By the time I get to the bar to order a whiskey, the bar is called C.J.’s, and by the time I actually get my drink, the place is now called Casa Bistecca, and it’s no longer a bar but instead it’s a “high end” steak house.
It was suggested that I check out The Anchor Bar because it would make for a good Barfly article, but by the time I got there, it was no more and in it’s place stood The Iron Horse bar.
Gino’s was also recommended, but that’s now Marguerite’s.
Phil’s Radiator is still Phil’s, but even they have changed ownership twice in the past year.
Mugsy’s, Club 101 and (one of my favorites) The Senate Bar are all closed for good.
Mugsy’s barely made it a couple of months and The Senate was shut down in its prime.
What the crap? Why is it so hard to keep bars open in downtown Pueblo?
There are a LOT of reasons…
For starters running a bar is not easy. It’s not like you can just order some booze, invite your friends down and have a successful bar. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. The hours you have to keep are mind-numbing and soul-draining. You have to be there every day at least an hour before you open so you can do inventory and order the libations that draw your clientele. Each night after closing, you get to stick around for at least an hour cleaning and washing dishes…Good times! And all the while in between you have to be cheerful, courteous and provide excellent customer service.
Friends can be your worst enemies. Buy a bar and suddenly everybody wants to be your new best friend. It’s funny how people will expect to get free drinks if they’re your friend and you own a bar. I wonder how many gas station owners have their friends drive up looking for a free tank of gas.
There’s a practice among bartenders in major cities called the “buy back” wherein, after a customer buys three or four drinks, the bartender will give them one on the house. Now that’s smart business! But…if you have a bartender who’s giving away drinks just so his or her friends will come hang out, your bar will soon see its demise.
Rent sucks! If at all possible, you would want to buy the building where you’re looking to put in your bar. Signing a lease is like signing a death warrant for a bar owner. You’d much rather be making mortgage payments than paying rent (and most of your profit) to a landlord. But, if you don’t have a current lease in place – as in the case of The Senate Bar, your landlord can kick you out at any time with no explanation – even if you’ve built up a solid business..
What’s good for some is not necessarily good for all. During the summer months when downtown bars and restaurants should be thriving, many actually struggle from the constant onslaught of street fairs and festivals every weekend. Bars and outside patios that should be packed to capacity stand empty while people meander around the streets drinking overpriced “cheap” beer and stuffing their faces with funnel cake. The Chamber might consider fewer fairs and more ways it can help develop a thriving downtown in Pueblo. Perhaps a bus that goes from CSU to the downtown area? I don’t know, I’m just saying.
In the meantime, I will do my best to support local businesses so that someday, maybe just maybe, Applebee’s won’t be Pueblo’s most successful restaurant/bar.
By Adam Gazzola