BRANDON! Make Me a Drink and THEN Call Bar Rescue!August 4, 2013 By: Mary-Kate Dunphy
Las Vegas, Nevada, (a.k.a. Sin City); visited by 39,000,000 tourists yearly and the third most popular travel destination for gay travelers, is home to failing Gipsy Nightclub. Gipsy is practically an institution being that it is the first and longest running gay nightclub in Sin City. With 4,400 square feet to work with, Gipsy’s main bar has two speedwells, a broken and unused service station and a sunken dance floor for the club’s drag show.
The club opened in 1977 and was acquired by the current owner, Paul, in 1993. Before the late 90’s, Gipsy had a reputation for being the hottest gay club in the city; then came the mega resort boom which provided bigger and better options for gay club goers.
Las Vegas rakes in $1 billion in bar sales alone each year, Gipsy should stand a fighting chance, right? Wrong. The owner has made sure of the club’s demise with his excessive drinking, crude behavior, and pure negligence. The lead bartender, Brandon, says that Gipsy seems to be stuck in some strange 90’s time warp. At its peak, Gipsy was making $160,000 a month and due to Paul’s irresponsible management style, it is now losing $15,000 a month, not to mention the $400,000 fine that he has received for neglecting to pay live entertainment taxes. Today, Paul has found himself with a whopping $2 million deficit.
While Taffer and Rachel Ford, a master mixologist for Diageo, steak out the bar for the recon. It is immediately evident as to why Gipsy has fallen into a downward spiral. The outside of the bar looks like it has not been updated since it’s opening in 1977; the exterior of the club looks run down and the sign that reads ‘GIPSY’ has a letter that doesn’t light up along with the rest of them.
Two experts from Angel Management Group, North America’s largest nightlife entertainment group, Daniel and Joe, are sent into the club to further expose Gipsy’s problem areas. Daniel and Joe walk into the empty club, sit at the bar, and order drinks. A gin martini was ordered; the result was a plastic cup filled with straight gin because Gipsy does not have simple necessities behind the bar like vermouth. It is quite obvious that the employees behind the bar have not been properly trained.
Aside from the poorly made drinks, Joe and Daniel soon experience the most shocking example of ownership either of them had ever seen; Paul is screaming, cursing, and drinking heavily. While intoxicated, Paul degrades his employees with verbal abuse and inappropriate touching. He creates a toxic environment for his employees and his customers, which is exactly why there are very few of them. It is quite apparent that Paul’s employees are sick and tired of his actions due to the hostility they clearly harbor towards him.
Fed up, Brandon says, “What is he even doing here, anyway?” Paul pulls disappearing acts to seemingly run away from his problems. He will leave his club for days, maybe even a week at a time and when he returns he causes more problems than he solves because of his arrogance and heavy drinking.
In addition, the drag show is not as ‘amazing’ as the performers claim. There are actually pretty solid performers, but no one would know since they can’t be seen caused by the terrible lighting. Gipsy is far behind the times with the technology and service that allow for the appearance of a professionally run production.
Paul continues to take his outrageous behavior to an extreme level by screaming even louder at almost all of his employees and throwing drinks across his own bar. After yet another sexual comment directed at one of his dancers, Taffer has had enough and decides head into the bar. As soon as Jon addresses Paul, it is as if he is reprimanding a child. Paul takes no accountability for his blatant disrespect for his employees and customers and responds to Jon with, “I’m thirsty.” After shouting at Paul, Taffer realizes it is pointless to talk to a person that intoxicated and walks out in hopes Paul’s attitude will change along with his blood alcohol level.
Jon returns the next day hopeful and feeling a great sense of patience. While he sits down with Paul to discuss his inexcusable behavior, Paul seems surprisingly apologetic and humble. Paul says his drinking is due to depression caused by his mother’s passing; hence why he runs away from his problems by leaving his nightclub.
Taffer makes Paul to vow that he will remain sober through the duration of the rescue or he will not continue to work with him. Paul is then forced to apologize to his staff, while some seem to believe he is actually apologetic, others do not buy into it due to his history of inappropriate conduct.
Performers Kenneth and Larry express to Paul that they remember the ‘old’ Paul that was filled with drive and fire; they wish for his return. Brandon, the employee with the most longevity says he does not believe Paul’s apology is sincere because he is the equivalent to ‘Jekyll and Hyde.’
Rachel and Jon take the staff behind the bar to examine their work station and it is concluded that the bar is extremely unsanitary. There is no excuse for a work station to get to the point where there is slime on the bottles and unusable produce behind the bar; the managers and owner are as accountable for the grime as the bartenders. The staff rallies together and cleans the bar within a few hours.
After the bar is clean, Rachel gets to work. She teaches the staff the correct approach to simple cocktails while conducting team building exercises at the same time. The staff seems to work well together when they are not being taunted.
During the stress test later that night, the strong bartenders were separated from the weak and it was clear that the service bar needs to be repaired and visibly defined due to congestion around the bar area. The drag show proved to Taffer that the performers have the ability to entertain but something needs to change. The show went on for 45 minutes and during that time the bar completely stopped and flooded towards the show. Paul was actually sober and sociable the entire night; this was the first glimpse of Paul behaving like an actual owner.
To increase drink sales during the performances, Jon has come up with the idea to put in three performance stages with brand new lighting technology. Having different, short shows throughout the night will be a burst of energy and perpetuate drink sales as opposed to stopping them entirely. Jon informs the staff that not only Larry and Kenneth will be performing but the entire bar staff; everyone is optimistic and welcomes this idea. Dominique Kelley, a professional choreographer is brought in to teach the staff simple, stimulating dance moves. This boosts the team’s comradely bond.
To improve Gipsy’s image, Taffer has decided to go with a sexy, high-energy theme; 1950’s South Beach. Rachel teaches the staff to make simple, delicious cocktails inspired by this theme. The staff is enthusiastic about the relaunch and there is no denying their improved relationships. However, before the reveal, Paul fires his longest standing employee, Brandon. Paul seems to be stuck in his old ways and refuses to give Brandon or anything a chance.
Taffer brought South Beach to Vegas by transforming Gipsy into SBLV, which stands for South Beach Las Vegas. As the staff walks into their new and improved workplace, they enter a completely different club with reupholstered couches and new furniture. There is now a service station to pump out drinks faster. Being that a seat in a bar is essentially worth $15,000 a year, Taffer added 28 seats, along with the three performance platforms, as promised.
Behind the bar, new POS systems have been implanted and the plumbing has been completely redone. Even the workers will change behind the bar because of the new butler inspired uniforms Jon has given them to bring the 1950’s theme full circle.
Everyone is ecstatic, except for one person. You guessed it! Paul is unsatisfied with the new club, says it is horrible, and falls back into his old ways and walks out of the club. The staff decided to go on without Paul which was a wise decision because it gave them the opportunity to shine without the negativity dragging them down.
The 2-3 minute performances throughout the night were a smashing success, the whole bar was ordering drinks all night and during every show. “I thought it was great to be featured on the platform as well as hearing the rings of the cash register going off,” the performer Larry said.
The staff did a truly amazing job throughout the night and Chino, the general manager, really took charge and showed the staff that they can go on without their owner. Only time would tell what direction the lounge would go in upon Paul’s return and unfortunately he resurfaced two days later and closed SBLV’s doors. Three months later, the doors still remain closed and it is quite apparent that Paul has not changed….nor has his $2 million dollar debt.