The Night Our “Cheers” Closed: How Corporate America Destroys Community

 

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sunday night was the last night that our version of Cheers for the last fourteen years closed forever. About 5 PM at no notice a representative of the corporate headquarters came in and told our General Manager that our Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant would close at the end of the evening for good. The employees were given no notice, one day they had a job, the next day they didn’t. The fault was not theirs, it was an out of touch corporation, which over extended itself by buying up an already bankrupt restaurant chain, Logan’s Roadhouse, and then neglecting its thriving brewery restaurants of the Gordon Biersch, Round Rock, Chicago Pizza chains, and other brands. The CEO is the former CEO and Managing Parter of Logan’s, owned by the venture capital company Centerbridge Partners, L.P.

In fact, rather than a corporate owned operation, our brewery-restaurant had the feel of a local neighborhood bar, like the one called Cheers. It really was a place where everybody knew your name. It became a gathering place for friends, who along with the managers, cooks, bartenders, servers, and hosts became like an extended family. Yes, there were some who were assholes and acted overly entitled, and others that pretty much kept to themselves, but overall the clientele embraced a broad spectrum of people. Everyone from businesspeople and bankers, military personnel, reachers, professors, doctors and dentists, pensioners, day workers, shipyard workers, technicians and IT types, small business owners, retail workers, bartenders, cooks, and servers from other restaurants of a wide variety of races and, ethnicities, nationalities, and religions, straight and gay, with ages from the twenties to the nineties.

For the most part we cared for each other. We looked out for the bartenders and servers. We had each other over for dinner, for holidays, those with building or mechanical skills donated time to help those less proficient or unable due to illness or physical disability. We all pitched in when money needed to be raised for individuals or groups, proceeds from tapping parties went to charities.
In a way I became the unofficial chaplain, performing three marriages, one funeral, providing counseling, or just listening, and making hospital visits.

We gathered to visit, talk, listen, joke, on good days and bad. To watch football, soccer, baseball, hockey, the Olympic Games, the World Cup, to talk about our days, to have a listening ear, over a beer. We had parties there, celebrated Oktoberfest, the New Year, but mostly came together at the end of a day, to download and relax, to share and to care, each in our own way. A few of us, including me got a chance to work with the brewer to brew a beer of our choice. I got a chance to learn the process of how to brew what we called The Padre’s Pilsner, a crystal clear champagne like  German Pilsner, hoppy, but not overly so, crisp without being too bitter.

My wife Judy specialized in making people happy by making them beautiful jewelry and pendants, which she mostly gave to the servers, hosts, and bartenders. When Judy was in the hospital for cancer surgery and knee replacements it was bartenders and servers who visited her, and who came by the house to visit when she was recovering, not people from church or Navy Chaplains. It was our executive Chef who cooked her special menu items which she could eat based on gastrointestinal ailments.

At about 6:00 PM on Sunday we were informed that a representative from corporate had come in, and told our General Manager that the restaurant would close forever that night. Many of us came in for a final last call. There were tears, and laughs as we remembered the good times, tears as we thought of the closing, and friends who had passed away. We shared hugs, stories, and collected our steins, even for friends who couldn’t be there. Sunday night I was so discombobulated and unfocused that I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even focus on television or books.

But now as I previously mentioned, thanks to the CEO of Craftworks Holdings, a man who has managed restaurants, but never breweries, and the hedge fund managers at Centerbridge Partners. They are sacrificing the jewels of their corporation, the unique craft brewery restaurants to prop of a steakhouse that has been rescued from bankruptcy once, then acquired by Craftworks, whose CEO had been the CEO and managing partner of that steakhouse until 2018. But don’t take my word, just google these things these things and you will find articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Craft Beer Journal Brewbound, and many local papers, and you can see the history and scale of the decline of what were once the trademark brands of Craftworks, which were all once described as growing and innovative have been crushed by cut after cut, even extremely profitable location on Honolulu’s Waikiki, where landlords disputed the reasons Craftworks gave for shutting them down. In our case the restaurant still had over a year left on its lease, the lease was not expensive, and despite the best efforts of Craftworks to make it less competitive, by dropping Happy Hour prices on weekends and when major sporting events were going on, which drove some customers to other restaurants, who carried the NFL package and lowered prices of their drinks and appetizers, it was still profitable. If I was a betting man I would say that since 2018 that corporate has been trying to drive customers and staff away, yet they still came.

Now, our Gordon Biersch Cheers family has lost its home. Thankfully, many of us are still committed to friendships and will meet Tuesday night at another local brewery restaurant. It’s not as fancy, but it will do, and we know that the owners there, local people, not venture capitalists will appreciate our business, as will any number of the other locally owned craft breweries.

