Work Day One
Wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then. –Bob Seger
Dad and I arrived at the restaurant bright and early. He hadn’t seen the space before agreeing to help us with the clean up, but when he saw the condition of everything, he stuck with me and never criticized my decision – he may have questioned it – buy he never criticized it. My husband, Rick, and I both learned the meaning of hard work from our fathers. Our dads are the kind of men who know how to fix just about anything, never shy away from a project, and are also generous with sharing their experience and support.
It would not be even a slight exaggeration to say that the place was a disaster zone! When I had toured the restaurant the couple of times before buying it, it was a mess, but when we got there the first morning, it really looked like a war zone. Clearly the previous staff had found out that they would soon be out of a job and any attempt at cleaning had stopped days before. My restaurant broker actually said, “It’s the biggest disaster I’ve ever seen!”
And, yes, you heard me right – I paid money for this mess! We paid $70,000 to take over a restaurant that, most likely, would not have been opened for much longer. The value lay in the contents and structure of the space. The large exhaust system, the bathrooms, the location, the HVAC system, water heater, the lighting, the configuration of the kitchen, and the equipment – although there wasn’t much that could actually be salvaged. It may not seem like a lot, but when you consider the cost of hiring an architect, a contractor, building out a space and purchasing the equipment that was already in place, it wasn’t a bad deal – I kept reminding myself.
So, we started in with the demolition. We each picked a spot and basically just started hauling stuff out to the dumpsters. I started in the back of the kitchen. There was a little hand sink that had a five-gallon bucket under it to catch the water, since the plumbing underneath it had been disconnected. The putrid bucket was overflowing, so I carefully carried it out the back door and dumped it out. Dad and I both reminded each other not to use the sink, since it wasn’t properly hooked up – and then continued on - digging and sorting through the monstrous piles of trash.
I was shocked how a place as disgusting as what we were dealing with could have ever passed a health inspection. To this day, I still don’t understand how the Health Department hadn’t shut it down. The previous owner clearly was a pig, but as consumers, we always have hope that the Health Department has our safety as a priority. When I read Health Department ratings of a restaurant now, I have a very difficult time giving the scores much credibility. However, if the restaurants scores are low, I can guarantee I will never step near it.
After a little while of hauling, Dad and I stopped to check on each other’s progress. We passed by the little hand sink where a puddle of water had formed. Dad said, “Did you use the sink?” I said, “No – it’s not hooked up.”
We checked the handles to make sure it wasn’t leaking. No leaks. We stood looking at each other for a moment, wondering where the water had come from. Then Dad said, “I used the urinal, do you think it came from there?” He ran around to the bathroom, flushed the urinal, while I stood in utter horror and disgust as I watched the water run out of the cut off pipe, thinking about the bucket and it’s contents that I had touched only moments before.