Things May Come to a Grinding Halt for Grinders Sports Bar

This year 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, Grinders in Santa Clarita, California will become just another statistic. In 2014, successful entrepreneur Dave Murrie was looking to take on a new business venture. He had owned a medical equipment company and wanted to move on to something else. So when Grinders, a local pizzeria, went up for sale, Dave and his wife Jessica saw an opportunity to take advantage of a great deal. Originally, Dave and Jessica purchased the bar for $77,000. However, Jessica didn’t expect to get into the restaurant business since the couple had no experience. Excited about their investment, they thought to improve Grinders by changing the pizza restaurant into a fully functional bar. But without proper permits, the city had other plans for the business. Dave and Jessica were forced to stop all renovation and operate an unfinished bar. Jessica estimated that she had spent over $100,000 just dealing with the city. Now, long wait times and a bar in a state of disrepair are making customers head for the exits. With the bar in ruins and struggling to keep customers coming back, a defeated Dave is no longer engaged in the business. As a result, Grinders is losing $2,500 a month and is $250,000 in debt. As the city threatens to shut the bar down due to unfinished construction, Dave and Jessica have agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make a call for help to Bar Rescue.

For the bar, Jon brings in Daniel Ponsky, a mixologist with 20 years’ experience designing cocktail programs for some of the most successful bars in the country. And for the kitchen, Jon brings in Tiffany Derry, an acclaimed chef known for crafting menus with southern flavors that stand out in any marketplace. Together, these two experts can grind any bar’s rough edges into a polished brand. The first thing the Bar Rescue and his experts notice is the lack of a real sign. The strip mall sign says “Grinders Wing Pit” but the sticker on one window indicates the bar is called “Grinders Sports Bar.” Online, Grinders is called “Grinders Pizza.” Elsewhere is the name Grinders Deli. Another problem is that it is unclear if the space Grinders occupies is one or two concepts. It is a bar with two entrances that are separated by a stairwell leading to an independent business above. Jon sent two spies from Buzzfeed, writers Sheridan Watson and Lindsay Farber, into Grinders to get their opinions. It turns out that the spies suggested any article they would write for Buzzfeed about Grinders would be a warning against visiting: “17 Reasons You Might Die at Grinders.”

Jon and his experts also discovered that Grinders didn’t have soda guns, ice bins, speed wells, work stations, drain rails, or drink rails. The bartenders were forced to run around a disorganized bar to make drinks, using a soda tower in lieu of soda guns. The bar was also in violation of just about every code, including ADA codes and fire codes. The city of Santa Clarita issued a stop-build on Grinders’ illegal construction and gave the owners 6 weeks to come up to code before they’ll have to shut them down.

The Sciences

  • As a bar owner you should always dress slightly better than your guests to draw in guests and project an image of professionalism and success.
  • Saving time means saving – and making – money. Successful bars are set up to keep the bartenders mostly stationary. This keeps them in front of the guests and drinks more quickly, which means they can take more orders and serve more drinks.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted so that anyone with a disability would be able to work at an establishment. It also ensures that all areas of an establishment are accessible to people with disabilities. A venue must be compliance with ADA laws in order for the design to be in code.
  • Onions, bell peppers and celery make up what is referred to as the Cajun Trinity, the base of the regional cuisines of Louisiana.

The Relaunch

The Cajun Belle exterior - Spike TV's Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

Jon pulled favors with the city of Santa Clarita to be placed at the top of the list in terms of permits, bringing the bar up to code in around 36 hours. Grinders Sports Bar was renamed and rebranded as The Cajun Belle. Jon chose a Cajun theme in order to introduce something different into the local market. Six weeks after the relaunch, Dave and Jessica reported to Jon that both food and beverage sales are up 35 percent.

The Cajun Belle interior - Spike TV's Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

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