one commenter raised the corpses of caffe paradiso and fortunato's to excoriate the evils of "$8 beers". (actually he went as high as 10 in his remarks, but i'll dismiss those last 2 bucks as playful hyperbole). which got me thinking: bars who have failed in my general neighborhood include not only caffe paradiso and fortunato's, two of the pricier, more ridiculous stabs at pretension around, but also furey's and at least one incarnation of the white eagle, who were, i think it's safe to say, a little bit lower on the price scale in their offerings.
so what have we learned?
dharma buns purveyed teen comfort food (burgers, fries and shakes) at a bit of a premium with a fridge full of more-expensive craft bottled beer and without well-promoted delivery services. their ambiance was a trifle discomfitting. their seating less than welcoming for informal groups. fail. wings over lowell took the same space with a menu full of teen comfort food (this time wings) at a bit of the same premium, and by all indications are doing just fine. they ditched the beer, but put in booth seating an a no-nonsense ordering and take-out process, and are feeding lines of kids every hour of every day they're open. (pending) win.
caffe paradiso leveraged "cafe culture" for all it was worth, with $8 beers, $12 cocktails, and some of the worst service you could devise. they had a devoted following, but not nearly enough of one to remain in business. (perhaps this is the exact point the commenter was on about). fail. fuse bistro moved in the same space, offered the same outdoor cafe seating, and improved the layout and comfort inside at the same time as coming up with a menu featuring $9 burgers and $5 beers. the 5-year test suggested by the commenter has not been completed, but i'd put a fiver on this outfit doing just fine on this corner with how they're doing it. yup, they can mix you a $12 drink and serve you a $22 sirloin steak, too. and, i think, this may be part of the secret of their success on the flip side of letting burger-and-a-good-beer patrons get their preference on for well less than $20, tip included. portfolio theory is not wrong--something for everyone. AND, i'm happy to point out, no "bud light" among the taps to confuse their customers. (pending) win.
furey's put the "dive" in "dive bar". i wrote here some time ago of having a problem understanding a $9 tab for three beers and a burger--i swear, as god is my witness, that i could not understand how a joint could stay in business at prices like that. i guess i was not wrong. the commenter would, i'm guessing, want to link this to the concept of a "blue collar town" (whatever does that mean if there are no blue collar jobs left here for people to have?) and suggest it's the way to go. oops--fail. hong cuc still slings $3 banh mi sandwiches on the back side of that same building. no beer at all--just absolutely great food at fair prices. grab your own six-pack down the block of the flavor your prefer, and have some friends over for a cheap feast. absolute win.
the courtyard was a hard-smoker-and-drinker's institution. can't get much better "blue collar if only there was blue collar anymore" than that. i can't count the number of times folks i was with said, well after midnight, "let's go to the courtyard", and there they went to chain smoke cigarettes and drink on the cheap. no idea what happened, but, as we all know, fail. instead, some wanna-be-visionaries have instituted in its place an emporium of absolutely maniacally awesome burgers, great pizza, and, no word of a lie, the biggest array of grilled cheese sandwiches i have ever seen on a menu at one time. and $4 half glasses of the most awesome lineup of beers in the city. 5 year rule, yes, i understand. but has anyone gone by the place to look at the numbers? we're talking the same hard-smoker-and-drinker (cheap) kids just like before, only now dropping their cash on GOOD food and GOOD beer. i'll even allow that the jury's out on this one. but, like i said before, i'd still be willing to put a fiver on the five year life-span. (pending ?).
so what do we learn? overpriced joints suck, and they fail. everybody, and i mean everybody, cheers. but, ironically, even the cheapest of the cheap joints fail. furey's even had awesome burgers. but their beer sucked. absolutely sucked. i'm not saying it would have been enough to save 'em, but i would have liked to see 'em try. the courtyard was cheap. it failed. what, then, does "blue collar" even mean around here???
the point of a business is to find what customers want. wings over lowell counts on ease-of-ordering and comfortable booth seating to put their little $6 trays of wings over. ward 8 slings pricey grilled cheese with pricey (awesome) beer to wash it down and gets plenty of takers, too.
i'm just sayin', if you're running a place with the interest on making people happy, you ought to at least offer some decent beer. it can't hurt.