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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Starting a comedy and magic club/bar? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

superpixel
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Knoxville, TN
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Hey folks, the title pretty much sums up the dream. I'm looking into starting a bar with magic and connected (ideally upstairs) a comedy club.

There are various details I won't go into regarding bright ideas for using the space regularly (as opposed to only when people go out drinking) but suffice it to say I have plenty of research to do around the basics of running a *space*... Although I've started a few businesses before.

However, are there any resources out there for starting a bar that features magic? I'm working with a partner on the comedy club side, but I can see myriad issues with the bar magic. Namely:

1. Seating issues. Most popular bars around here become shoving matches to get to the bar and the servers look completely irked and are in no mood to entertain. Looking at how places like Hard Rock and Coyote Ugly operate, the bar isn't a free-for-all, nor is it a place to go grab your drinks. However, the bar is basically a performance area, so I'm wondering how to design it best. Also, should there be a waiting list?

2. Timing issues. I know we'll need to set expectations from before people walk in. I don't want folks coming in hoping for a fast beer and get "stuck" waiting for this joker to stop his "magicky stuff"... you know? Magicians will do sets, take breaks, and repeat for a few hours a night. In-between bartenders will have some jokes, moves and bar bets they can use (the bets will be fun and a way to give away discounts and offers). But it'll still come down to moving people in/out and making sure they are cared for with refills and checks. Ideas?

3. How best to treat my magicians? Realize that there's not a ton of bar magicians in my area. We're IBM Ring 58 (Knoxville), and I haven't polled the members, but there are NO bars with magic around, and a handful of restaurants. That said, Terry Evanswood has a theater here and does another show in Pigeon Forge, plus some old-school stuff going on and something like 3 or 4 magic shops in Sevier county thanks to tourism. But I want to draw magicians from the area to come and have FUN and get PAID. Not a king's ransom, but I see this as a sort of lab for anyone who wants to try out a bar as an audience. Offbeat and funny, cool and creative are the goals.

Thanks to anyone with advice, I really appreciate it! This is but the first tentative steps of a long journey. I know it won't be easy.
-- superpixel = Victor --
jazzy snazzy
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First of all, does one of you have a degree in restaurant management?
If not, I'll light a candle for ya.

Although surely many of us would love to come down and perform at your place, you are choosing one of the most difficult businesses to operate successfully.

After your location and furnishings are acquired, some of the other factors to consider are; liquor license, employee issues, advertising, board of health, fire code, liability insurance, inventory, and so on, and so on.

Don't expect to have much time to enjoy magic.
If you think your temperment, knowledge of the business and the thickness of your wallet are suited for this, then go for it. Please do your research and make sure you know exactly what you're getting into. The bar business is not nearly as easy as it was 20 years ago.

Good luck.
"The secret of life is to look good from a distance."
-Charles Schulz
msmaster
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Back in the day were a handfull of magic places. Now the only full time magic places I can think of are Magic Castle Hollywood, Magicopolis Santa Monica, Comedy Magic Club Hermosa Beach, Warren & Annabelles Maui Hawaii. There must be a reason. If it were my money I'd try to contact someone actually operating successfully in today's climate.
gadfly3d
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I liked the layout of the TomFoolery. A long bar with 3 (I think rows of tiered seating). I love the dream but alas the reality may be different.

Gil Scott
msmaster
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Yeah Tomfoolery was great. The set up was superb, but it wsn't a come and go whenever you want type bar situation. I wonder if the set-up and structured show idea would work without a star attraction like Tom?
superpixel
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Knoxville, TN
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I've looked for pics of the Tomfoolery online, but apparently my generation only wants to talk about themselves Smile I believe I've mis-stated.

Tomfoolery is way above what we're doing. I'm talking about an intimate experience, with maybe a dozen or 20 patrons. About a 5-10m set, with 15m breaks in-between (or a similar formula based on what my research will show cycles patrons at an affordable rate). The Tower Magic club seemed to have a good setup:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hlw44FdVhzQ

So, are there JC Wagner's and Doc Eason's still out there doing this? Seems the idea has moved on, but I'm hopeful that our variety acts upstairs will also be a draw...

