James – Southgate

Phicklephilly is back and going out on the town again! I’m so happy to have some new things to write about!

We’ve been locked up for over four months. Covid and being quarantined has taken a toll on all of us. When this is over things will definitely be different. The way we work, socialize, and connect with each other.

Some of the restrictions have been lifted in our city. Food delivery’s been huge. But we can all agree we miss going out and having a drink and a bite with a friend. James and I usually try to get together at least once every other month when times are good, but that’s been impossible for the past four months.

I’ve enjoyed facetime and zoom calls during this challenging time. But it’s just not the same as real human interaction. I think one thing that this quarantine has taught us is that you find out who your real friends are. I was initially a little butt hurt when I didn’t hear from people I thought were my friends. I spoke with a close friend about this and explained to her my plight several months ago. She said, “Those people weren’t really your friends. They were simply your happy hour buddies.” She was right and that gave me clarity in regard to who I’d be spending my precious time with in the future. Those people were my ‘friends’ when I was taking them to big events where they could get dressed up and be seen. Surrounded by beautiful people, free drinks and free food. I really liked these people and thought we were friends, when in reality they just attached themselves to me like sea lampreys and basked in my light.

The lights went out back in March and I haven’t heard from any of them. Not even a “How you holding up?,” text. Nothing. When I thought back to my relationship with these so called friends, we never really hung out and did things that friends do together. I was just a free drink, fun event, and meal ticket for these folks. I know people who have worked in the hospitality industry and they agree. These people were their friends as long as they were being invited to cool events and pounding free drinks. Anyway, lesson learned and I won’t be hanging out with any of these vacuous, self-absorbed fools anymore. But I digress…

James and I have been friends for I think around seven years. I could check previous posts about this man, but I think we met for the first time back in 2013. I was with Michelle at a fashion event that he was running at the Armory here in Philly.

Found his first post:

James – Modeling Agency Mogul

You can begin Michelle’s 24 part series here:

Michelle – Chapter 1 – A Brand New Day

James and I have always loved movies. Great films as well as horrible turkeys. We just love all things movies. I consider him one of my best friends here in Philly and he’s joined the ranks of my enduring friends. He’s a cool, smart guy who runs his own talent agency.

So after four months in quarantine, we decided to throw down the gauntlet and meet up for one of our now famous, ‘Hollywood Happy Hours.’ Scheduling seems harder than ever with everything that’s going on, compounded by the restrictions put upon us by this pandemic.

I’m happy that things are happening again. I used to always have stories from my life and series going about all of the fun people in my life. (Especially all of my crazy dates!) I’ve found without being able to go out and make new stories, I turned inward and have been publishing stories from my past. I hope people enjoy them and I’d like to publish a book about them maybe next year. But things are opening up now, and I’m starting to get out again. I’m ready to return phicklephilly to its former glory as a place with fun new content from my present life.

James and I were set to meet on a Wednesday, but something happened with one of his cats and he had to rush him to the vet. $1000 later, and the cat is fine. We bumped our meeting until Thursday, but his girlfriend got rear ended in her car out in Manayunk and that caused a wrinkle in her bumper and our plans. But she insisted he still get together with me. (Thank you, Amy! Glad you’re okay.) After making sure she got home safe, he hopped in a Lyft and headed down to see me.

We met at a place about a block and a half from my house. It’s a Korean barbecue bar/restaurant, called Southgate.

https://www.southgatephilly.com/

It used to be a neighborhood dive called Tangiers. It was a beloved spot for the people of the Graduate Hospital neighborhood to hang. Cold beer, good burgers, wings and board games. You could always run into someone you knew there. But like many places here in center city… out with old and in with the new. I’d never been to Southgate because I was locked into going to my spots uptown like Square 1682 and Harp and Crown. Places where I knew the staff and got the hookup.

I love when James comes down here to Rittenhouse. I always feel like I should make more effort to go hang with him in his neck of the woods, but he says he likes to come down to center city. A place filled with cool stuff to do, and places to go, and beautiful people. I can’t understand the attraction!

Because of the pandemic, you can’t sit inside of any restaurant, but if they have outdoor seating they’re open for business. So I grab a table for two and my buddy arrives. It’s great to see him in the flesh! There he is! He lives! Within in minutes we’re settled and sipping refreshing cocktails. It was a nice evening and a welcome repose from the heatwave we’ve been in for the last month. We caught up on all things about life, his agency, phicklephilly, family, and published books. Did I mention movies? There was much discussion about all things film, past and present.

Our night started around 7pm and there’s some rule now where if you’re going to take a table you have to order food as well as drinks. I suppose the space is so limited they make their money from the food and they don’t want people taking up tables just to get hammered. I got the fried chicken; soy and spicy, and he ordered bao buns and the bibimbap. I’d never heard of either of them, but he seemed to like it. The food and drinks were delish and the staff was on point. We even had the honor of meeting the owner. A charming gentleman who came out to chat with us.

