You and your best buddy Denny have lived in the same small Boston town your whole lives. And for forty plus hours a week, you work for a very reputable roofing company. That means decent pay and steady employment. It’s an honest living for a couple of twenty-something single guys, but it’s not the dream career of owning a bar.
In Boston, there’s practically a corner bar…well…on every corner. But you and Denny are loyal to just one.
It’s called O’Neil’s Pub. Out front is a wooden sign shaped like a shamrock. But it’s not the customary Kelly green however. The paint is a faded mint with orange stains from the rusted chain supports. Even the letters have fallen victim to time and temperature. Newcomers to the neighborhood actually call it Neil’s Pub.
And inside the establishment, there’s more of the same vintage decor, from a jukebox that features Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley to a cigarette scarred billiard table with woven leather pockets.
But even though this watering hole needs a serious makeover, you never consider going anywhere else. Mr. O’ is like family. And besides, his prices are the cheapest around.
On a frigid winter night in the middle of December, after you’ve closed the bar for the umpteenth consecutive Friday in a row, Mr O’ wants to have a sit down with “The Bar Boys,” a name he’d dubbed you and Denny when it was apparent you’d become the youngest “regulars” to occupy his stools.
With a tear in his eye, he reveals he’s wrapping it up, calling it quits after 45 years in business. He’s old and tired, and he’s saved enough to retire with dignity.
He just wants to prepare you guys for when you see the “For Sale” sign in the front window.
After some congratulatory shots, the gray haired barkeep says it’s time for some shuteye, and he points towards the exit.
But just before he closes the door behind you, Denny blurts, “Hey Mr. O’, how about you sell “us” the bar?”
He looks at you both, thinks for a moment, and replies, “Guys, I’ve had this bar for a long time…it needs work…but she’s my baby.” He pauses, then continues, “I’ll tell you what…if you lads can come up with 200 thousand…she’s all yours…I know you’ll treat her right…I won’t even put the sign up.”
He locks the door.
Within seconds of the homeward trek through slush covered sidewalks, the wide eyed fantasizing begins.
In perfect unison you say, “We gotta buy the bar.” Then comes a flow of drunken overlapping ramblings. No discernible point is made, and no one’s really listening anyway.
To even contemplate the possibility of a dream fulfilled, The Bar Boys need to harness their excitement and sleep off the alcohol.
Time To Consider Finances
As mentioned, work for the roofing company is steady, but there are still times when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. And the boss has no choice but to call off the job until the weather clears.
And this is one of those nasty stretches. More snow is in the forecast. However, it’s the perfect downtime to discuss the bar.
Denny knocks on your apartment door around 10am. He’s got two coffees in his hands and paperwork from the bank tucked in his back pocket.
“Dude, I got it all figured out…the branch manager’s my cousin…he figures if our credit is good, and we can come up with some cash…well…he might be able to get us a loan for the bar…you know…approve a mortgage.”
“Let’s fill out these credit apps and run them back down to him asap.”
Approved and Getting Going
Fast forwarding a bit, the boys have exceptional credit and get approved. And thank goodness Mr. O’ had the cheapest beer in town. They were able to scrape together enough money for closing costs, down payment, and insurances.
As expected, the boys are on quite a high, and they want to keep the ball rolling. They immediately give the roofing boss notice. He’s known the guys for years, so he lets them stay on his payroll right up to settlement.
It’s a long two months before the keys to the establishment are officially theirs, but finally The Bar Boys are at the helm.
Needless to say, the guys fumble a bit through the first few weeks. The biggest hurdle was inventory management. They learn the hard way that you can’t promote a beer special on a Saturday night and run out of beer by 11.
Callemonit on the horizon
From the beginning, Denny insisted upon doing the bulk of the paperwork, including payroll and ordering. Admittedly, he is more book smart than handy. Even on the roofing crew, he was a laborer. While you on the other hand, were a skilled mechanic.
He asks for your trust, and you oblige.
So the bar renovation is left up to you, and you willingly accept the challenge.
Any moment the neon sign is out is a chance to make the old girl sparkle. Scraping, painting, hanging, carpentry, electrical, hvac, you name it. It’s a seemingly endless cycle of necessary repairs and improvements to drum up new business.
Even at home, your time is spent watching “how to” videos. Anything you can do to save a buck. The cold reality is, you and Denny have to make more money than Mr. O’Neil. You not only have to fund the regular operating expenses, you have to split profits two ways and pay a mortgage.
So all you ask of your best friend and partner is to keep the books straight and stay on top of the supplies.
St. Patrick’s Day arrives, arguably the biggest holiday of the year in Boston. Drinking starts in the early morning and continues through sunrise the following day.
It’s like Christmas at the mall, a chance to get back in the black. Plus, the income from this St. Patty’s Day will pay for something that was not repairable, namely a new heater/ac system. And you promised the installer that you’ll have his money right after the celebration.
Things seem to be going great. The bar is packed. Patrons are having fun and commenting how your pub will become their new stomping ground.
Suddenly, you’re getting a wave from the bartender. There’s only foam coming out of the tap.
You give him a nod of affirmation, and run down the basement to change out the keg. You quickly disconnect the line and reach for a full keg. But…the keg is light as a feather…actually, all the kegs are empty.
It happened again, on the biggest day of the year. Denny screwed up the inventory.
8:15pm and you have to explain to the guests that you are out of beer. It’s a mass exodus to the street and down to the next corner. Then the bartender and waitress say they quit, suffering over all those lost tips.
You and Denny are left there, sitting on the same two barstools as when it was Mr. O’s, listening to Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely.”
What should the Callemonit be to Denny, his best friend? They are equal partners, but clearly Denny isn’t carrying his weight? Should Denny be forced to accept a different role, possibly with less pay? Do you think it’s unreasonable to mix friendship and business? Have you ever gone into business with a friend or family member?