Out With Mystique and in With a New AuraAugust 12, 2012 By: Kristen Santoro
A person walking into a venue forms an opinion within the first three to five steps. However, in the case of Mystique Lounge in West Palm Beach, FL, opinions are formed before the customer even gets to the front door. And it’s not a positive opinion.
When a murder haunts a nightclub combined with inexperienced owners and staff you get a venue that’s headed into a vicious downward spiral. This deadly combination of factors has left Mystique Lounge suffering big financial losses. Owners Torres Anwar and Darren Cummings tried to turn around the nightclub by hiring, John, an up and coming promoter.
At a point of desperation, Torres and Darren made an unheard of agreement in the nightclub business give John 100% of the door profits in order to attract higher end clientele. Even with this arrangement the nightclub continued to be plagued by unruly and violent crowds. Relying solely on beverage sales, which diminished by 50% after the cover charge, the nightclub continued to lose money.
Currently $80,000 in debt with $2,500 more mounting each week has prompted the decision to invite Jon Taffer of “Bar Rescue” in to help shine a positive light on the ill-fated nightclub.
One of the biggest mistakes that Torres and Darren made when taking over the nightclub was not changing its name. With a history of violence tied to it, it was inevitable that aggressive crowds would continue to descend upon Mystique, if any at all. “People don’t want to go to a bar where they don’t feel safe and a murder is about as unsafe as it can get!” shouts Taffer.
Not only is the history and branding off-putting, to say the least, but they also suffer from lack of standards – especially cleaning – and training for it service staff. They are trying to be a high-end nightclub relying on bottle service and a high energy vibe as the main draw. However, Mystique is missing the mark completely in both areas.
Beyond the staff, name and perception problems, Mystique suffers from a completely outdated look. Even with a relatively good layout, 3,700 square feet, the entire nightclub looks like a jail cell. It’s dark, gray and as tattered as you can get. Service expert Jessie Barns even stated that the VIP bottle service tables looks like “a toilet without the bucket in it.” Torres and Darren care about the nightclub and the community but they don’t understand that they need to elevate the guest experience to draw in the right clientele.
While the perception problems and ill-trained staff are huge, Taffer first needs to address the severe sanitation issues. After finding multiple standard cleaning procedures completely ignored including not hooking up the sanitation chemicals to the dishwasher! Seriously? The germ infested bar is so bad that Taffer demands that the staff clean the bar from top to bottom before they even begin their rescue.
Once the staff has taken care of cleaning the bar Taffer calls in renowned service trainer and bottle expert Jessie Barns to begin training the staff on augmenting their skills in order to attract the high end customers that will pay $200, not for the bottle but for the VIP experience. Jessie stresses this throughout the training; “it’s all about making the guest feel special and presentation is everything.” Barns reiterated the little things that make the experience special – don’t put a dirty bottle in the ice that will go in a drink, place the glasses on a clean napkin in an appealing formation and most importantly use clean crafts and glasses.
Expert Mixologist Joe Meyer also makes fast work of training staff, emphasizing the importance of consistent use of drink recipes, proper pour techniques, garnishing and glassware. Meyer schools the bar staff to serve cocktails that are classic and fresh. However, during the stress test tempers begin to flair and one staff member resorts to old habits of drinking at the bar. This unacceptable behavior is quickly reprimanded by Taffer and Mystique owners let Brittany go.
That’s only half of the equation, however. For any bar to truly succeed, it also needs to keep its patron safe at all times, especially given the past incidents that have occurred at the nightclub. Taffer helps Mystique take steps in the right direction by properly training the door staff and security guards. Mandating dress codes, training on proper door protocol and utilizing the necessary technologies needed will arm the staff and keep the unruly crowds at bay. Diffusing the situation as best as possible, keeping stress levels down and having open communication with local authorities if an issue does arise are key.
Through a series of upgrades and improvements Taffer not only the enhanced the atmosphere, he added unique elements that enabled the staff to seamlessly provide proper service. The staff no longer needs to climb over or duck under the bar. The bottle servers have their own service station in order to cut down on the foot traffic across the floor making service efficient and timely.
Taffer adds tiered tables and decorative features to the VIP areas. Both provide previously absent comfort elements, which will invite patrons to settle in and stay longer. A custom lighting system also enriches the space by designating a dance floor that is close to the DJ booth.
The biggest turnaround comes when Taffer encourages Torres and Darren to take over their own destiny and let John go. They need to be confident in their brand and they will be able to attract the clientele need to succeed on their own.
The re-opening of the venue as Aura Nightclub provides a new positive energy that the owners and staff can feel proud of. It also proves successful from an operational standpoint: Bartenders are serving up balanced, fresh, properly poured cocktails, while the bottle servers elevate guest experience through newly acquired skills. With the new tools and skills the door and security staff attained they are new equipped to manage the growing crowds.
On the perception front, patrons are pleased with the positive theme and far more comfortable surroundings. Moving out from under the shadow of its past and restoring a positive aura was not an easy task. After three months bar sales are up, bottle sales are up and the venue has been incident free. Owners Torres and Darren have taken control of the business and managing their team effectively. They plan on having their debt paid by the end of the year.