It got to be around 10pm, and Southgate was closing for the night. (Time always flies when we’re hanging out together because it’s always a lively event) We paid our checks and tipped mightily. (They need it!) We decided to head two blocks west on Lombard to another local spot called Lou Bird’s.

https://www.loubirds.net/

I’ve only been to Lou’s one time before. It was New Years Day about three years ago. I was with my friend Mary. You can check that out here:

Mary – Chapter 2 – New Years Day Brunch – Part One

Mary – Chapter 3 – New Years Day Brunch – Part Two

Since the troubles hit our fair city two months ago… race riots, protests, fires, looting and general despicable behavior by a few bad actors, I just haven’t had any desire to travel uptown to hang out. I’m tired of dealing with the homeless element, and just couldn’t look upon the destruction and sadness that has befallen our fair city. So I’ve been trying some of these places near my house with great success.

I had stopped at Lou Bird’s for the first time in so many years after I finished the final draft of Angel with a Broken Wing. This was back in mid June. I decided to celebrate by taking myself out for a cocktail made by someone other than myself. I sat at a little table by myself and lovely Sarah the server took very good care of me. I vowed after that day, that Lou Bird’s could become my new ‘spot.’

So we get there, and it’s dark but there are plenty of seats. They stayed open until 11pm so we had some more time. We found a table in the street, because they’ve roped off a section on 20th street to have more seating space. (genius!) I got a Manhattan and James had a beer. Sarah was there and she looked after our needs. I’m sure she’s even prettier without that mask! But within an hour, they started picking up the tables and it was time to go. James and I were left standing on the corner wondering what to do.

“I don’t feel like going home yet.”

“I don’t think anything else is still open now, James.”

“Can we go to your place and drink?”

“Boom.”

So we get back to the batcave and I grab some beverages. We decide of a couple of spiked seltzers, Bon & Viv make some great ones.

https://www.bonvivspikedseltzer.com/

We both do a shot of bourbon and sip our drinks. Our conversation once again turns to movies. I tell him how many bands and comedians are doing shows at old Drive In movie theaters. There are a few left still standing after so many years since the advent of home video in the eighties. Which leads me into tales of some of my adventures at the drive in movie theater that we used to go to 35 years ago in Rio Grande, New Jersey. It was amazing, and I have many memorable stories from that wonderful place. I had recently watched a terrific documentary about a drive in movie theater that’s still alive and well in Lehighton, PA. It’s about 75 miles northwest of Philly. You can find it on Amazon Prime, It’s called, ‘At the the Drive In.’

https://www.mahoningdit.com/

Since we both love film and the movie experience, James tells me he’s never been to a drive in and that we should go.

“We should go to one for your birthday.”

“I don’t know if there are any left around here. The one on in the documentary is really far away.”

“We’ll figure it out. I want to do this, Chaz.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

We wrap up the night, and I assumed it would be forgotten. I knew it’s something we both wanted to experience, but I was okay if it didn’t happen for my birthday. I never make a big deal about my birthday anymore. I just feel like I survived another trip around the sun and I’m grateful I still get to be in the world for another year!

He gets into his Lyft and another great night is on the books with my dear friend James. Things are opening up, so at least I’m getting out of the house and spending time with people I care about. I’m very fortunate to have them in my life. I love my alone time to create and reflect, but I get my energy from being around people.

We’ll see what happens…

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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How Can Restaurants Recover From Coronavirus?

Dining out has been one of the many social and economic casualties of the coronavirus contagion known as COVID-19. City and state governments all over the country have closed restaurant dining rooms, which were never really set up with social distancing in mind anyway. Only delivery and takeout orders are allowed for the foreseeable future.

Many restaurants have shifted to the new, hopefully short-lived reality. Many more have closed entirely. Whether they’re gone for now or gone for good remains to be seen. But for the time being most restaurant staffers find themselves unemployed, and people who might dine out under normal circumstances find themselves ordering in, if they can even find a place to take their order.

The restaurant industry is suffering, like most of the economy. But there will come a day when people will eat out again. And while the landscape will be drastically different, the experience may be strikingly familiar. Once the health crisis subsides, what will it take for restaurants to open their doors?

Jason Bowell is the assistant general manager at the Beatrice Inn, a traditional New York chophouse that prides itself on its innovative yet timeless meat dishes. Bowell has been managing restaurants for about a decade and worked in the restaurant business for the better part of three decades.

“The restaurants that are going to have not as much trouble getting back on their feet are going to be restaurants that are involved with larger chains,” says Bowell. “Restaurants that are able to pivot well enough to create a good enough online delivery business — delivery and takeout business — are at least going to weather the storm a little bit. And people that are savvy enough to understand how to work their way through getting relief from the government. There are loans being offered, especially for restaurants that are keeping people on staff as paid.”

