools), two-top high tables (also with barstools), a handful of low tables with two or four chairs and a back area with couches/banquettes and a low table. I’d guess that, although the feng shui is decidedly different in my space, both bars are about the same amount of square feet. So I will have almost the exact same seating options: the barstools at the bar, one or two high-tops, a couch with a low table and as many square tables with two chairs that will fit. Frannie gave me many other great tips that I’ve already internalized. She was actually the first person I sat down with about this, even before things were quite as close to becoming a reality.

Donald is the manager of Double Down and I took him out for lunch the other day to pick his brain. I asked him about a million questions and he provided me with answers, as well as phone numbers for pretty much every person, service or company necessary to keep a bar business up and running. He told me that 10 years ago a friend had done the same for him and he was happy to be able to “pay it forward.” I am now armed with the info to handle just about every imaginable crisis.

On Tuesday I ventured out into Brooklyn to meet Rosie Schaap, a barmaid Gaz Regan recommended I speak with. She writes a cocktail column for the New York Times, has published a book, “Drinking with Men,” and she works the noon to 9pm shift at South. The bar was great, I loved the jukebox, the regulars were warm and friendly and Rosie was a font of information. She even came up with an elegant solution to my desire to learn more about all the boozy things I don’t know without enrolling in the a-bit-too-basic bartending schools: attend classes at Astor Wine & Spirits. Perfect! I’ve already mentioned that I’m registered for Gaz’s Cocktails in the Country course, so I’m looking forward to tapping into his vast wisdom.

Last night the Burning Man Happy Hour was held at Sugarburg, a fairly new neighborhood bar and restaurant in Williamsburg. It also happens to be owned by a friend and fellow burner and his two brothers. I spent quite a while chatting with them about their purchase process, their buildout and what it’s been like since their opening day. The offer was made to talk again any time I need more advice and I’m sure I’ll be taking them up on that! I’ll add that the bar is pretty amazing. Everyone loved the wide assortment of craft beers, the delicious snacks and the convenient location. I, personally, had a deep appreciation for the decor and many architectural details. I know that nothing wound up on their walls without a lot of consideration. It was nice to know that they continue to make improvements and add to the eclectic collection of art.

In my recent travels, researching bars and bartenders, drinks and drink prices, competition and whatnot, I’ve spoken at length with every person on either side of the bar. I’ve asked bartenders what they do and don’t like, patrons what they want and don’t want, and everything else I can think of. I haven’t shut up about opening this bar and everyone I meet is excited to visit it.

The woman who has been helping me as my commercial real estate agent is also who I’ll be hiring to hold my hand as I learn the process of running a bar business. She owned a bar/club in my neighborhood for a decade and served on the local community board for seven years. She has a wealth of information and experience and she will literally be on my payroll. The rest of the staff at her real estate agency is uber-experienced as well, with a grand total of over 100 years in bars and restaurants between them all, most especially the man running the whole operation, who I met back in November at the Rosie O’Donnell event. He is, in my parents’ vernacular, a wheel. I feel confident that I am in capable hands.

I’m hiring a licensed architect to help me draw up the plans for the renovations and she is recommending a licensed engineer to install the new AC unit and ducting. A licensed general contractor will oversee the licensed plumber and electrician, and they will all be filing the proper permits. My liquor license lawyer is the liquor license lawyer. He is a legend. There is an army of people ready to help me realize my vision and an even larger army ready to patronize it.

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful and I anticipate that the next year or two will be equally insane. My friend at Sugarburg told me the first year is extremely tough. I’ve been impatiently waiting, itching to get my hands dirty, and today something clicked into place. The process is gonna speed up now and before I know it, I’ll be behind that bar, ready to say, “What’ll it be?” It won’t be a moment too soon!

Obsessing About the Little Things

Is this what a panic attack feels like? Can a panic attack last for hours? Days? I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is age-related or scared-shitless-starting-a-new-business-related. I do know I’ve never felt anything like it. I wake up in the middle of the night and am wide awake. I can jump out of bad at 8am or sleep all day regardless of what I’ve done the night before. It’s 9:30 right now and I’m ready to go to sleep. I get weird bursts of inexplicable energy and wind up scrubbing cupboards, buying light bulbs, cleaning out the refrigerator or randomly chucking stuff into the trash. I can go all day and not remember if I’ve eaten anything or inhale a bag of peanut M&Ms in one sitting. I can stay in my apartment, online shopping for light fixtures and industrial sinks, or spend hours Photoshopping pointless memes about “patience” or “motivation.”

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I don’t always know what day it is. My Christmas tree is still up. I managed to take the decorations off but…I was enjoying the pine smell. Except now even that has faded. This past week I got to see what happens when three professional men get into a weird pissing contest via emails. Let’s just say that even people who’ve gone to law school are still capable of acting like children. Of sending an email that says, essentially, blah-blah-blah, I’m gonna take my marbles and go home. Thankfully my fairy barmother was able to talk them all back from their respective ledges while I hyperventilated into paper bags and tried not to panic.

