Rebuilding Bungalow One Drink at a Time After Hurricane SandyOctober 27, 2013 By: Mary-Kate Dunphy
The largest city in the United States is New York with a population of over eight million people. New York City’s borough of Manhattan has one of the highest disposable incomes in the country with an average income of $121,549; $52,000 more than the national average. Every summer, the elite from NYC’s five boroughs travel 16 miles south to Rockaway Beach, where the once successful Bungalow Bar resides.
Ownership at Bungalow Bar is made up of five, stubborn Irish brothers who have a deep respect for one another. This tight knit family knows how to run a business; Bungalow Bar made up to $1,500,000 in summer income alone. Being right on the water, and sporting a beach atmosphere, Bungalow Bar is very much at the diversity of the weather; the bar could make $100,000 in one week if the weather permit.
In October 2012, success was viciously ripped from the brothers’ hands when Hurricane Sandy rocked the Northeastern seaboard, destroying 265,000 businesses in its path, including Bungalow Bar. After all the damage done by the storm, the brothers spent $250,000 on repairs, $60,000 on rent and utilities and $350,000 lost in revenue. The brothers rebuilt a brand new deck and continued to repair as much as humanly possible until they ran out of money. Bungalow Bar has been closed for six months and is losing $30,000 every day in profits. Bungalow has five days before the summer officially kicks off, and if Bungalow Bar does not reopen this summer, every cent that they put into their repairs, washes away with the rest of their business.
Jon Taffer arrives in Rockaway with Sal Ferro, President and CEO of Alure Home Improvements. The main challenges reside in the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The deck was ripped away from the building, the dock bridge sunk, all of the bar and kitchen equipment was completely destroyed and everything was water damaged due to the seven foot high water levels of Sandy. Taffer and Ferro need to fix all these detrimental problems, come up with a new concept and launch the new Bungalow Bar all in only five days.
While the owners at Bungalow Bar do know how to run a successful business, but they are in massive debt and to come back stronger the bar has to be raised. Taffer has the owners rally up their old staff that have been out of work for over six months and a stress test is set up for them at an alternate bar in Manhattan while Bungalow is under construction. All aspects of the business are adequate; however there is room for improvement and much room for practice, being that the staff as a whole is extremely rusty. Drink and ticket times increased throughout the night as the staff became a bit frantic. Taffer has resurrected the staff; they say they are ready to continue working throughout the 92 hours that “Bar Rescue” is on-site.
In order to brush up on the staff’s skills behind the bar, Taffer brings in Head Mixologist for Diageo, Elayne Duff and Master of Whiskey for Diageo, Peter O’Connor. Behind the bar, the staff is strong except for bartender Ryan; he was later sent to expedite food where he was more suitable. Duff and O’Connor help the staff to brush up on their techniques and created a new suitable summer drink menu.
Culinary expert, Nick Liberato, is brought in to further train the kitchen staff. Liverato explains that the food at Bungalow Bar is excellent, yet not aesthetically pleasing. In order for Bungalow to come back from their debt and get back to making profits, upping their dishes is one way to come back stronger. Liberato tweaked the dishes; before there were a lot of beef dishes with too much bread, he transformed the menu into light, female friendly meals.
Ferro and his construction team worked day and night on the repairs of Bungalow Bar. Due to weather conditions, the construction team was set behind schedule and pressed even more for time. While it takes time to rewire new equipment to make it run properly, it certainly did not help the crew when equipment arrived late.
As the crew worked down to the wire constructing the new Bungalow Bar, Jon set up a radio appearance for Terence and Dee, the majority owners. Terence and Dee expressed their gratitude after being given this opportunity to reopen; they hope the new Bungalow Bar will be a beacon of hope for Rockaway and a jump start to completely recover from Hurricane Sandy after six long months. It is truly an incredible feat that they finished in time for the reopening. People were brought together by tragedy; it truly was a relieve effort from the entire staff and crew to get these five brothers back on their feet.
When Taffer arrived in Rockaway Beach, it was impossible to leave the destruction unnoticed; however, there was one thing that stood out to him. There were American flags out in front of many of the demolished homes. This community never lost hope that they would survive, Bungalow Bar especially. When Taffer revealed the new and improved Bungalow Bar to the owners and staff, the pure joy and gratitude exuded from their smiles and tears.
Everything structurally at Bungalow Bar is brand new. Much of the new equipment, including the POS system, is now water resistant. There are murals and signs reminisce of the devastation Sandy caused, which is a testament to the brothers’ strength.
Spirits on Bourbon, a former “Bar Rescue” bar who had been badly affected by Hurricane Katrina, came in good spirits to congratulate Bungalow Bar and send them good wishes. Spirits on Bourbon is up $300,000 after their Rescue and much of it is due to their hit specialty cups. The owners of SOB also came baring gifts; they had such success with their cups that it was only fitting they supply Bungalow Bar with their very own. These cups have a button at the bottom of the cup, when you press said button the drink will flash notifying the servers that a refill is needed. Spirits on Bourbon also donated t-shirts to be sold starting that night. If that was not enough, Spirits on Bourbon donated $5,000 to Bungalow Bar in their relief effort to come back from devastation.
Nightclub & Bar Media Group also donated $5,000 to Bungalow Bar in hopes that they can come back bigger and better. Bungalow has been set up for success and being that they once had a successful business, there is no doubt that the bar will be the hit of the summer down in Rockaway Beach.
The relaunch could not have gone better; the community was awfully grateful to be able to be back at their beloved Bungalow. The brothers were working the crowd behind the bar, serving drink after drink after drink and the new food menu is a hit!
After Hurricane Sandy, their own efforts to rebuild and the help of Bar Rescue, the brothers and staff are closer than ever and Jon could not be happier with the outcome. After the relaunch, Bungalow Bar is up 20% in sales from last year, it is packed wall to wall with fresh new faces every night. At the rate the brothers are going, they will earn their money back by the summer’s end.
With tears in his eyes, owner Terence tells the audience, “I love Jon Taffer. I love Bar Rescue. Thank you.” The brothers’ gratitude and work ethic made this Jon’s most rewarding Rescue to date and there could not have been a more deserving place than Bungalow Bar to receive a helping hand.