Are the End Credits Going to Roll on Dale 1891?

This year, over 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, Dale 1891 in Tampa, Florida will become just another statistic. In 2011 longtime movie theater owners Howard Edelman and Gonen Minuskin decided to expand their business, purchasing a movie theater and bar located in the same shopping center. With the bar newly christened Dale 1891 after a local historical figure, Howard decided to bring in his son Scott Edelman to run day-to-day operations. Howard gave Scott the opportunity to invest $80,000 for a stake in the business. And with 3 owners working together to run the bar Dale 1891 was an immediate success. As the money rolled in, Howard and Gonen turned their attention back to the movie theater, leaving Scott behind to handle the bar. The decision paid off at first but the success was short lived.

Within a year, Scott began to flounder without the support of his partners. Scott felt buried by taxes, bills and his inexperience with running a bar. Not having the correct tools, along with inconsistency, became the norm for the bar staff. As profits continued to decline, Howard and Gonen’s movie theater had to take up the slack, paying the rent for about one year now. Dale 1891 is $400,000 and losing $5,000 per month. With the 2 businesses on the line, the partnership between the owners has become volatile. Before the sun goes down on the struggling bar, Dale 1891 has agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books and make a call for help to Bar Rescue.

For recon, Jon Taffer had his experts meet him at the Villagio Cinemas, located in the same parking lot as Dale 1891, and owned by the same owners. For the bar, Jon brought in Daniel Ponsky, a mixologist with 20 years’ experience designing cocktail programs for the most successful bars in Los Angeles. For the kitchen, Kevin Bludso is a barbecue master nationally known for his award-winning creations. Combined, these experts can execute an innovative bar and food program that’s sure to smoke the competition. Jon chose a local couple, Kyle and Megan, to spy for him at Dale 1891, a 2,600 square-foot space grossing $92 per square foot in sales, $58 less than the required break-even point of $150 per square foot. While the bartenders were personable, the bartender who served Jon’s spies, Burt, poured unbalanced mojitos and had to walk their food order across the parking lot to the movie theater’s kitchen. After Kyle and Megan had ordered their food, the bar began cooking and serving free hot dogs and burgers. Even worse, the owners decided to have a loud and hostile business meeting inside the bar, prompting Jon to enter the bar to confront them.

Dale 1891 on Spike TV's Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

Jon discovered that Scott didn’t really know how much the bar was losing. Scott said the loss was $5,000 per month because “that’s how much rent is.” He couldn’t answer Jon about beverage cost, labor cost or other costs. It was discovered after the partners determined the P&Ls that Scott was using company money from the business for personal expenses. Some of these expenses included 6 dinners at a country club and car rentals. He defended his actions by saying he never took a paycheck but, because he is a minority shareholder, his failure to tell his partners how he was using company funds made what he was doing fraud and embezzlement. Jon refused to rescue the bar unless Scott gave up the company credit cards and bank accounts, and Howard and Gonen agreed to change the locks. During the stress test, the bartenders broke glassware and burned the ice not once but twice, but Jon saw potential in them and was impressed with how Scott stepped up to manage the bar.

The Science

  • Ever wondered why there’s a cocktail called the Rum Runner? The Florida coastline is roughly 1,350 miles long, the most extensive in the contiguous United States. Hundreds of secluded docking areas and its close proximity to the Caribbean led to a bootlegging boom during Prohibition. Rum was manufactured cheaply in the Caribbean and shipped to Florida clandestinely, where it gained popularity in the regional speakeasies. This is believed to be the origin of the term “rum runner.” Today, rum is still enjoyed as one of the most popular liquors in the state.
  • Guests who order food stay an average of 52 minutes longer than those who do not.
  • Pricing drinks at $6.25 leaves bartenders with a $1.75 tip.

The Relaunch

Dale 1891 is now Cayman Cove. Jon chose to utilize the tiki hut outside of the bar and design a concept around it. He also instructed the owners and staff to assume that each guest would be ordering food. Six weeks after the relaunch, sales are up 15% to 17%, Cayman Cove is paying its rent, and the owners are getting along.

Dale 1891 transformed into Cayman Cove on Spike TV's Bar Rescue

Suggested Articles

New reports have an updated forecast on the total sales lost from COVID-19 and restaurants are pacing ahead of retail and beauty businesses that are c

Leaders come together to share creative strategies and tactics as the industry reopens.

We discussed how bars and restaurants can structure their menus with Allison Varone, VP of Belvedere Vodka for Moet Hennessy USA.