Dry Tour Wine Bar in Venice, CA, Loses Customers By Charging Full Price For Drinks on a Pub Crawl
Just as there are good bars and bad bars, there are smart bars and dumb bars.
Sharkeez in Hermosa, Manhattan and other Southern California beach cities is a smart bar. It welcomes new customers, takes care of loyal customers and if presented with a large number of patrons on a group outing, treats them as if they’ve just arrived at a carnival.
Dry Tour wine bar in Venice, CA, is a dumb bar.
At least from what I experienced.
When Dry Tour was presented with an opportunity to toast new business, it instead spilled drinks on its customers. Messed up the order. Put the wrong tab on the credit card. In other words, it made a mistake.
The occasion was a slow Saturday afternoon in early July. Dry Tour had just a couple of customers who were sitting quietly at a table having lunch. Suddenly, some 30-40 people stampeded into the place, all dressed in white with red bandanas. They – we, actually – were part of the inaugural Venice Beach Running of the Bulls, a silly but wildly fun event that basically consisted of people running from one bar to another along Ocean Front Walk. Dry Tour was the finishing bar.
Upon our arrival, someone I assumed to be the manager announced that for a short amount of time, the sangria (a perfect drink for this event) would be $4. After that, it would return to its regular price of $8. Those who had drink tickets – the organizers were selling a small stack of them for $30 – would still get the $4 price.
Except few people were actually buying the tickets ($30, on top of $4 a drink, meant a $50 bar tab was looming). And after a couple of rounds, the price of those sangrias did indeed increase to $8. Eight dollars!? Come on! We’ve just put nearly 40 people in your bar, all willing and wanting to drink, and you’re slamming us with the FULL PRICE of your drinks?
Well you can imagine what happened next. The party atmosphere changed from people taking pictures and laughing to the silence of a Sunday church service. Conversations shifted from the kind that occurs when mostly single people are consuming cocktails on a pub crawl type of event to the price of the drinks.
Talk about a buzzkill.
People started looking around to see if anyone was going elsewhere. Since this was a first-year event, there were no other scheduled stops, so the once-raging bull of a party ended with a fizzle. While it still had plenty of potential sizzle.
This is when Dry Tour became a dumb bar. By sticking to its full price, in the middle of the day, no less, it chased away customers. We gladly would have stayed and bought more drinks, and made more money for the bar and the bartenders, had management simply lowered the prices. Instead, the bar lost dozens of customers as quickly as an ocean breeze blows away a cocktail napkin.
It’s not like there were other people were streaming into the place, either. In fact, other than our group, not another single customer entered the bar. And think many – or any – of us will ever go back to Dry Tour? It’s doubtful.
Now I know some people love the place. For what it is most of the time, a wine bar, I’m sure it’s fine. It has a bartender who wears funky glasses and a bow tie and possesses the exact kind of outgoing personality that makes a place distinctive. Even on this day, he was as lively as his customers.
What Dry Tour should have done – what any bar should do when a group of people as part of a pub crawl or organized event comes into its business – is to offer Happy Hour specials or discounted drinks. The aforementioned Sharkeez does it and even throws in huge platters of appetizers for free. Had Dry Tour charged $5 for the sangria instead of $8, it would have kept people in the bar, while also keeping some value in those coupons.
Turned off by the price of the sangria, I decided to get a couple of beers for myself and my friend. I asked what I assumed to be the manager (he was helping out behind the bar, and that’s a credit to him, I’ll give him that, but it was obvious he was not one of the bartenders), about the cost of a beer. He said I could have a draft for $7, but bottles of Stella Artois were $6. I went for the Stella, which is one of my favorite beers anyway.
I was then presented a bill for $13.05.
“I thought the beers were $6,” I said.
“They are,” the guy replied. “But this is the price with the tax.”
The only other bar I’ve ever encountered that hits customers with tax on top of the stated or published price is the high-end Strand House in Manhattan Beach. Other bars include it; if they say a beer is $6, they charge you $6. Plus, tax on two beers is $1.03!?