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Born a Texan, but traveled the US extensively.  Now staying on the East coast.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Twenty, the inside story

Everyone knows I have the inside story to some of the local government workings and some have an idea of my loose connection to the place now call Twenty of Stamford. This is the inside story, which is not to different than many restaurants and bars, but this is Twenty's story.
The place known now as Twenty, was for 6 years a very unsuccessful diner in the middle of town called Park Place Diner. These are the same people who own Bull's Head Diner and Court Square and the now gone, Stamford Diner. They also own a couple of diners in Westchester. About this time last year (3 or 4 months previous), the diner people approached a friend of mine, Scott Marz , to try to help them create something different and successful. This was their second approach and he had refused the first one because of their reputation of callous behavior toward loyal employees (example, they cut off the manager from employment at Stamford Diner when it closed after he had worked for them for 20 years) and basically treating most employees like cattle or slaves, but he accepted this time because he felt that with his reputation and a clear contract, he could create something in Stamford (this had been one of his dreams), that was part his and was an eclectic place, being a restaurant and a club and a place to have fun for adults. He wanted to have good food, not diner food, so he managed to get Frankie Whitaker to be the chef and spent about 100,000 of his own money to change the place from what was a rats' nest, into something attractive and comfortable.
Despite the contract, the diner people fought with him with every change, even tho he was spending his own money, but for the most part he prevailed.
When Scott presented items on the contract that talked about money, the response he got was that everything was "Buuulllshittt" with a Greek accent.
The attitude that everyone who worked for them was nothing and could be easily replaced was a tougher situation. This was not Scott's attitude and he tended to respect people because of his background.
When the place was finished and opened, it became a successful club rapidly, but the first casualty of the diner mentality was the chef and the food program became a difficult issue.
Scott worked more hours than the "manager", who was the owner's son and received very little in compensation...the books were being 'cooked'. Mean time the Manager was getting ~ $3,000.00 per month on the books and maybe another $3,000 under the table because he decided to bartend in addition to "managing". Additionally maybe $25,000 seemed to be missing in income based on purchases, price of purchase and sales.
A veiled threat of getting an audit, netted Scott a quick sum of money, but nothing to what he put in.
In the mean time the diner people were not paying the bus people - who were required to do a lot of work and so that staff kept changing and the place is beginning to look dirty.
Same thing happen with the next set of cooks. Scott would step in, but would not know the people were not being paid because the cash out was being recorded.
Alive at 5 came and the place made 5 times the amount it had ever done in it past life as a diner, but again people were not being paid - including Scott.
So what do we call this? Common business practice? A den of thieves? Mismanagement? Or a Sucker is born every minute?

The funny thing is that I like the concept and the initial presentation of Twenty, I still think the Food has manage to stay okay to good despite everything. And I like the music.
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