19 February 2013

The Best Thing about Toby Keith’s Bar & Grill Might Actually Be the Food



“Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill.” Certainly I was not alone in the hope that this ridiculous name would be the worst thing about the place. As it turns out, not only is it not the worst thing but there doesn’t seem to be even one good thing about this place at all.

After reading the Business Courier’s news briefing about TKILTBG’s eviction notice due to rent non-payment, I surfed the web for more info. What I found suggests that this may be the worst managed restaurant operation of all time.

First, the diner reviews. I checked the TKILTBG landscape on local social media and for the most part it was a dirt field with a lot of manure and a few green spots. The general consensus is average food and mediocre service. What struck me is that this was the consensus ever since opening; it never changed. I’ll come back to that. Now, let’s read some quotable excerpts:

YELP:

So a thick Juicy medium rare California burger was ordered with a big ole slice of guacamole and cheese. What came to the table was a dry over cooked burger...

Sam Adams seasonal is the best beer they have on tap. Started with an order of fried pickles. My gold standard for fried pickles comes from Paxton's in Loveland. In comparison, the pickles at TK's were disgusting.

Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill is more like "I'd Love Some Service".

All told, I thought it would suck but it was a fine place to grab a face full of beer.

...you have to pay to park, pay to eat mediocre food, and it's all on the hype of being Toby Keith's bar... For this Country Fan... I'll pass on Mr. Keith, I don't really love this bar...

...so really the name of the place should be, "Toby Keith's I Guess It Was OK Bar & Grill,”

...so for the country lovin, sports watching, beer drinking, game goin guy and gal...y'all just may "love this bar";)

All 50 TV's were on the same exact station... not sure why anyone would think that's a good idea...

It seems this service staff needs MAJOR training, I will not return and dissuade my friends and family from returning!!!

I've been a few times before... The one thing I will say is guaranteed is horrible bar service. This time was no exception. However, this time I had a bartender literally pick a fight with me. SERIOUSLY. 

The only way I would go back here would be if Toby Keith personally served me a local brew out of his red solo cup...

The bathroom was clean and had my favorite hand dryers (Xlerators).

I love Toby Keith. I like him. I like his songs. All that good will he'd built up? Shot to hell.


URBANSPOON:

Toby needs to check out what he is putting his name on.

Food was over cooked, management was confrontational and defensive, horrible experience.

He received zero tip, which is exactly what he deserved...

I was surprised to see what I consider to be a poor selection of beers...

Second weekend open and they were out of salmon, turkey, and our first and second choices for a glass of wine.

Good luck keeping that place open with horrific service like that!


ThaddandMilan.com blog comment:

...when I asked her if it was Cadillac Ranch 2.0 she didn't hesitate in saying yes.


The reviews were clear; this is a place to drink piss beer (not that I'm above that) and listen to country music (it depends), and nothing else. After reading diner reviews, I checked the Health Department’s online restaurant inspections which indicate the kitchen and equipment got dirty soon after opening and stayed that way through 2012. Inspection records can be misleading, but when taken into account with diners’ reports of untrained front staff, it’s not a stretch to figure the back staff is also untrained beyond how to put stuff on a plate.

Everything I read so far suggested bad management. So I surfed for information about TKILTBG’s owner, and that’s when things started to get a little fucked up.

I found this anti-TKILTBG site which, among other things, claims that TKILTBG’s owner, Frank Capri of Phoenix, has been sued 40 times for non-payments. This would make the Cincy lawsuit the 41st. And let’s not forget that Capri has irked someone so badly they made a website dedicated to ruining him.

Turns out that someone is the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas. In fact, the union sent a letter about TKILTBG & Capri’s financial track record to Councilwoman Qualls last July, which she submitted to the whole Council, which referred it to the Budget & Finance Committee (on which all 9 sit anyway), which did not pursue any action.

This union seems to play hardball and get its hands dirty. In addition to going after TKILTBG, it’s trying to unionize the workers at a group of Vegas hotel/casinos and mounted another attack website against the UFC, the hugely popular mixed martial arts competition, which happens to be owned by the casino owners, the billionaire Fertitta brothers.

I didn’t find any connection between the Fertittas and Capri, other than the fact that they are both targets of the same union. One obvious difference: the Fertittas manage well-run, successful businesses whereas Capri does not.

To be honest, everything I came across suggests that Frank Capri is a scam artist, and I am at a loss for how he consistently made big deals with so many people in so many places. He doesn’t pay his bills. He gets sued. He loses in court. The restaurant sucks. He opens a new one some-where else. Repeat cycle. Apparently, Cincinnati is the most recent stopover for this train of honkytonk hoodwinkery.

Will the City lose money here? Not necessarily. The City loaned $5.5m to the Banks, not to TKILTBG. So the City’s repayment comes from the Banks partnership, which has already stated its intent to fully repay the loan regardless of the TKILTBG outcome.

The ultimate question in all this is why no one saw any red flags. The Banks/TKILTBG press release announcing the restaurant is dated January 5, 2011. The anti-TKILTBG website lists 27 of the 40 (now 41) lawsuits, and 13 of those 27 were filed prior to 2011.

We’ll see how this situation plays out but if TKILTBG sticks around, one has to wonder “What next?” The best outcome is probably for The Banks to get its rent and evict TKILTBG (after whatever happens next) and get a better restaurant. It’s hard to imagine NOT getting a better restaurant at this point but given the limited imagination and apparent screw-ups of The Banks team so far, who knows?

That January 5, 2011 press release quoted The Banks’ project executive Trent Germano saying “Toby Keith’s will help make The Banks a unique and fun place where it’s always happening.” Comically perfunctory, I know, and as it turns out, wrong on all counts.

Contrast that with the Urbanspoon comment that it’s “a disappointment to all the people who look to the banks to represent the kindness and hospitality of true cincinnatians.” Ouch. At this point one has to ask, is TKILTBG taking away more value from The Banks than it is adding?





2 comments:

VisuaLingual said...

I hate to wish ill on any business venture, but this one hasn't made any real sense to me, at least not in the context of Cincinnati in general or The Banks specifically.

It's a bummer that this development doesn't include more local options [I realize that the spaces may be prohibitively expensive for some independently owned small businesses]. It's also a bummer that this place doesn't seem to reflect its location in its dishes, ingredients, beers, or music, which it could do even as a non-local business.

In my opinion, The Banks is shaping up to be a place for out-of-towners who don't have the time, energy or priorities to find local flavor. At least it's easy for me to avoid it!

Quimbob said...

I had hoped this would be kinda like the House of Blues chain & would bring in some decent third rate or 'has been' country music. That they don't want to do that all American thing - compete - is pretty ludicrous but I guess they can't.
Anyway the name always makes me think of Eugene Chadbourne's I Hate hte Man Who Runs This Bar.
Chadbourne could probably run a better joint anyway...