When Shelton Bouknight invested his 401K into The Kasbah in 1997, it was the first old school dance club in the Denver area. The Kasbah was an overnight success breaking into an unexploited market; in the first few years, The Kasbah brought in $85,000 a month and $800,000 plus a year. Those few years of extreme success were short-lived once The Kasbah’s party goers got a little too old for their dancing shoes. Fifteen years since it’s opening, the mature crowd was replaced with a youthful hip-hop scene. This young crowd brought many things, but profit for The Kasbah was certainly not one of them. Customers often sneak alcohol into the club, cutting in on Bouknight’s revenue. Due to the youthful, hip-hop atmosphere, there are 5 to 6 incidents a month regarding violence or pimps. The combination of violence and gang affiliated customers work together to create an unsafe environment which draws away an immense client base.
In many ways, Shelton Bouknight had given up hope; he has set the precedence in The Kasbah that it’s acceptable to slack off because there will be no repercussions after the staff displays inadequate work ethic. “When we feel like doing it, that’s when we’re gonna do it,” a bartender at The Kasbah states. Shelton has lost his fire and fortitude to succeed which is literally something he cannot afford to lose. Consequently, the Kasbah is losing $8,000 a month and Shelton is $130,000 dollars in debt.
While The Kasbah was once the hot spot for the club scene around Denver, times change and businesses must change with it or get left behind. The Kasbah is nine miles east of Downtown Denver in Aurora, Colorado. With a population of 330,000 people, and a median age of 33, one third of these people are single. There are approximately 13,000 singles in their 20’s and 30’s within a mile radius of The Kasbah. All these singles are in search of a cool hang out where they can meet people; the main objective of The Kasbah – being the spot for all these singles to mingle.
During the recon, Jon Taffer and his team of experts (Elayne Duke, Aaron McCargo) are bewildered by the security issues and terrible customer service displayed at The Kasbah. Not only does this nightclub have problems with the staff, but with the actual club itself; The Kasbah does not look like a nightclub. The word ‘kasbah’ is Moroccan and has no essence of a Moroccan theme which is conflicting and confusing.
All aspects of this club mix together to make up an anti-female business. The patrons at The Kasbah are rowdy thugs who make it almost impossible for a woman to sit down with her girlfriends and enjoy a relaxing evening of drinks and dancing; the recon proved this. The girls were harassed until an altercation arose with two males. It took ten minutes and the crash of a broken glass for security guard, Ron “Superman,” to get off his stool and help. While all this was going on, Shelton Bouknight was nowhere to be found; a club cannot manage its self and Shelton’s absence throughout the night is unacceptable. “This bar is doing nothing right,” Taffer concludes.
Taffer sits down with Bouknight and breaks down what he is losing. In one night, there were only 487 transactions for about 500 guests; that’s only 1 transaction per customer which is tremendously below average. At a typical bar 2.5 transactions for each customer are made in the first hour, 1.5 in the second, and 1 and a quarter in the third. In these three hours, Shelton is losing about $30 per customer and a total loss of 77% of potential profit. Taffer has set a goal for The Kasbah to double sales and start turning a profit.
Jon Taffer understands the many issues with The Kasbah and he wants to transform it into the fun, profitable business it once was. The staff was never given any formal training, so Jon, Elayne, and Aaron take the employees back to square one. Jon worked with Shelton, encouraging him to get angry at the staff for their lack of respect and work ethic.
Elyane Duke, head mixologist for Diageo, trained the bartenders behind the bar and in the basics of customer service. Duke created a female friendly drink menu which will appeal to the clientele of The Kasbah, with drink names such as “DJ Mixx” and “The Hypeman.” The ladies behind the bar took direction from Elayne graciously and were enthusiastic and optimistic about the new drink menu. Profession Chef Aaron McCargo worked with the kitchen staff and due to the cleanliness issue, the staff was taught basic cleaning rules. Besides the hygiene issue, there are two main problems with the food at The Kasbah: what it comes in and the portions. McCargo was appalled to see a sit down nightclub served food in a styrofoam to-go box when they have glass plates in the kitchen. The other problem is the portions in which the food is served. People do not want to eat 12 chicken wings after dancing and then go right back on the dance floor. With Aaron’s help, the kitchen at The Kasbah became classier with appropriate portions.
Taffer also brought in a third expert - Doc, an expert in security, to help the extensive problems at The Kasbah. He taught the guards how to properly pat down a guest because unfortunately it is a necessity in the hip hop nightclub industry. “If they can get alcohol in, they can get a 22 in,” Doc puts the emphasis on pat downs into perspective for the security guards.
Working with Taffer seems to set a fire under Shelton, he starts to take pride in his club and his work. Security guard Ron “Superman” continues to let alcohol bottles through the door and Shelton stepped up and fired him. A new guard named Angel was brought in to replace him.
After the fundamental basics of running a nightclub were covered, The Kasbah is ready for the remodel. The entrance of The Kasbah was redone so people are drawn to the door, simple elements were placed around the entrance to pull together a Moroccan theme, and the sign was changed to have a hip, nightclub flavor. A dress code was put right outside the door which will attract a different type of customer base and keep out the look and attitude of thugs. All of these elements come together to create a contemporary nightclub image regarding the exterior.
On the interior a POS system and a Crown Royal shot machine were placed behind the bar. Empire Today, InMusic Brand, Star AV, and LED Baseline Inc. helped to embellish the heart of The Kasbah: the dance floor. While guests dance the night away, they will be accompanied by a thumping sound system and effect lighting where some of the lights actually moving with the beat of the music. Taffer and his team transformed The Kasbah into something that Shelton did not think was possible, classy.
On the night of the unveiling of the new Kasbah, the bartenders made Elayne proud by smiling, being engaged, and stepping up. Customers were satisfied with the new look and the improved customer service. The kitchen was hectic, but ran smoothly overall, delicately making small, satisfying dishes for nightclub goers.
As for the extensive security issue, the staff at the door made Doc, Taffer and Shelton proud. Security guard, Angel, caught numerous alcohol bottles, refused customers who violated the dress code, and even caught a person with drugs. A secure door is essential to the success and safety of a nightclub.The Kasbah employees have finally been trained to keep their club secure.
Shelton has transformed back into a manager on the road to success. Taffer helped him find his fire, reprimanding his employees for careless mistakes and cutting any dead weight. The Kasbah was losing $7-8,000 a month before getting help from Taffer. Now, The Kasbah is making $7,000-$10,000 every month. Since the renovation, The Kasbah has been filled to capacity every weekend with no security incidents. Bouknight is back on track to bringing back the good name of The Kasbah it once held 15 years prior.