A successful pivot, even if only to tread water in the short-term, is far from assured for most establishments. There are many factors at play.

“Places with high overhead, like large places that would normally really focus in on getting a lot of guests in and turning those guests over, they’ll be struggling pretty bad,” Bowell points out. “If your business model is based on having large groups of people in your place… your costs per square foot is going to be really hard to cover by doing delivery.”

Those costs could be anything from fixed costs like rent on the space to variable costs like electricity and other utilities. Variable costs, of course, drop with decreased usage. Restaurants sharply reduced their labor costs when governments closed dining rooms and eliminated it entirely if they opted for hibernation. After all, as Bowell points out, “the most important difference between a restaurant that’s going to succeed and one that’s not going to succeed is whether or not you can cover your current costs.”

While reducing or eliminating labor costs may bide time in the short-term, those tactics will also make re-opening that much harder when that time finally comes. “I don’t see the point of not employing people, being in business if you can. If you’re not, not only are you going to have a really hard time not completely folding while the restaurants are closed, but also getting yourself back up to speed when you’re actually allowed to start taking people again.”

Having a staff ready to go when the economy opens its doors again could be the difference between a strong comeback and a dismal end. “It’s about staff retention,” Bowell bluntly puts it. “If I retain my staff, I could probably be open in four or five days. And that’s just to make sure that we’re getting all of our product in and that we’re prepping everything and all the things we need to have ready to go for service are ready to go.”

Not retaining staff means using time for hiring and training that might otherwise be spent serving, and making money from, the public. Another potential hurdle is restocking restaurant kitchens with ingredients.

“You’re going to have a lot of people ordering a lot of stuff really quickly,” says Bowell. “And that’s going to cause issues getting product from point A to point B if you’re having huge, massive orders come across your board. Keep in mind, you make those orders for all that food, it’s all perishable. So it’s all about timing. Restaurants are going to have to wait until they’re stocked up, until they’re prepped and then take a day to open. It might be staggered when those restaurants are opening.”

The few restaurants that can stay open, retain staff and ramp up quickly, can expect banner days as all the pent-up demand fills the marketplace. Diners should expect a far different landscape, however, with fewer dining-out options. According to Bowell, “a lot of those places that shouldn’t have been open, that were on the cusp, are going to be closed. So all the restaurants that are still open are going to benefit from that for awhile.”

The in-house dining experience may largely return to what it was before the pandemic, and restaurant scenes everywhere will find some sort of post-coronavirus existence. But Bowell doesn’t see the world returning to the way it was. “I don’t think there’s ever a normal again after this, because this is really rewriting the way all restaurateurs think about their businesses. It’s going to be a different playing field. I think a lot of people learned a lot of lessons about how their businesses run during this thing. It’s going to change the way they run their businesses right now.”

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Servers Share The Worst First Date They’ve Ever Witnessed – Part 2

Why She Loved That Waitress

I was the person on a terrible first date.

It was unusual because he picked a very fancy location that was way out of town (like an hour drive), I normally prefer casual dates like walking in the park, or coffee but he insisted we go.

I arrived first and when I sat down I ordered a drink (strawberry lemonade I don’t drink alcohol) and was talking to the waitress saying I was waiting on a date, she was super nice to me and said “oh I hope it’s fun good luck!”

Once he arrived suddenly her mood shifted, she gave him an attitude when he ordered. He was trying to bully me into getting some alcohol but I was firm and said I would stick to my strawberry lemonade. Throughout the date he kept trying to order me vodka.

Waitress was being really weird and kept complimenting me and giving me free lemonades, refills every two minutes and basically giving him dirty looks and stayed close by always watching. The guy was being a prick about the situation and started acting rude, “I hope she’s not gonna charge for those.” He looked incredibly angry and uncomfortable.

I was starting to wonder why this waitress was being so mean so I went to the bathroom and waited to flag her down.

She told me he goes there every other weekend with a new girl and that the girls would walk out of there acting very drunk.

I did confront him and he admitted he gets girls drunk to sleep with him with pressure tactics. I took off right when he said that and the waitress took me to my car, I made sure to give all the cash I had as a tip.

I seriously love that waitress, and I’ll never forget her.

Blasted Racist

Not a server but a bartender. My girlfriend was serving an obvious first date and they were ordering an alarming amount of drinks with 30 minutes of sitting down, I ask my gf what was going and and she said the girl was doing all of the shots they ordered. I walked from behind the bar to the bathroom purely to check in on the situation and good lord this girl on the date was blasted and just dropping the f-bomb every other word.

Eventually the chick went outside to smoke and the dude B-lined to the bar and asked if he could give me money for the waitress and sneak out (actually gave $200 for a $70 tab so nice)…the girl came back in and ate the food they ordered then tried to order more drinks. Had to throw her out and she started calling me the n word. I’m very much a white dude. Bizarre night that my girl and I still talk about years later.

