Monday, November 25, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It's a shame that Timmy had a bad night. Did anyone else from that show agree?
According to my hand-scrawled notes, it was just after a fine cover of the Stones' Paint it Black that the trouble started. A large and seemingly very drunk audience member decided to grab Cyril's mic and pull it down toward himself to make a request of the group. Instead, he bonked himself on his bald head with the mic before he finally replaced it clumsily on the stage.
This did not sit well (understandably!) with Groovies' lead singer / guitarist Chris Wilson, who warned the man not to do that kind of thing again. It seemed a fair warning, and I expected the music to get right back on track, but it didn't quite happen that way. Apparently this patron and several of his friends were under the mistaken impression that the rest of the audience had come to see them -- that, indeed, they were the show. Some of them made obscene gestures at Wilson and at least one suggested that Wilson come down and fight him.
Chris opined that this audience member had rather better wait until after the conclusion of the concert to have his butt kicked (or words to that effect). At some point, beer bottles were thrown. One shattered somewhere near me, and I felt a rain of glass shards come down around my head and shoulders.
What Security people were there seemed slow to respond. Even once they got there, it was difficult for them to wrestle the fat balding man out of the hall. And then, even after that, it was not over. Others who remained jeered or shot the bird at Chris and, to his credit, he played the man and would not countenance this type of behavior. He asked for the troublemakers to be ejected from the music hall. Security eventually removed one or two other patrons, and the crowd where we were near the stage had thinned out quite a bit. I thought at that point: "That's it, that's our concert."
That guy couldn't have been talking about Timmy? After all, Timmy only yelled into a mic.
Labels: Timmy Vulgar
Friday, November 8, 2013
We're getting some more national media attention. Anthony Bourdain is going to air an episode of his show Sunday night that's devoted solely to Detroit, and it's going to include our favorite pseudo-journalist. I know that you're just as giddy about this as I am. Decades later, the airing of this episode will be seen as the tipping point in Detroit's comeback story. In honor of this momentous event, I've created the Bourdain in Detroit Drinking Game.
Whenever you hear the word "creative" used, take a shot.
If anyone on the show uses the phrase "blank slate", take a shot.
If Brandon Walley, or anything associated with him shows up, put some money in a paper bag and light it on fire.
If Bourdain stands in front of the Joe Louis fist during filming, take a shot.
If the American/Lafayette debate is brought up, take a shot.
If Bourdain visits an "urban farm", take a shot. If he visits an "urban farm" and fails to mention the likely presence of lead in the soil of older American neighborhoods, take a shot of drano.
If Bourdain appears at the Tashmoo Biergarten, you have to do something conventional, and then pretend that you actually just did something revolutionary.
If Bourdain shows up at the grave of a music legend and pretends to have unique insight on the deceased, take a shot.
If Bourdain takes a tour of ruin porn, but pretends that he's not like every other outsider who parachutes into the city to gape at ruin porn, punch a hipster in the face, and take a shot.
If Bourdain fails to give John Carlisle credit for finding a story first, remember that Carlisle is used to it by now, and take a shot.
If Bourdain explains the 8 Mile divide to the viewers, take a shot.
If Bourdain goes to Eastern Market and inspects raw meat, take a shot of bacon grease.
If Phil Cooley or Slow's BBQ makes an appearance, punch yourself in the crotch.
Monday, October 21, 2013
PJ just can't get himself any favorable press coverage:
Paul "PJ" Ryder is at an entrepreneurial crossroads: He loves doing business in Detroit but is struggling to make ends meet, having been denied bank loans to help relieve some debt obligations. So he is considering selling his rock 'n' roll dream.
After all, his Corktown business, PJ's Lager House, made a profit of just $1,000 last year.
Ryder, 59, is one face of reality within the Detroit restaurant and bar industry, even as new eateries and watering holes are popping up in some of the city's thriving neighborhoods such as Midtown and Corktown. And establishments just a stone's throw away from the Lager House, such as Slows Bar BQ and Sugar House Bar, are by all appearances doing a booming business.
"I owe just about what I owed when I bought the place," said Ryder, who will celebrate his six-year anniversary on Oct. 23. "Usually people say, 'Well, I'm not making any money,' but there's usually something they take home as the owner, as the manager, as the person who is working there every day. I still have not been able to pay myself anything in six years. I'm living off the kindness of my wife, Donna."
He's being talked off the "just sell it and move on" cliff by his wife, friends, family members, real estate agents, Corktown business neighbors, his accountant and, of course, by the bar's patrons. None of them want to see the neighborhood joint, with its low-key vibe and beer-and-whiskey attitude, close. Now is not the time to sell, they say. They encourage him to stay and fight for Detroit. But those words aren't helping him pay the bills.
Ryder has more than $30,000 in credit card debt, money he used to open a kitchen three years ago. Although he never wanted to be in the restaurant business, when Michigan's smoking ban went into effect in 2010, he realized he would need more of a draw than just music and booze. He also owes $24,000 in back taxes, mostly sales tax.
PJ's brought in $481,000 in sales in 2012, all of which went right back out the door in the form of running the business. Here's a breakdown: His cost of goods, including beer, liquor, food and music: $242,000. Wages: $108,000. Sales tax: $27,000. Rent: $58,000. Business fees: $13,000. Other expenses, such as bar supplies, T-shirt printing and paying his accountant: $32,000. His total expenditures were $480,000.
