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A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

Old Apr 3rd 2007, 6:36 am
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Default A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

It was surprisingly painless. She walked out into the Barcelona night, and the staff busied themselves, whilst I sat at the bar trying to understand what was happening. Searching the back office showed that no book keeping had ever taken place. Worse, it transpired that my sweet pea had a habit of signing cheques and then leaving them in the cheque book to be dated and filled out later. Whilst this forward thinking is to be applauded, the only real applause came from the thief who managed to cash one of these to the tune of over $2,000! Looking back I can see that the sheer responsibility, along with antagonistic US/Spanish relations with the staff and long hours were just too much. She later told me (much, much later!) that being run out of her own bar, once she'd gotten over the ego bit, was probably a life saver.
Well, when we closed, Santi showed me how to make a pizza, and so I cooked for all of us. We sat down to eat, drink and for me to find out what makes a place tick in Spain. A plan. The next day the place was closed for 2 weeks. I redecorated, from top to bottom. No catering just to English speakers anymore. The menu was reduced to just 6 or 7 items (from around 25...all that prep and cooking time), all fast and cheap, infact the prices were dropped on everything. Stopped doing lunches. Staff could choose their own hours from amongst themselves, and were paid bonuses if the months take reached certain targets. In short, cut hours, increased "table" turnover, and encouraged the staff to "sell"...brandy with that cortado?, tapas with that beer?, but all in the nicest possible way. I learned to cook and wait tables, learning "bar" Spanish on the way! I leaned about % food costs, how to play one beer supplier off against another to get that extra free cooler or extra 4 barrels a week. I also learned whose hand to shake, how to deal with heavy boring people, to clear out a bar of 150 drunks at closing time (and make them keep quiet in the street!), and, unfortunately, I learnt how to tell who was carrying a knife!
All this while I was eagerly awaiting my new food/drinks licence (C3, I think they called it). Now this was the best one could get (as during this period, they were cutting back the number of licences), and would immediately bump up the price of the property. Even better, it would be in my name, and I would be able to trasspasso this, along with the restaurant, and finally see some return on my foolish investment. Ahhh...the sweet ideals of youth.
Local government transparency has never been one of Spain's' attributes, and 12 years ago, even less so. Having agreed a date for receiving my little blue and silver licence plaque, along with all the relevant paperwork, things started to go eerily left field. It transpired that various "normatives" hadn't been carried out correctly, in spite of having passed all those rigirous inspections before opening. On recalculation, the ventilation didn't move quite enough m2 of air, the entrance door wasn't quite wide enough, and the wrong type of fire retardant paint was on all the woodwork. The distance behind the bar was 2 cm short on width, the radio needed a volume control device and the list went on and on. Over a coffee one of the inspectors told me that it was all a "political" game, and that someone with "connections" had their eye on this new licence. Soon my ears were buzzing with hear-say. Our beer supply guy seemed to know, the lady in the corner shop, every bar in the neighbourhood, seemed to have wind of something coming over the hill. And all this whilst the bar was going at 200%, totally packed from opening to closing time. But the real reason became apparent after one of my upstairs neighbours popped in, drunk as a, well, very drunken person. He said that this licence was too valuable to be given to a "foreigner", that they hated the smell of pizza, and that a house meeting had taken place where it was decided that my time had come! A few days later, whilst I was away from the premises, a social security inspector appeared and asked all for their details/times worked. One of the staff had left his stuff at home (about 5 mins away) and in spite of offering to go and collect them....the police appeared (with their tape) and the story ended. It should have come to this earlier, as I was being pushed into pressing a denoucement against the local government for harassment, and whilst this worked its way through the slow, slow court system, the bar would have had to remain closed. (Or so my useless lawyer told me later). Either way, I lost.
Ahhhh, but whose this lurking just out of camera shot....tiss my fragrant ( but still very angry and later to be ex) wife! I had heard that she was planning to return to the States (possibly the best place for an American) but thought nothing of it or its possible consequences until I went to the bank to get the huge sums necessary to pay off my now unemployed staff. With all the fun and games over the licencing it had slipped my mind that we still enjoyed a joint account. And she certainly enjoyed it!! In America. And that, truly, was the end.
Those glossy magazines were opening in Hungary.........
A year later I was in Barcelona, and couldn't resist the urge, along with some friends to go visit our old haunt. Sitting up at the bar, I noticed that the door was the same, so was the bar, and the chimney, and the ventilation. And that lovely blue and silver licence plaque winked at me from the wall.. I asked the unknown guy behind the bar did they know what had happened to the previous owner? Apparently he (me) had run a very busy bar, but had tired of it and the last anyone had heard was that he had left Spain for pastures new. Smile!
Well, I shall have him know, that I'm going to be in Valencia on the 19th of this month looking for a villa, and then I shall be moving lock, stock and barrel back to Spain!
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Old Apr 3rd 2007, 7:00 am
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Default Re: A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

Wow!

What a ride!

I am guessing that things have improved immensely for you since and you so deserve it!

