I have been hesitant in writing this post but since one of the reasons I write this blog, albeit at sparing times, is to keep myself honest, so I think this might be a good post for me to wrestle with. As most of you know, we, The Cooks' House, have been told we can't allow people to bring in wine into the restaurant anymore; the fateful call came in late June. I'm not going to launch into the legal question at hand here but just say that according to Michigan state law BYOB is not, in no uncertain terms, allowed. To say this has thrown a monkey wrench into the operation would be an understatement. We have seen over 300 people either leave the restaurant, not make a reservation, or cancel a reservation since late June, and for a restaurant that seats 20, that is a f*cking lot of people, however, I did not set out with this post to whine about our present circumstances. I can't say I'm pissed off about our present situation. Why would I be angry? It's the law, a really stupid law, but the law none-the-less. For me to get upset at this would be futile. It would be like the crazy guy screaming at the sky for being blue.
We are making plans for a liqour license, which we don't forsee getting any sooner than June of 2011. That leaves us 8 more months of retelling the same story to everyone who brings a bottle in or asks when they make their reservation, and 8 more months of seeing customers leave or cancel. Believe me when I say this is getting old. I, of all people, understand how important wine is to the dinning experience. The food we serve at the restaurant requires wine. I wish I could explain how hard it is to look out into the dinning room and see the reactions of those Theresa has to tell we can't let them drink the wine they brought; they range from surprise, disappointment, incredulity, to out right anger, these are not typically how a chef wants his/her guests to react when in the restaurant. It doesn't do much in setting the tone for the rest of the evening; 8 more months.
I think the part that upsets me the most is feeling like I have to now apologize for being around. We can't simply take reservations or welcome guests in, we have to first apologize and then welcome them. This is the point I have been wrestling with since June. I feel like Oliver Twist asking, "Please Sir, I want some more", and this does nothing for the ego, let me tell you. My concern isn't for the business end of it all; we will stay afloat, that much I am confident of. My other concern is one of reputation. How much damage is being done to our reputation through out all of this?
The good news is, we will eventually have a liqour license and eventually we will not have to apologize for not having wine. A year from now this will all be behind us, but the fight we have until that time is taxing. We are in the happiness business and when one of our arms is tied behind of our back, bringing happiness to our guest becomes even harder than it was before. We are now giving even more attention in making the food, service, and atmosphere even better than before, but that doesn't come easy when we have a cloud looming over us. Every day is a fight to smile when the guest comes in. Everyday is a fight to cook the food better than yesterday. Everyday is a fight to keep the restaurant attractive to our guests. Why, because everyday we start out behind the gun and have to overcome the same obsticle we did yesterday, and not only overcome it, but overcome it with class and a smile on our faces. I have to hand it to our staff, they have been troopers in this through it all. Theresa still smiles as she explains for the umpteenth time the reasons for not allowing wine. The cooks still come in and give it 100%, even as we watch yet another table up and leave because they can't have wine with dinner.
What seperates the winners from the losers is the willingness to fight to the end. A great running back is one who keeps his legs pumping forward trying to get a few more yards even when being tackled by a multitude of opposing players. I still draw inspiration from a family I knew in Las Vegas who was on the brink of total destruction. The husband and wife were having problems. They were only days away from losing everything because of a very hard financial situation they found themselves in. They lost their 2 year old son to a drowning accident; yet despite of this, they did not quit. They continued to fight and pressed forward no matter how bleak the future looked. I've never liked the saying, "Life's a bitch, and then you die". It is a defeatist attitude. Life throws monkey wrenches; sometimes big ones, sometimes a lot of them, but those who come out in the end are the ones who don't give up the fight, but instead faces it and throws the wrenches back.
I'm not going to sugar coat it, these next 8 months are not going to be easy, but we are not going to take it laying down. We are going to do what we can to make the dinning experience a good one, despite missing an important piece of the puzzle. We will get our license and then we will face the next set of wrenches tossed our way.