Ryder has been trying to borrow $50,000 to $60,000 from Bank of America to keep things afloat, but has been denied. Early on he was told that he had to be in business for at least two years. Check. Then he was told that he needed his sales to top $250,000. Check. Just two weeks ago, loan officers said his business must make $1.25 in profit for every $1 being spent to run it. That's a far cry from his 2012 profit of $1,000.
Still, other entrepreneurs aren't discouraged. At least eight new Corktown restaurants have opened or are scheduled to open this year, including Motor City Wine, Ottava Via, Rubbed, St. CeCe's Pub and the Detroit Institute of Bagels. But many of the new businesses are clustered up the street and are within walking — and parking — distance of each other, while PJ's is stranded on a block closer to downtown, his only neighbors the not-yet-open bagel shop and breakfast/lunch-only Brooklyn Local.
"One person's story doesn't necessarily indicate the state of the industry — we are seeing that the industry is definitely growing," said Adriane De Ceuninck, vice president of marketing and communications for the Lansing-based Michigan Restaurant Association. "We've hit the bounce back from the economic downturn from 2008 and 2009. We have several members extending their current businesses, opening two or three additional locations."
De Ceuninck said Detroit is an interesting case study because there's a mix of bars and restaurants that have weathered the storm and been in business for decades, while there's also an explosion of new establishments trying to find an identity.
Ryder said he believes Detroiters just assume he's doing good business because the Lager House, which employs about a dozen people, has been a Corktown fixture since it opened in 1914 as a bakery and restaurant. There have been various versions and owners of the space, but because it's been at the same location and open for so long, he thinks it might get overlooked.
"What we need is more people," he said. "I love that all these places have opened up, but I wonder how they are going to feel three years from now if their cash reserves have been depleted like our cash reserves have and they begin to wonder, 'How do we increase business?' "
Erik Melander, Ryder's accountant, warns that profit expectations need to be tempered in the bar and restaurant world.
Lager House sales have been flat in 2013, but Ryder has grown the business every year since it opened. He said Ryder is undercapitalized — he has too much debt and not enough profit — like many other restaurants around town. Still, he continues to watch them open.
"I call it the 'starry-eyed effect' — there are people who just want to own a business and decide they want to open some place where all their friends can hang out," said Melander. "You see a lot of people getting into business for emotional reasons instead of economical ones."
Phil Cooley, co-owner of Slows, which opened in 2005, has a connection to PJ's — he worked as a weekend janitor there when he first moved to Detroit in 2001-02. Ryder did not own the bar then. Cooley praised the current menu and said a live music venue is needed in the neighborhood.
"Most of the places opening up seem to be doing fairly well, but that doesn't mean that everyone is doing well," Cooley said. "There was definitely skepticism when we opened up, but it's certainly better than it was. There is more optimism about Detroit's future and doing business in Detroit.
"I hope PJ sticks with it, and I hope that he becomes more profitable," he added. "The investment he's put in it has been really great. I know that we all in this neighborhood have struggled in many ways. We spend money every year on security that you wouldn't normally have to. There are additional costs of doing business here. There's a lot of upside, but I don't want to ever make it seem like it's easy."
The solution is so simple. Sell the business to Phil Cooley. The first priority to owning a successful business is to control what everyone says about you. Cooley has that covered. He knows all the voodoo incantations necessary to insure that people only say good things about him in all of the places that matter. Every time he takes a shit, it gets good press coverage.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
We have a problem. So called "victims" can't be allowed to ruin everything for us by telling us what happens outside of our music venues.
If you think that you're a victim of a crime that happened outside of a local music venue, don't go whining about it, because you probably aren't. I'm going to give you some helpful tips in the event that you were stupid enough to cross the path of a criminal.
If you insist on speaking out about it at all, first consult the venue owners. Their interests are more important than whatever petty "quality of life" issues you just can't cope with.
Labels: Small's Bar
Friday, August 30, 2013
A couple of enterprising hoodwinks with a kickstarter page pulled in over fifty grand with the notion of building a Robocop statue. After being found in a Tijuana whorehouse and dragged back to Detroit two years later, they are now being forced to put the statue up. What else could explain why they don't have a location ready after two years?
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Forget buying a large Crisco can, you can buy the Metro Times:
The company that owns the Metro Times told its Detroit staff this morning the paper is for sale, throwing the future of the 33-year-old alternative weekly into doubt at a time of great uncertainty for print publications.
Few details were available; employees were told not to speak to the media.
The longtime editor, W. Kim Heron, resigned in December, and at times this year there were only two or three fulltime staffers putting out the paper.
According to the most recent verified audit, the Metro Times weekly circulation is 52,286 copies. In June, it reported 285,803 page views to its website in the previous 30 days, and 122,609 unique visitors.
The paper is owned by Times-Shamrock Communications of Scranton, Penn., that owns newspapers, radio stations in several states and alternative weeklies like Metro Times in Orlando, Baltimore and San Antonio, which are also being put on the market today, the company said in a statement.
Newsweek magazine sold for $1. I think that's a fair price for the Metro Times.