Sunday, 29 May 2011

US Season 2 - Handlebar - CLOSED

Open or closed? CLOSED
Location: Mount Sinai, NY

What Happened Next: When Gordon revisits it is still open and Gordon enjoys his meal. After filming the revisit it closed, it was then sold and reopened in 2010 as Skybox Restaurant and Sports Bar, this then closed in 2011. The pub then became Benchwarmers Tavern and Grill, a sports bar.

Extra Reading


21 comments:

  1. what happened?

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  2. Gordon’s turnaround idea was a bad one from the start. As he does in other shows, he visited and looked around the surrounding area to scope out the type of local clientele and other restaurant competition. Based on his that, Ramsay tried to turn Handlebar into something like a "gastropub." The problem in this case was that his team took him a couple miles down the road to Port Jefferson village. PJ is an eclectic place, with a ferry that runs to Connecticut, with a deep harbor & marina, with a waterfront hotel that hosts visitors from the nearby university, galleries, several interesting restaurants, seasonal tourist oriented shops, year-round local oriented shops, a live music venue, concerts in the park in the summer… PJ is a destination for both bikers and the Starbucks crowd, families and well heeled North Shore residents of Long Island. But the Handlebar was up the road (literally) on the border of Mt. Sinai and Port Jefferson Station, in a strip mini-mall. That is PJ *Station* not PJ *Village*. PJ Station is more working class, whose focal point is the train station for the commuter train that lead to NY City. Mt. Sinai is totally different than either of the PJs. Its a fairly comfortable but non-descript suburban locale. Perhaps the most notable thing about Mt. Sinai is a very nice public park that was tucked into the edge of what had been a peach orchard that was leveled suburban housing development. A gastropub might have worked in PJ Village, but Mt. Sinai? The results speak for themselves.

    It was hard to tell how long after the episode aired that the Handlebar closed. If one drove by during the daytime, it remained well maintained for a long time and looked intact but there was no way to know how many months it had been since it stopped serving at night. Eventually it was replaced with a restaurant called Skybox, which was intended to be a sports bar combined with an American style restaurant. Based on seeing a trickle of construction activity adjacent to the building over a period of months, it took a very long time for the new owners to convert the Handlebar to the Skybox -- maybe too long. After only a year the Skybox closed, and it’s obvious now that the location is empty.

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    1. Do not place all blame on Gordon Ramsay or his concept. This establishment was on it's last legs, hence, why Ramsay was there in the first place.

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    2. as a culinary professional you always check out your demographic...if something is missing in the area you need to find out what it is and why its missing....maybe its wanted but no one has done it yet or maybe its unwanted but you have to go and find out. most of the people on this show wait entirely too long before trying to get help their debt and stress overwhelms them and they are not welcome to the changes put in place...they revert to their own ways and are ultimately their own downfall

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    3. I agree with Snackery. At the beginning of almost every single episode, we're told that the business is months or even weeks from having to close. A one week makeover isn't enough to save a failing business. I think that some of these places can be successful, but it would be very rare.

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    4. I think Snackery is probably right. Plus I still wasn't getting the vibe that the owner in this one was stepping up to take charge. I think he was pleased to see the business temporarily revived but for some reason he just was not a strong leader (and maybe not cut out to be a business owner to begin with). He was way too sensitive to criticism which I also think was reflected in how he addressed his staff because he was completely impotent. He was not assertive and just had a "meh whatever" attitude. Unfortunately I also think it's probably a terrible idea to have a head chef who doesn't want to cook (and seems to share some of the owner's "meh" attitude). I would think one of the first things to do would be to get someone leading the kitchen who actually gives a crap.

      Gotta give it to his wife though for sticking it out and urging things along. And their wait staff was also very impressive. They took initiative when the one person who had the most riding on the success of the business wasn't even doing the same. I didn't once see the owner get down and scrub a shelf or anything. Unfortunately I suspect that restaurant was doomed regardless of what Gordon Ramsey did.

      And as was stated, many times these places are already well on their way to failure by the time Gordon gets there. I honestly think he was making good changes, but the timing and personalities involved probably worked against any progress made.

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    5. With regards to "Anonymous20 March 2012 13:59", I take issue with your assessment in general. Do you live in this area or did you "google" the area? Because it sounds like you looked up basic info and demographics for the area and spit them back out in your review (it literally reads like you copied this from somewhere whether you did or not).

      It does not sound like you understand Port Jefferson Village or the surrounding areas whatsoever. Mount Sinai is a very well-off, affluent community. In fact, it's probably more expensive to live in Mt. Sinai than in Port Jefferson as the taxes are anywhere from 2-3 times more expensive and the houses are equally as expensive. With regards to the location itself: No, the Handlebar was NOT in what I consider a great restaurant location, but that wouldn't prevent anyone from going to a solid restaurant if it built a good reputation. I often feel that we lack really good everyday places to eat (I live in the village of PJ and have for a long time) and this could have been a nice addition. The fact that it was doomed from the start by the owners and the "chef" is besides the point.

      If you still think that location was such a big deal, tet's look at another local restaurant: Grumpy Jack's is a pub that resides in the Village of Port Jefferson, but not "downtown", and it's really tucked away where you would never find it unless you knew where it was or you got lost. However, it's a very successful little pub that's frequented by all different types of people from those drinking at the bar to those eating the tasty affordable everyday fare to the more interesting daily specials in the dining room. If what you said were true, this restaurant would have failed as well.

      Location was simply not the issue here. Anyone in the surrounding towns knew there had been a restaurant there for years and there is a successful pizzeria, chinese restaurant, and butcher shop in the same parking lot who draw in plenty of business during the day. Was it or does it attract those who travel to PJ from other parts of the island or who drive through to take the ferry? Probably not. So what? The new occupants seem to be doing quite well with the parking lot full during many nights of the week.

