Tag Archives: venture capitalists

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+

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

Padre Steve Defends Mitt Romney against Extremism Talk

Mitt Romney has had a rough time as of late and I have decided that I will not pile on. Mitt Romney used to be a moderate like me and for that I have a soft spot for him in my heart. As a patriotic American and moderate I know that Governor Romney has a one in two chance of becoming the next Commander-in-Chief and I will not stand for anyone diminishing Mitt’s potential Commander-in-Chiefyness. I want him to be the most Chiefy Commander-in-Chief of all time if he is elected President.

Too many extremists have attacked this fine American over the past few weeks and months. I know that I have criticized Mitt but I won’t take it anymore because I was for Mitt before I was against him and I won’t have anyone call me a flip-flopper because when I wear open toed shoes I wear Birkenstocks.

To start with I won’t be like former Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum who called Governor Romney “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” I object to Senator Santorum doing this because there are other Republicans who have to be worse than Mitt and Santorum’s criticism is obviously that of a sore loser and Romney is a winner.

General George Smith Patton, bless his holy name, said in the movie Patton:“America loves a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” I’ll tell you what, Mitt Romney is not a loser, except for the time that he lost to Teddy Kennedy when he ran against that Commie for the Massachusetts Senate seat, and when he lost to the man that lost to President Obama for the GOP nomination in 2008, Senator John McCain. But apart from that Mitt has never known defeat.

I am tired of pundits like American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer who gloated “If Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, co-opted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me? I don’t think Romney is realizing the doubts that this begins to raise about his leadership.”

I think that Fischer’s comments are below the belt. Mitt Romney will not be pushed around by anyone and he has proved that at an early age. When a non-conformist classmate in his obscure elitist prep-school disrespected that school and grew his hair long Mitt took action. He demonstrated the greatness of American organization and toughness by rallying a number of other classmates to help him chase this hooligan down and hold him down while Mitt cut the screaming baby’s hair to the regulation length. That’s how he will stand up to the Chinese. Do you think that Gang-Bang-Wang of China or Kim-Long-Dong of North Korea want Mitt to rally America to hold them down and cut their obviously badly cut and cheaply dyed hair? I know that they don’t.

When some of Mitt’s competitors in the 2012 GOP primaries threatened him, Mitt did not take it lying down. No he carpet bombed their sorry asses, destroyed their candidacies and won the nomination. He Nagaski’d them like he will do Iran. That is the mark of a decisive leader.

I’m tired of those that criticize Mitt’s business ethics and compared him to a vulture like Texas Governor Rick Perry who complained to Sean Hannity in January: “There’s a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism. Venture capitalism we like. Vulture capitalism, no. And the fact of the matter is that he’s going to have to face up to this at some time or another, and South Carolina is as good a place to draw that line in the sand as any. That’s not what we’re looking for in a president of the United States. We’re looking for someone that knows how to build jobs, create jobs. And that’s what I’ve done in the state of Texas. So there’s no use trying to paper this over. That is a problem for Mitt, and he’s going to have to face it.”

I’m sorry Governor Perry, Mitt has met that challenge. He looks nothing like a vulture. Look at that hair. It is amazing. I wish I had hair like that. Did you ever see a vulture with hair like that? I think not. Check your facts governor because they don’t matter to us anyway.

Then there are those like former Governor of Arkansas and Fox New commentator Mike Huckabee who criticize Mitt’s conservative credentials. Huckabee had the nerve to write in his book saying that Mitt “spent more time on the road to Damascus than a Syrian camel driver. And we thought nobody could fill John Kerry’s flip-flops! … [Romney’s record was] “anything but conservative until he changed all the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for President.”

That was not fair and Huckabee should be ashamed. A man who buys his outsourced made in China chandelier from Wal-Mart should not criticize a man who financed the company that manufactured it and who would never stoop to changing a light bulb that his janitor should have done before it got dark. Mitt would fire that janitor and hire someone else to change those bulbs. Shame on you Mike Huckabee.

Rick Santorum joined in that criticism saying that Romney “is the ultimate flip-flopper….” That dear reader is not fair. Governor Romney has had to defend himself against many scurrilous charges. I mean Mitt has had to defend himself because President Obama had the nerve to steal his Massachusetts health care plan and name it after himself. Can you believe that? It is horrendous and a scandal and Governor Romney should deny any responsibility for President Obama’s shameful swiping of his idea.

I cannot imagine Mitt being a “flip-flopper.” There is no proof that Mitt wears outsourced flip-flops made in China or Pakistan. No, it is sure that Romney wears Sperry Top-siders when he is on his luxury yacht because everyone knows that open toed shoes are dangerous to wear about ships. Mitt understands that you need to protect your toes, because a nation without leaders is like a foot without a big toe.

I am also tired of those that have criticized Romney for speaking French like Newt Gingrich did during the GOP primaries. Gingrich was trying to equate Mitt with Senator John  Kerry, who was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart for killing Commies in Vietnam before he was against killing them. Mitt speaks French as does Kerry, but Mitt is different. Unlike Kerry who went to Vietnam and then shamefully protested against the war, Mitt was for the war. He was a patriot and protested for the right of the government to draft others to go fight and kill the Commies like every good American should have done. Romney then sacrificed several years of college hijinks and venture to France to convert the heathen French and eat Fois Gras and Escargot for three years as a missionary while avoiding the wine and beer. That is a sacrifice. When I went to France I only ate in Italian restaurants and only drank wine and beer. Besides, speaking French is like speaking the language of the enemy. When some pinko-socialist French atheist writer mocks America in French, Mitt will understand those words and bomb Paris in retaliation.

And finally in defense of Mitt, I condemn those like former Reagan speech writer and conservative Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan and call Mitt’s management of his campaign “incompetent” and “in need of an intervention” or Bill Kristol who called Mitt “stupid and arrogant.”

I am sorry, those comments are below the waistline of Mitt’s magic underwear, which he evidently doesn’t wear to bed according to what he told Kelly Ripa. I won’t stand for it anymore. I refuse to take part in the heresy hunt of these extremists. This is the United States of America and Mitt Romney just might be our next Commander-in-Chief and I don’t want to diminish his Chiefyness.

That’s just my take, I want to stay classy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, Political Commentary, satire