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Photo by Sarah Kate Kramer

While waiting for the interminable wheels to churn — and let me tell you, nothing takes as long or is as laced and laden with red tape like opening a fucking bar in New York City — I mire myself in the minutiae of what I can control. I contact more DJs about mix CDs. I email more contractors. And I visited Faerman Cash Register Co. Lemme tell you, this place is like falling into a time warp. The 50-something proprietor introduced me to his 94-year-old father. “Did he start this business?” I asked. Nope, his father did. So I’d bet nothing has changed in this shop since a century ago. At least. Thank goodness they own the building, so they won’t get booted for some high-rise bullshit. But the guy has two daughters, neither of whom are interested in taking over the unnamed.jpgbiz. Maybe some oddball friend of mine might become suddenly intrigued by cash registers? Join this man as an apprentice? Anyway, there wasn’t one new thing in the whole damn place. I ran my fingers lovingly over antique brass machines that sadly wouldn’t work for me because their cash drawers don’t have enough slots for more than one denomination of bills. Such a shame because they are beautiful. I’ll probably be buying one of the Good Boys 1900 models, pictured on the right. If you would like to read more about the unusual shop, there’s a wonderful article here.

I’ve also subscribed to Gaz Regan‘s newsletter and bought his book, The Joy of Mixology. I signed up for his “Cocktails in the Country” weekend seminar-type thing that won’t be happening until “the spring.” I bought a “passbook” to “Winter Tippler,” which gets me 15 fancy cocktails at 15 fancy cocktail bars. I’ve been Googling “best this” and “best that” to gauge drink prices, size up the competition and figure out what’s popular. I’ve been scribbling down ideas for crazy drink specials…or specialty drinks. And during those hours I wind up awake at weird hours, I worry about the millions of things that can go wrong.

So as the opening day is projected further and further into the future, I can only wait. And wait. And continue to obsess about all those little things.

Happy Almost End of the Year

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrated! I was in Paris with my family. Not as amazing as it sounds…since it was quite a bit of togetherness and absolutely zero time to myself. But…it was Paris! So it was beautiful. And unseasonably warm. And free!

Now that I’m back in NYC, I’m poised to sign the paperwork to buy the bar. Last night was the one-year fall-aversary that set this whole thing into motion. A few days into 2016 will be one year since he died. And the only bright spot is this bar. Because his death lit a fire under my ass that should’ve been blazing a long, long time ago.

Once things start moving, they’re gonna move quickly. At least I hope they do! I’ll be taking a bartending course. Yes, to learn how to make drinks that I will then refuse to make people. Guffaw. But also to better educate myself in general. I will continue to interview my bar owning and bar managing and bartending friends. And I will be decorating and buying and ordering and inventing. It is going to be grueling and scary and exciting and I can’t wait! It will also mean that I’ll be super busy, too busy to bother with online dating. I’ll probably keep my Tinder account because it’s silly. And can offer opportunities to invite people to the bar. But OKCupid? It’s gonna have to go. For posterity, I’m posting my current profile. It’s about as big a turn-off as it’s possible to be with an online profile. But, well, there ya have it.

So stay tuned for more news about the bar. And here is who I was on OKCupid:

NEW EDIT
Okay. I’m gonna try this one more time. As I’ve written below, chemistry is elusive. I am only interested in meeting in social situations. No dates. I’m over it. Small talk? Hate it. Dates are like job interviews. They’re boring. Do NOT mistake this as me being “fearful.” Far from it. The only thing I’m afraid of is being bored. I suppose you all think you’re riveting. Maybe you are. And IF you are, hanging out with me in a bar will only showcase your ability to intrigue. I go to a weekly happy hour where new people and out of towners are the usual. It happens in different bars (and different neighborhoods) every week. If the prospect of meeting a FEW new people, as well as me, sounds horrible to you, we probably wouldn’t be a good match. Perhaps you won’t find ME riveting. Then you’ll have a bunch of other people to meet who might be. If you have something similar to offer me, I would be super game! Anyway…now that I’ve alienated every man in America…read on if you’re the one who I haven’t offended…
END NEW EDIT

Please be open to MEETING and the possibility of being FRIENDS. Finding that elusive “chemistry” is rare. But I can honestly say that every man I’ve “befriended” on this site now has a far more exciting and interesting life than he did before meeting me. If you don’t believe that, I’d be happy to connect you for an honest conversation. Who doesn’t want to expand their social circle? The chances of finding romance online aren’t the best. Meeting new people will always result in meeting MORE new people. Meaning, if you and I don’t “click” perhaps you might with a friend of mine. Or I will with a friend of yours. It’s a big world. If that sounds appealing to you, please read on!