The sad thing is that the venture capitalists often back ventures that fail, making vast profits while leaving the businesses the leverage in ruins. Quality, sacrificed for cheapness, loyalty, for the mass market, community, for a mass of unknown and uncared for customers who are rushed in and out of restaurants at a rate slightly slower than fast food operations. The same can be said for almost every business organization that has been taken over by the venture capitalists. They have been destroyed, parted out, and many operations moved overseas to China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, the Philippines, and a host of other nations, whose people, environment, and living conditions we don’t care about while at the same time transferring the worlds wealth to the richest oligarchs.

It’s happening here. We have record employment but wages are still pitifully low, and many work more than one job to make ends meet. Even then, quite a few people are only a paycheck or two from bankruptcy. Our friends, other than management, who worked there did receive a severance, of two weeks pay at $2.13 an hour, the base minimum wage of restaurant workers, without tips, and of course all taxes will be diverted from what the corporate spokesman said was “compensating” the employees, regardless of the fact that quite a few have worked there a decade or more. It’s really shitty how corporate America treats hard workers, as well as those who are loyal to their employers. On Monday when the employees came in the trucks and men from corporate were already there, the move had been planned for some time, but the failed to notify Armada Hoffer, which holds the lease. They didn’t find out that the restaurant had closed until Monday. It’s immoral, it’s evil, and it will destroy our country. I talked to two friends tonight whose corporations are being reorganized even now. Both have their doctorates and the industries that they are in are making huge money, often assisted by agencies controlled by Trump appointees.

We didn’t learn the examples of 2008, and what happened to our little group, will happen again, and probably worse than in 2008, as the Trump Administration has loosed the bonds of the modern Robber Barons. Our little diverse family is now yet another victim of them. I worry more about our employees who are now out looking for jobs. But we will do our best to stay together.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under economics and financial policy, ethics, laws and legislation, Loose thoughts and musings, News and current events, Political Commentary

2 responses to “The Night Our “Cheers” Closed: How Corporate America Destroys Community

  1. Steven

    Hey Padre,

    Good on you for calling out the “not-really-business” decisions that often go into so-called “just business” decisions.

    I think, though, I’m going to have to argue that The Turnip is just a stalking horse for the GOP on this one. Party R has no working-class traditions or policies by which to moderate the pervasive pursuit of lucre that is American Capitalism (aka Unfree Market Economics minus Reasonable Regulation).

    I will grant you that the election of, and simplistic belief in, The Turnip by many Working Class people—like the Tow Truck driver I spoke with—led directly to blatant repeal of regulation; and I agree completely that The Turnip has fostered corruption and greed at every turn—and been abetted and enabled by the GOP (minus Senator Romney of Utah).

    But these are core GOP beliefs—that Regulation is BAD. That “Free Market” means massive paper corporations that simply make money for the same handful of old white men—or their “estates”, still grasped at from the grave. After all, when their irresponsibility results in the inevitable collapse—as in 2008, 1929, or many, many other times—it is We The People who quite literally pay the tab.

    How is it the GOP so hates those who suffer by their policies that they—the GOP is made up of actual people, after all—are eternally on a mission to cut their benefits (including mine as a permanently and totally combat disabled veteran, btw), but are absolutely opposed to acting **before** those benefits become necessary—by insisting on modern, effective, but reasonable regulations?

    If the GOP so dislike their chimerical “Deep State”, why is it they never agree to scrap existing regulations upon new, effective regulations coming into effect? They simply do as Party D does, and amend, retract, or administratively alter, layer upon layer of regulation, so that ONLY long-service bureaucrats with legal training (or Law Degrees) are able to produce anything even remotely coherent from the maze of legal texts.

    The Turnip is one of the swindlers, certainly. He embraces corruption and graft—indeed, he exists because of it—but he is just a bumbling version of “Hey, Look At This” for the GOP. The Turnip is the “Fire” portion of what the US Army calls “Fire and Manoeuver”. The GOP and their wealthy backers are the real danger—the deep manoeuver forces that cut off and divide opposition.

    Just my nickel.

    • padresteve

      I agree with you totally, and over the years the GOP administrations, Congressional majorities and their state governors and legislatures and big business financiers and hedge fund allies have been doing this for years. Ever since Lincoln was assassinated, with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt not a single GOP Administration has stood up for the working class. Sadly, even a historian like me doesn’t fully appreciate their devastating policies until you see them up close and personal, and Trump is actively doing more than any previous GOP President of our lives, other than Reagan has done as much to undermine and crush workers in this country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s