I'm 100% open to re-tooling, given we're still in the research phase.

thanks to everyone so far, this is very helpful!
-- superpixel = Victor --
lebowski
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The Tower was primarily a restaurant, the magic bar was where people waited before they were seated for dinner. I don't knmow if either Doc or JC still do this. Not sure if this is because they are older or there are no longer venues that do this. PM Doc, he is a member here.
manal
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If you serve alcohol they will come.
Life is too important to take seriously.

james@jamesmanalli.com

www.jamesmanalli.com
sb
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I have owned a regular bar. Hard business.

If you don't have experience, you should look at partnering up with someone who currently owns a place. Maybe, you could turn a back room or back bar into something similar to what you are looking to do. Or maybe just start by having a "night" - ie. Friday night magic, etc... That way you can concentrate on what you want to do - entertaining, not on the very boring part - taxes, payroll, deductions, advertising, training, ordering, stocking, hiring and firing, cleaning, fixing, etc.....

Good luck,
superpixel
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Knoxville, TN
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Sb, we tried that with comedy and the results weren't great. It's hard to explain what's going on in our town but the iron is hot...

Also, I do have a partner and we're assembling a management team. No way investors should or would buy me alone.

Thing is, we can make a go of a small comedy room. The addition of a bar, especially in our downtown (undergoing a Renaissance), but one connected to entertainment? It's actually a niche that needs filling here.

What I'm still wondering is how the needs of entertainment & a magician's routines mesh with the needs of the bar to turn around customers.

My thinking is what I stated above: short sets with breaks. Magicians actually go to a break room (with luck it'll be stocked with magical reading!) and the "regular"bartenders take over. However, each bartender will be trained on a few tricks as well.

We have the fortune of having the state's largest university in our backyard, with a theater dept., hospitality & restaurant mgmt major and small biz incubator program within. I'm not so much worried about the financial perspective yet (we are hammering out a business plan now, it'll take months to perfect it) as I have to understand the logistics and "human engineering" of things first.

So if I can only expect to slake the thirst of 30 people in two hours, entertainment cost would eat away my margins. That's the sort of thing I'm searching for within the magic community... Maybe I should ask different questions:

- where have you seen bar magic?
- what did you like or dislike about the experience?
- do you think restaurant work would be easily adaptable?
- if you were building such a place for people, where they could sit at the bar and enjoy magic or go upstairs and see a comedy show, what would YOU want the experience to be like?

I'll have you know anyone working the bar is already expected to be a "cast member" and we're going to invest heavily in training our workers.

Thanks folks!
-- superpixel = Victor --
Gerry Walkowski
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Tom Mullica wrote numerous articles about the trials and tribulations of his place in the New Tops and other magic periodicals. You would be wise to do your homework and track these down if you can.

Gerry
superpixel
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Knoxville, TN
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Gerry, I'm having a hard time finding those old gems anywhere but ebay, and that's a crap shoot. I'll keep an eye out, but if anyone has them, let me know! I'm a Mullica fan (who isn't?) and realize he opened the Tomfoolery (wish I had been old enough to visit), but haven't seen anything on the tribulations... Which I'm sure there are plenty Smile

There are tons of issues with running a comedy club that isn't a franchise as well, but there are also advantages. We're hoping to leverage the weakness of our competitors.

Bear in mind I'm not oblivious to the challenges here, but I remember when Apple got into the phone business and everyone, from the CEO of Microsoft to a slew of industry pundits, claimed it would be a spectacular failure. And yet, when brilliant engineering, clever marketing and a quality product make it to market, the market will clearly respond with success. Build something crappy that can't be sustained and never had a shot to begin with and yes, you're going to fail miserably. I'll take a page from Apple's book any day Smile

thanks!
-- superpixel = Victor --
sb
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Superpixel,

Why don't you try to contact Tom Mullica. http://tommullica.com

You never know, he may open up to you and give you some outstanding insight.

Keep keeping us posted....

scott
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