Taffer Handles the Handlebar CafeJuly 21, 2013 By: Mary-Kate Dunphy
Success should be perpetual when a biker bar is placed on a busy freeway with six motorcycle dealers within a 20 mile radius, but somehow, the Handlebar Café in Pawcatuck, CT managed to defy the odds and set themselves up for failure. Back in 2001 when bartender Betsy Mitchel-Cipriano bought the Handlebar Café, business was booming due to her larger than life personality.
Betsy and her bartender sister, Stephanie, make fools of themselves on a nightly basis by drinking on the job and treating the bar like a stage. The combination of over pouring, lack of food and the sisters’ big personalities lead to big losses. The Handlebar Café was losing $4,000 a month and was 3 months away from closing when Jon Taffer stepped in to rescue Betsy and her business.
Taffer along with Professional Chef Brian Duffy and 2012 Bartender of the Year Russell Davis assessed the problem areas of the Handlebar Café and started working. Chef Duffy created a simple menu and a food program was opened. Davis worked relentlessly with the bartenders teaching them simple cocktails that bikers will love. Taffer and his team instilled a sense of work ethic and hospitality in each employee of the Handlebar Café.
The Handlebar Café was renamed the Handlebar and Grill and was completely transformed. The front of the bar is now inviting and noticeable to the fast cars moving down Route 1. When walking into the bar, the tacky décor was replaced with cool, eye catching interior and new equipment was put behind the bar and in the kitchen. Six weeks after the relaunch, the Handlebar and Grill’s drink sales are up 25% and patrons are thrilled about the new menu.