A very close friend died this year and it has made me reevaluate. I am not desperate, just determined. If you can’t meet up within a week of us contacting each other, please don’t bother. Life is too fucking short. I’m tired of this site and I’ve never been a fan of dating.

So there you have it. Let’s meet, figure out if we want to fuck each other and take it from there, shall we? Seriously. That’s about all it boils down to.

It doesn’t matter a damn what music you like or what you read. You’ll be on your side of the bed reading what you read and I’ll be on my side of the bed reading what I read. I’ll listen to whatever the hell you want to listen to. Food? Whatever. It’s sustenance, not an art form. For me, anyway. Happy to consume your art form if that’s your thing. Happier to consume your thing. Haha!

Anyway, none of you read this shit. You look at the photo, think, “Yeah, I’d fuck that,” and you click. I wish it were as simple for women. It’s more simple when I’m less sober. So let’s see who responds to THIS version of my “profile.”

What I’m doing with my life
Apparently, online dating. Still. I do all sorts of things with my life, all of them interesting. I usually have a dozen projects in the works at any one time and make money doing a number of different things.

Oh. And three months a year I’m out in the Black Rock Desert working for
Burning Man. It’s a pretty great job!

I’m really good at
Writing. Costuming. Millinery – making hats, tiaras, crowns. Managing the Sign Shop out at that thing in the desert. Remembering all the lyrics. Event production. Graphic design. Listening. Cleaning. Brunching. Finding the bargains at the flea market. All kindsa stuff.
The first things people usually notice about me
My smile. And that I’m tall. People seem to like my hair. You tell me!
Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
Books: Lots.
Movies: Old stuff? Clockwork Orange & It’s a Wonderful Life. New stuff? Ummmm…
Shows: like TV? I don’t have a regular TV anymore so I binge watch: Downton Abbey, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad.
Music: Shit you can sing along to. Mostly.
Food: Aw, stuff ‘n’ things…and Mexican food. And ice cream. I’ve never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like…
Truly, this stuff is the kind of thing that’s fun to find out when you’re first getting to know someone. Don’t you like discovering?
The six things I could never do without
Hmmm, how to fill in this blank? Be clever? Literal? List more than six and be all, “Ooooh, I’m such a renegade!” I am often reaching for seltzer (lemon-lime) or my phone (Words with Friends…I’m an addict). My friends. My family. My health. Something to look forward to. (I’m not one to sit at home and wait for people to call me, so I’m always planning something.)
I spend a lot of time thinking about
whether or not online dating will ever work for me. I’m really a brick & mortar type person, who prefers to hear and smell and get a live, in person vibe. So if I’m insistent upon meeting in person (as opposed to volleying endless emails, talking on the phone or “chatting”) be patient with me. It’s just the way I’m wired.
On a typical Friday night I am
doing something fun! Going to a party, dinner with friends, having people over, making something. There’s nothing all that typical about my life, really. However, weekends are sort of amateur hour, especially in my ‘hood, so I tend to avoid the local bars and restaurants.
The most private thing I’m willing to admit
There’s nothing all that private. In fact, if you Googled me, you’d find just about everything.
You should message me if
You’re tired of being bored on dates, being single at your friends’ dinner parties, being alone on those nights when you don’t feel inspired to go out but would like some company…well, you get the picture. You just should! I’m an avid responder.

A Bit of (Bar) Back Story

So I’ve been thinking that, given I may not have the time (or the patience) for the online dating blather soon, maybe what I will blog about is the process of starting a whole new life. At 56. Dunno if it will be as compelling but, well, it’s what I’ll be going through and this blog has always been about that! I know Jeff might be disappointed (sorry, Jeff!) and I won’t be ruling out dating altogether. Meaning if someone asks me out, I’ll certainly go! But if I’m gonna have a new life, a whole new frame of mind might be good too!

Anyway, the beginning. Last January a close friend of mine died. I still haven’t blogged about it because I…just can’t. Yet. Maybe never. Plenty has been written about grief. Probably more eloquently than I could muster. I’ve never really had to deal with it. Relatives have died, yes, but never anyone so close to me. This death — my grief — motivated me to look for a “kick in the ass.” Years ago I did the whole Lifespring thing and I wanted to experience a similar “reset” so I took the Landmark Forum course. It provided me with so many “ah-ha” moments. The same few days I was taking the course a friend called to ask if I wanted to buy a bar his company was thinking of selling. I asked my sister, “Hey, wanna buy me a bar?” Surprisingly she didn’t say no.

That series of events set this whole thing into motion. I had already been researching the business and interviewing bar owners, taking notes and receiving “homework” from people. It’s been a long journey, one that obviously is far from over. I’ve made an offer. Nothing is inked yet. It could all fall through or I could be holding the keys by next week.

Stay tuned. Gulp.