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    6. Excellent report on the demise of the restaurant and the details of the surrounding areas. Thank you.

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    7. OP, you've completely overlooked Billy's lack of restaurant experience and hospitality industry management skills. The Handlebar was revisited a year after Ramsey first visit, and the owners said the business was doing fine. So the makeover was certainly well enough to keep the business solvent much longer than if Ramsey didn't intervene.

      Now keep in mind that Billy was a former construction worker and biker. Someone with this type of background tends to have an independent and non-conformist personality. This is exactly the opposite personality type of what is needed in restaurant management, and this was precisely shown in Billy's reactions to Ramsey's criticisms. Among many other things, a good restaurant owner needs to instill teamwork and discipline amongst their staff. They need to be detail-oriented. And they have to be strong and solid enough to be able to take a constant barrage of criticism coming from customers and staff. The only way someone can do this is to value these things themselves.

      I'm more inclined to think that over that year after Ramsey's visit, Billy began to understand the full scale of work needed to run a successful restaurant: Keeping the equipment and facilities sanitary and clean, rotating inventory, keeping a close eye on food quality coming out of the kitchen. being attentive to customers' needs, running promotions and marketing the restaurant, and so forth. I'm betting that Bill must've realized that being a restaurant owner wasn't anything like he had imagined it to be, and not a good fit for his free-wheeling biker/construction worker persona.

      I hope that when the Handlebar closed, Bill & Carolyn were able to sell the restaurant for a good price and recoup their investment.

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  3. I disagree. A gastropub could have worked beautifully, and there is zero evidence that location had anything to do with it. They had a horrible manager, a head chef who didn't give a shit and didn't even consider herself a chef, and she clearly couldn't keep up. If Gordon opened up the same kind of pub there, it would have been incredible. So no, the results do not speak for themselves, and unless you some actualy statistics or evidence, don't claim that its Ramseys fault. I mean, the manager walked out and gave up on the second fucking night!

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  4. Yep, you need drive and good staff and food. Otherwise you will not make it.

    Why do all of these people open businesses where the do not know anything relevant to the trade?

    If you don't, hire a kickass manager that does. Problem is, that costs money.

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  5. This was a dead business from the start. A manager that did not care and basically walked around in a daze. Add on a Chef that does not want to cook and could care less about what she produced is a disaster. Regardless of any changes Ramsey made or could do, the combo of a pathetic manager and lazy Chef means they were done before the changes even started.

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  6. Wow. Sad. It looked like it had a lot of potential. Perhaps with the right kind of motivated staff?

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  7. gordon is very good

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    1. This was a kick-ass episode, Dee Snider was also awesome and generous.

      Let's get one thing straight from the start, Chef Gordon is not at fault for any of these businesses failing.

      These businesses are on their last leg and Chef Gordon comes in and puts in his time, expertise and money to help them attempt a fresh start, whether they fail if Chef Gordon never shows up or after he leaves it's the owner's fault, period. Chef Gordon just gives them a better chance to succeed.

      Sean K.

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  8. What a pathetic drama-queen and little man-child that owner was. I feel so bad for his wife; I bet her entire marriage consists of her smoothing over the ruffled feathers that result from her husband's tantrums. He covered all the bases here: false dilemmas, detonating instead of listening, making accusations, unwarranted high self-estimation, and histrionically absurd threats ("FINE! I'll just fire everybody and do it all myself! And then you'll all be sorry when I drop dead!"). Sure, these shows are edited in particular ways, but there aren't many charitable reads I can give the behaviors on display here. The best blessing his poor wife could get at this point is the restaurant closing so she doesn't have to deal with all the heavy lifting *and* taking her husband's emotional temperature every five minutes. I hope she found her place in the sun; I liked her a lot. She and her *amazing* staff are awesome folks who deserve all the best in the world.

    PS: DEE SNIDER! ZOMG! It's so cool how these old-school rock stars can be so amazingly gracious and personable.

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    1. I totally agree, the wife and the wait staff were amazing people. I hope they go on to bigger, better things. They definitely deserve it!

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  9. That owner was incapable of success.

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  10. Gordon Ramsay is a genius restaurateur who should be applauded for his zeal to help those in trouble. I watch in amazement as he and his team transforms the look of a restaurant and then see how he conjures up a really simple menus that everyone can love. His genius is exemplified by his ability to present food in elegant and simplistic ways that made even the cook who didn't like cooking look good. No one to blame for the failure of this restaurant but the self-centered, egomaniac owner who is so immature that he is incapable of showing appreciation for the gift Gordon and crew handed him. disgusting to see such benevolence wasted.

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  11. No matter the enterprise, owning a business is very hard work to get it off the ground and keep it afloat, let alone make money.
    If the food is crap, no chance any customer would come back. The first thing a restaurateur should make sure is having a good Chef who can do simple dishes with ease. If that can't be done, then better cut the losses and close right away!
    Gordon Ramsay brings amazing ways to generate momentum in just a few days. It would be interesting to find out what these owners are doing once he leaves. Do they keep "promoting" the business as they were shown or even better? Are they just sitting thinking all has been done and now the customers should just keep coming?
    Then you have the lazy owners who will just never succeed at anything because they can't take their thumbs out of a place where the Sun never shines.
    This wife was amazing and too bad she was hooked with this incompetent man. Moving from construction work to restaurateur is a huge step!
    It is sad for the workers in this place. They deserved better.

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  12. Not sure if anyone noticed but Mick Foley (aka Mankind from WWF) went to the relaunch night.

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