Curtain Call for Tonic Lounge

Tonic Room was transformed into Panic Room Bar.

This year, 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, Tonic Lounge in Portland, Oregon will become just another statistic. In 2012, music lover Rod Bitton decided to invest his life savings into Portland bar and music venue Tonic Lounge. Despite Rod’s lack of experience, the business benefited from occasional shows by nationally recognized bands. But when the tour buses leave Tonic Lounge, so do the crowds. Tonic’s live music program continues to lose money and the bar fails to attract the customers Rod desperately needs to keep his business afloat. Rod is $250,000 in debt and only has 6 months left before the stage goes dark for good, so now he’s forced to face the music. With nowhere else to turn, Rod has agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books and make the call for help to Bar Rescue.

Portland is the largest city in Oregon and one of the leaders in food- and drink-related trends such as farm-to-table cuisine and inspired cocktails that master the balance of old and new, namely Portland’s very own Spanish coffee. Fondly known as Stumptown to the locals, for over 40 years the city continues to make prominent contributions to the rock, punk and indie music scenes. Failing to follow the emerging markets and attract the trendsetting crowds is Tonic Lounge.

For the bar, Jon brings in master bar trainer, mixologist Lisa Marie Joyce. Her ability to remedy any bar staff’s weaknesses and talent for crafting signature cocktails will transform this bar into a headline act. From Las Vegas, Jon brings in Vic Vegas. His experience creating food items in the entertainment capital of the world equip him to design menus that will leave customers begging for an encore. Tonic Lounge is a 2,700 square-foot space divided into two rooms, a music venue in the back with a dining space in the front and a 48-square foot horseshoe bar.

A massive issue with Tonic Lounge is that owner Rod has zero service industry experience. He simply doesn’t understand – and therefore doesn’t respect – the struggles his staff faces most nights. His inexperience showed during the stress test: he had no idea what to do to help his staff. Rod didn’t think to speak to guests, get ice, get glassware or check on and expedite in the kitchen. In order to fix the almost non-existent operations, Jon suggested that entertainment manager Tony and production manager Joe become co-owners and manage the bar.

The Science

Beyond taste, there’s a great reason to add salt to bar food: it keeps people drinking. Salt is absorbed through the bloodstream through the small intestine. When blood becomes saltier, so does the fluid outside the body’s cells. The extra salt acts like a magnet, pulling water out of the cells. This sends a message to the brain that the body needs additional fluid to dilute the extra salt, triggering thirst.

A vertical trussing system was installed inside the bar. Such a truss adds height and depth to a stage. In turn, that makes the stage look bigger and makes the bands look much better while they’re performing.

Guests will spend 60% more in a bar that communicates its theme well. Creating an immersive rock and roll venue will provide guests with a better experience. That equates to a more profitable bar.

The Result

Tonic Lounge was renamed and rebranded as the Panic Room Bar. Six weeks after the relaunch, food and beverage sales are up 20 percent.

Suggested Articles

Devin Burns discusses how Omni Hotels are focusing bringing guests back safely and measured reopenings.

Brand manager, Conor Neville, discusses why they are optimistic about the future and the trends that have come to the forefront.

Grubhub's latest earnings report saw average daily users up 32% but the net loss was reported $45 million in the red.