In 2012, successful commercial glazer contractor Richard Ramos drew up the plans for his family’s future and invested $250 thousand into the Los Angeles Brewing Company; a newly renovated bar in the historic Chapman building located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
With the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles attracting more locals to the area, the 100 brew tap system drew customers to the bar. When Richard first invested in the venue it was making $2 Million dollars a year. However, unfortunately, there was a discrepancy between owners and a dispute took place that got ugly. After the legal dispute, Richard convinced his family to lend him $250 thousand dollars for a buyout in order to take over full ownership of the bar and act as general manager.
In order to cut down on operating costs, Richard replaced the bars management staff with his family members and slashed the inventory in half. Now, the Los Angeles Brewing Company is losing $15,000 a month and Richard is taking the profits from his families glazing company to cover the cost. With the bar continuing to lose money, Richard’s family now finds themselves $1 million dollars in debt and at odd on whether to close the bar and cut their losses.
On the verge of losing his bar and shattering his family’s finances, Richard has finally agreed to bust open the books and make the call to Bar Rescue for help.
Downtown Los Angeles is home to the historic theater district and for over 50 years Broadway was the busiest commercial street in all of Los Angeles. However, the economic recession in the 1970’s changed the landscape on Broadway and forced businesses to close. In 2008, determined to restore the theater district, the city council launched the 10 year revalorization project called Bringing Back Broadway.
Now, Broadway has developed into a trendy nightlife hot spot averaging $300 per square foot in annual sales. Failing to capitalize on the downtown transformation is the Los Angeles Brewing Company.
Joining Jon Taffer in the recon is celebrity and television host Maria Menounos. A resident of Los Angeles for over a decade, Maria has her finger on the pulse of the growing downtown nightlife scene. Jon and Maria stake out the LA Brewing Company, a 7,000 square foot bar featuring a glass countertop, full service kitchen and a 100 tap brew system that’s missing over 80% of its tap handles.
The sheer size of the venue is going to be a challenge for Taffer and his team. Bars in the area average $300 per square foot in annual sales and this place only averages $100 per square foot; which isn’t enough to cover their operating costs.
As Taffer and Maria head into the bar, Jon also sends in a second recon group to see if the service is consistent. Taffer immediate brings up a couple of issues that baffle him about the property – they don’t brew their own beer, they only have 18 beers on tap when the sign says they offer 100 and the bartenders cant pour a beer correctly.
Maria takes a sip of her beer and immediately spits it out. The beer is bitter and flat, indicating that there are some serious issues with the tap system. When they begin to inspect the system black dirt comes out of the taps and white mold is seeping out of the tap lines.
Taffer becomes even more worried when he orders chicken wings and the inside is dark and dry, clearly showing that they are using frozen products and are not cooking them properly. Once inside the kitchen all of the condiments and prep material are sitting out on the counter at room temperature and the food is spoiled. Taffer immediately goes out to make sure that his second recon team doesn’t eat any of the food. Taffer pulls apart the raw mushy burger that his recon team just took a bit out of.
It’s obvious that the food and beer are terrible but the worst problem that bar has is the owner Richard. His family is done supporting the bar and wants to sell. They don’t have faith in Richard and don’t believe that he can learn the business and turn it around. Richard has a lot to prove.
For the kitchen, Taffer brings in LA based Chef Kevin Bludso. His soulful cooking and southern spices has made his BBQ the most popular in southern California. But before Bludso gets to work training Richard and the kitchen staff he makes them clean out the slimy fryer. Once clean they take the fresh chicken that has been soaking overnight in butter milk and mix it in spices and place the chicken in the fryer once the oil is at temperature. Taking these simple extra steps to make sure the food is properly seasoned and prepared make the word of difference. Instead of the chicken being dry and dark it is juicy and cooked perfectly.
One of the most important components that will increase sales at the bar is to pair the wide selection of beer with the appropriate food. Therefore, Bludso teaches the staff to make simple pub style food items, like a fresh steak sandwich, that complement the flavors of the different style beers they offer.
To hop up the bar, Taffer brings in Master Cicerone, Neil Witte. Neil’s extensive knowledge of beer and draught systems will help transform this flat line bar into the head of the class. Neil gets to work teaching the staff about everything beer.
They need to pour beer the right way in order to maximize the flavors that are there. To pour the perfect beer they need to start slow in order to manufacture the head. Holding the glass at a 45 degree angle and letting the head continue to form in the glass about a half inch to one inch on the top will give you the perfect pour.
They also need to make sure that not only is everything clean but they want to make sure that it’s fresh. If they can’t turn a keg in two weeks then they shouldn’t carry it. After two weeks the beer starts to go bad and oxidize; developing flavors like paper and cardboard. These are undesirable flavors that you don’t want to serve to customers. People will instantly know when a beer is not right and they will go somewhere else.
During the stress test Richard broke one of the cardinal rules to owning a beer bar. You always need to have a back up to the gas tank. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas provide the external pressure necessary to force beer from a keg to the tap in a draft beer system. Too little gas pressure can cause beer to go flat, and no pressure at all makes dispensing beer impossible. To avoid this, CO2 tanks must be monitored frequently to ensure gas levels are within the range suggested by the beers brewer.
When it comes to the family dynamic and Richard’s involvement in the bar, there were some serious decisions that needed to be made. Either they bring in the right management team, since it was clear that Richard was not capable of his duties or they sell the bar. In order to save the bar, Richard agreed to step down as general manager and appoint someone that was more capable of running the show.
Taffer and his team turned the Los Angeles Brewing Company into LA Brew Co; an actual brew pub that utilizes a SmartBrew system to brew their own beer. Six weeks after the relaunch food sales are up 25% and drink sales are up 30%. Israel, the new general manager, is successfully managing the bar and Richard is no longer using money from his family’s company to help run the bar.