Reno's Murphy's Law is in a Nosedive
This year, 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, Murphy’s Law Irish Pub in Reno, Nevada will become just another statistic.
In 2011, after a successful career as an airline pilot, Gary Telfer changed course from his life in aviation and opened a bar with his girlfriend Maria. Needing an additional $25,000 to cover the down payment, Gary enlisted friend and local bartender “Nellie” to jump onboard as an investor. After finalizing the paperwork, Gary broke down the corporation, with he and Maria each owning 40 percent and Nellie owning 20 percent of the business.
In 2014, the crew took flight and Murphy’s Law had their grand reopening. In their first week, the team made $7,000 but as the business was taking off, Gary’s relationship with Maria was in a nosedive. Consumed by the breakup and unable to focus on the business, Gary continued to support Maria financially and stood by as she proceeded to drain the bar of its profits, causing friction between the owners. As Nellie hits his breaking point, Gary is dumping thousands into the bar each month. With his life spiraling downward and the business in a quick descent, Gary is only four months away from losing everything. Now, in an attempt to avoid disaster, Gary has agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books and make a call for help to Bar Rescue.
Jon Taffer, along with Diageo Master of Whisky Gerry Graham and executive chef of The Venice WhalerNick Liberato, have their hands full with this rescue. Murphy’s Law is meant to be identified as an Irish pub but the sign is green, white and red (Italian) rather than green, white and orange (Irish), there are no snuggies, the room is large and not intimate in any way and the kitchen consists of wood surfaces and walls and a residential hot plate. Also, while co-owner Gary invested $165,000 of his retirement funds to open Murphy’s Law and co-owner/bartender Mark “Nellie” Nelson invested $25,000, Maria came to the table with zero dollars and still took 40 percent of the pie.
To make matters worse, Gary and Maria routinely sit at the bar and don’t life a finger to help Nellie even when he’s in the weeds: they don’t help replenish ice, don’t help out with glassware, don’t even run food. Gary has clearly given up and, as Jon noted, is suffering from BMS: Broken Man Syndrome. He’s fearful of kicking Maria out of the business and out of his life and almost came to blows with a frustrated and angry Nellie in the parking lot of Murphy’s Law while Jon, Gerry and Chef Nicky were observing the dying bar.
Each day, 23,000 cars drive by Murphy’s Law, located in Reno, NV. Reno, like Las Vegas, relies on both the loyalty of locals and the support of tourists. Understanding the crucial link between locals and visitors looking for a bar to check out, Jon explains that 67 percent of all tourists make their decisions on a bar based upon the recommendations of locals. To succeed, Murphy’s Law needs to be easily identifiable as a bar by those driving by and offer locals an excellent customer experience so they’ll recommend the bar tourists.
The first renovation, however, is the brand-new kitchen. Prior to being rescued, the kitchen had wooden surfaces and wooden walls. Wood, being porous, absorbs the grease produced from cooking. Not only is this incredibly dangerous as it presents a major fire hazard, it’s also against code. Before tackling the rest of the bar, Jon has his Bar Rescue team install FRP, or Fire Resistant Paneling. These panels can withstand temperatures of up to 1,200-degrees Fahrenheit and help to prevent a kitchen fire, should one occur, from spreading through the rest of the building.
Murphy’s Law is now Money Bar, an homage to Post-Prohibition 1930s Reno. Part of the renovation includes increasing the number of barstools from the 27 Murphy’s Law was using to 60, more than doubling the moneymaking seating. A barstool is worth roughly $10,000 per year, pushing up Money Bar’s revenue stream from just over a quarter-million dollars to well over a half-million.
After six week as Money Bar, food and beverage sales are up 20 percent. Gary is much happier and proud of his bar. Nellie is paying back the $25,000 loan he received from his mother.
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