The Hipster King And His Moral Mountain

Oh yes! I’ve got the mother of all hipster dates!

So I was at Father’s Office, it’s kind of a trendy beer /hipster/ amazing food/ show that is wall to wall packed every night.My friends and I are enjoying what could possibly be the best burger ever made. I’m drinking a beer.

This place is set up kind of strange. You have 2 bars along the back wall, some tables in the middle for dinner and a ring of booths around the rest of the bar. Not a lot of room to move around or really have private space. It didn’t really bother me because I was having an orgasmic out of body experience with this burger.

Until in walks the king of all of the Los Angeles hipsters…

This guy had every article of hipster clothing on. That stupid Amish hat, the fruit pattern button up shirt sleeve shirt, the swacket (sweater-jacket), burgundy corduroy pants, and yes deck shoes. His face was adorned with your typical hipster add ons; the septum piercing, gauges, those awful Harry Potter glasses, patchy stubble and a 80’s porn star mustache. Bracelets clanking off his Apple watch he saunters in to the bar and plops himself in the booth behind me. My back is to his back, and I can feel the Mumford and Sons rolling out of his soul.

He orders some nonsense beer and begins to make “work” calls on his ridiculous watch… in a bar loud enough to bother my deaf uncle. So pretentious. His voice sounds like the Chipmunks smoked camel unfiltered’s and drank wild turkey. I am immediately in hate with this walking skidmark on the underwear of society.

That is until the crowds around the bar part and in walks the most incredibly attractive ordinary girl I’ve ever seen. I know that sounds confusing but just think about it. We’ve all seen someone like that before, nothing really special about them… But all of the normality is just perfect. She is wearing jeans with a black v-neck shirt. She is rocking some really nice Jimmy Choo’s (yes I know what those are don’t judge me) I can tell she just got done with work because she has that “I want to go home and make love to my bed” look.

She smiles at our table as she walks by and then very sensually slides into the booth with the hipster King. My friends and I give each other that “here comes the show” look. He introduces himself, she introduces herself it’s fairly normal conversation.

Then she asks what he does for work and the gates of hipster hell open. Apparently, he is the most accomplished man in the entire city of LA. He is a writer, a director, an actor, a vegan food expert, wine expert, tech genius who makes million dollar apps as a hobby, has a charity, and most importantly is involved in the weed industry. He says all of this in the most condescending tone possible; like she could never measure up to his incredible portfolio.

My table is struggling not to laugh as we listen to this modern day million dollar man tell this girl that he is probably a way better human being than she could ever hope to be. How he is totally down with black lives matter, how he donated buckets of money to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. His moral fiber is so strong that scientist are trying to use it to catch meteors.

Now at this point I can’t see her face, remember she is facing my back. But I have to see how she is reacting to this guy’s PR interview… so I very casually stand up to stretch… and as I put my arms out I turn my head to look at her. She has this look of confusion sprinkled with disgust and a little dash of just being done with this entire situation. I unfortunately catch her eye and we link telepathically. Her eyes are saying “Can you believe this?”

My eyes respond “I’d save you but I don’t want his words touching the air around me.”

I finish my stretch and sit back down. My friends are giggling like a bunch of girls drunk on box wine. He is rambling on about how corporate America is responsible for all the evils in the world. I hear a very loud sigh and she finally says:

“Look my friend set this up, I’m really tired from work and I don’t want to sit here and watch you build this moral high ground mountain that you’re apparently so intent on building. Have a great night best of luck.”

You could hear the air leaving this man child’s body as she got up and walked away. Disappearing into the crowd like a victorious warrior.

But that wasn’t the end!

He gathered his thoughts and started making calls on his watch as loudly as possible so everyone could hear how important he is. He sat at that table nursing that one beer for an entire hour. Just being an in-the-way person, a person so repugnant that the wait staff didn’t even come to his table. Oh and the cherry on top of the douche Sunday? He only tipped 10% on his bill.

Pokemon

Couple years ago, I was tending bar at a high-end steak joint. A pretty brunette walked in and sat down at the bar. After fixing her a cocktail, I asked if she’d like to see a dinner menu. She explained that she was waiting for a date.

A few moments later, the guy arrived carrying a large bag.

It was immediately obvious this date was their first. Their conversation was lurching from forced to downright painful when he reached into the bag and pulled out an album containing…

…his Pokemon card collection.

He set the book on the bar and thumbed through each page, thoroughly and lovingly describing every card, attempting to educate his date in the ways of Japanese pocket monsters. I’ll be fair to the guy – dude was passionate.

She feigned an emergency and called her friend to pick her up. He stayed and ate a plain hamburger at the bar. Both of these people were in their mid-30’s.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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