Best of luck for your future,
Martha
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Old Apr 3rd 2007, 7:10 am
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Default Re: A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

Lost for words my friend ......
Hope your arrival in Valencia gives you more success.
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Old Apr 3rd 2007, 7:13 am
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Default Re: A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

Best of luck to you. Obviously a writer as well as a damn good pizza maker.
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Old Apr 3rd 2007, 8:25 am
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Default Re: A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

Originally Posted by littlelambfound
It was surprisingly painless. She walked out into the Barcelona night, and the staff busied themselves, whilst I sat at the bar trying to understand what was happening. Searching the back office showed that no book keeping had ever taken place. Worse, it transpired that my sweet pea had a habit of signing cheques and then leaving them in the cheque book to be dated and filled out later. Whilst this forward thinking is to be applauded, the only real applause came from the thief who managed to cash one of these to the tune of over $2,000! Looking back I can see that the sheer responsibility, along with antagonistic US/Spanish relations with the staff and long hours were just too much. She later told me (much, much later!) that being run out of her own bar, once she'd gotten over the ego bit, was probably a life saver.
Well, when we closed, Santi showed me how to make a pizza, and so I cooked for all of us. We sat down to eat, drink and for me to find out what makes a place tick in Spain. A plan. The next day the place was closed for 2 weeks. I redecorated, from top to bottom. No catering just to English speakers anymore. The menu was reduced to just 6 or 7 items (from around 25...all that prep and cooking time), all fast and cheap, infact the prices were dropped on everything. Stopped doing lunches. Staff could choose their own hours from amongst themselves, and were paid bonuses if the months take reached certain targets. In short, cut hours, increased "table" turnover, and encouraged the staff to "sell"...brandy with that cortado?, tapas with that beer?, but all in the nicest possible way. I learned to cook and wait tables, learning "bar" Spanish on the way! I leaned about % food costs, how to play one beer supplier off against another to get that extra free cooler or extra 4 barrels a week. I also learned whose hand to shake, how to deal with heavy boring people, to clear out a bar of 150 drunks at closing time (and make them keep quiet in the street!), and, unfortunately, I learnt how to tell who was carrying a knife!
All this while I was eagerly awaiting my new food/drinks licence (C3, I think they called it). Now this was the best one could get (as during this period, they were cutting back the number of licences), and would immediately bump up the price of the property. Even better, it would be in my name, and I would be able to trasspasso this, along with the restaurant, and finally see some return on my foolish investment. Ahhh...the sweet ideals of youth.
Local government transparency has never been one of Spain's' attributes, and 12 years ago, even less so. Having agreed a date for receiving my little blue and silver licence plaque, along with all the relevant paperwork, things started to go eerily left field. It transpired that various "normatives" hadn't been carried out correctly, in spite of having passed all those rigirous inspections before opening. On recalculation, the ventilation didn't move quite enough m2 of air, the entrance door wasn't quite wide enough, and the wrong type of fire retardant paint was on all the woodwork. The distance behind the bar was 2 cm short on width, the radio needed a volume control device and the list went on and on. Over a coffee one of the inspectors told me that it was all a "political" game, and that someone with "connections" had their eye on this new licence. Soon my ears were buzzing with hear-say. Our beer supply guy seemed to know, the lady in the corner shop, every bar in the neighbourhood, seemed to have wind of something coming over the hill. And all this whilst the bar was going at 200%, totally packed from opening to closing time. But the real reason became apparent after one of my upstairs neighbours popped in, drunk as a, well, very drunken person. He said that this licence was too valuable to be given to a "foreigner", that they hated the smell of pizza, and that a house meeting had taken place where it was decided that my time had come! A few days later, whilst I was away from the premises, a social security inspector appeared and asked all for their details/times worked. One of the staff had left his stuff at home (about 5 mins away) and in spite of offering to go and collect them....the police appeared (with their tape) and the story ended. It should have come to this earlier, as I was being pushed into pressing a denoucement against the local government for harassment, and whilst this worked its way through the slow, slow court system, the bar would have had to remain closed. (Or so my useless lawyer told me later). Either way, I lost.
Ahhhh, but whose this lurking just out of camera shot....tiss my fragrant ( but still very angry and later to be ex) wife! I had heard that she was planning to return to the States (possibly the best place for an American) but thought nothing of it or its possible consequences until I went to the bank to get the huge sums necessary to pay off my now unemployed staff. With all the fun and games over the licencing it had slipped my mind that we still enjoyed a joint account. And she certainly enjoyed it!! In America. And that, truly, was the end.
Those glossy magazines were opening in Hungary.........
A year later I was in Barcelona, and couldn't resist the urge, along with some friends to go visit our old haunt. Sitting up at the bar, I noticed that the door was the same, so was the bar, and the chimney, and the ventilation. And that lovely blue and silver licence plaque winked at me from the wall.. I asked the unknown guy behind the bar did they know what had happened to the previous owner? Apparently he (me) had run a very busy bar, but had tired of it and the last anyone had heard was that he had left Spain for pastures new. Smile!
Well, I shall have him know, that I'm going to be in Valencia on the 19th of this month looking for a villa, and then I shall be moving lock, stock and barrel back to Spain!
Just don't do it, why work 80 hours per week when you could return to the UK and not have to work if u play ur cards right, wink wink!
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Old Apr 3rd 2007, 8:38 am
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Default Re: A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

Well, as the say, it's not the end result (we all know what that is!) but it's the journey. To that end I'm so very glad that things took the path they did. This forum is addressed daily by those who took a chance. For many here all worked out, and for some it was necessary to return home. But all are now wiser, and because of it, happier. I would certainly be the first to encourage anyone to look for thier limits. People are often surprised by what they can acheive if tested. The real problem is that many are afraid.
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Old Apr 3rd 2007, 9:34 am
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Default Re: A Cautionary Tale of how NOT to open a bar....cont

A very good story , forget running a bar , go with the writing books you will make a million
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