The Sandbar / Playa Island Bar - Bar Rescue Update - Open or Closed?

The Sandbar / Playa Island Bar Bar Rescue

In this Bar Rescue episode, Jon Taffer visits The Sandbar Brewery and Grill in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Sandbar is owned by Sean Cowell.

He had the idea in August 2017 to open a beach themed bar with volleyball courts.

Sean got into a partnership with Mike Martinez, who provided most of the funding.

The bar was a success at first but then the bar began to struggle and sales dropped.

Sean went back to Mike and other investors for more funding to keep afloat and they reduced Sean’s stake to 10%.

Mike no longer acknowledges Sean’s ownership of the bar and they bicker a lot making staff uncomfortable.

Sean doesn’t give staff any control of their roles.

The decor is now confusing to customers as it is not in keeping with the beach theme.

The Sandbar is $600,000 in debt and is currently losing $15,000 a month.

Sean has lost his house and income so he has called on Bar Rescue for help.

Jon comes to Albuquerque and notes a beach bar is a very good idea, especially for New Mexico.

With him is Mixologist Amy Koffsky and Chef Jason Santos.

He gives them the lowdown on Sean and Mike and the ownership squabble between the pair.

He introduces Kenny the manager, bartenders David and Karissa and server Elizabeth .

They see Dave A., a bartender, serve a cocktail in a huge glass which distorts the proportions of alcohol to mixers.

An old lime is used as garnish, tainting the drink.

Victor is a cook and they see him cook using dirty fryer oil.

Amy and Jason are sent in to get a feel for the place.

They see the bar has some space to it and tacky furnishings.

They find Sean and send him to meet with Jon outside.

They order a Watermelon Breeze and Beach Cucumber with Nachos at the bar.

Sean tells Jon when he started and how he defaulted on a loan from the investors.

He lost most of his shares but he claims he still owns his 10%.

Next, Mike also gets to speak with Jon.

Inside, Amy hates the drink that is mostly sour mix and the nachos are cold and salty.

Mike tells Jon his own version of the events with Sean defaulting and losing his business entirely.

Jon then confronts Sean about the truth of the ownership of the bar.

Sean says he has documentation stating he still has 10% of the bar and he produces it.

It is found the document is signed but it has not been seen by the other party and is not executed, therefore it is invalid.

Jon makes him see he has 0% of the bar.

He tells the whole bar Sean is just a manager and has been passing himself off as an owner.

The next day Jon calls them all together for a staff meeting.

The staff say they are failing because of a lack of leadership.

Sean keeps to himself in the office and only comes out to yell at staff.

They look at the bull and how much they lose daily with rentals and not much usage.

The volleyball is only open 10 hours a week, a contrast for what is supposed to be the main attraction.

There is no identity or branding to the bar.

The Partender report showed they lost $2570 over the weekend with projections of $11,000 lost each month and $130,000 annually.

After this the first training starts for the kitchen and the bar.

Victor complains to Jason that he is restricted as he can’t change the menu.

Jason works on reigniting their love for cooking and shows them a fresher way of making Tacos.

Amy then teaches new recipes to infuse consistency in drinks making.

She challenges all three bartenders to make the same drink and they all make it differently.

Sean is asked to make the same drink and he complains that he doesn't drink or make drink so he has never checked their consistency.

Mike gets angry that Sean was not that involved but was spending his money.

Jon meets Mike outside and talks him into giving Sean a chance and seeing how he handles the stress test.

For the stress test, there is red tape dividing the bar into two.

Sean and Kenny are going to manage either half with their own servers and bartenders so they see who comes out on top.

The two managers pick their teams and give them pep talks.

The stress test commences, and the orders pile up in the kitchen and at the bar.

Kenny steps up to help his team bartend to keep up while Sean is noticeably absent.

Sean is spending too much time taking orders and overwhelming his bartenders.

Sean’s side of the bar are left without drinks and there are long waiting times.

Sean is flustered inputting the orders and then making the drinks.

Mike has had enough and calls Sean aside to fire him.

Sean gets angry and it ends in a shouting match between him and Mike.

Jon gets involved and Sean finally leaves.

Jon then meets Kenny to give him the news and tells him the bar needs to be shut down for renovations.

Mike breaks the news to the rest of the staff after work hours and they are happy to work under Kenny, who they believe is the best manager.

Kim trains the staff the next day on some new beach themed cocktails and introduces gelatine shots to upsell drinks.

Jason trains the kitchen on some easy snack dishes with some twists.

The renovation team worked all day and night to prepare for the launch.

The bar has been renamed Playa Island Bar, enhancing the beach theme and making it more consistent throughout.

PR videos on TVs have been provided by Mirage Vision TV and OneStone hubs have been set up.

Rockless Tables provided the tables and new murals helped to bring the space together.

Customers are let in and they love the new decor.

The staff are happy and on top of orders at the bar.

In the kitchen Kenny is confidently interacting with customers as a manager.

What Happened Next at The Sandbar / Playa Island Bars?

Six weeks later, sales have increased, Kenny is now sole manager and Mike is more active with the business.

They did not keep the new name.

They went back to being called The Sandbar quickly after the show was filmed.

The Sandbar closed in November 2019 and the bar was put up for lease.

Reviews after the show were mixed with many customers not happy about the new management.

There are also complaints of changed opening times, rude bar tenders and poor customer service.

This post was last updated in March 2022.

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