Lona’s Wardlow Station before Bar Rescue
In 1999 bartender Lona Lee purchased the 30,000 square foot blue collar bar Wardlow Station situated between the two Californian cities Signal Hill and Long Beach. She hired friends and contacts gathered from her bartending career to help out with the bar as she had no experience in managing one of her own. Unfortunately her employees took advantage of her generosity and inexperience, and this contributed to the downfall of her bar. Lee did not do anything to improve her situation and instead focused on working multiple shifts in a day as a bartender and not as a manager.
In an attempt to attract clientele Lee installed an arcade claw machine that fished out live lobsters to be cooked in the kitchen. This decision drew the ire of animal rights activists who picketed the bar and repelled customers.
With nowhere else to turn to Lee decided to call for Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue for help.
Lona’s Wardlow Station on Bar Rescue
Taffer, along with experts chef Jason Febres and mixologist Russell Davis, observed the bar from the outside and immediately noticed the sign that was not appropriate for a sports bar. Davis entered Lona’s Wardlow Station to do some recon and when he sat down on the bar area the entire counter shook, begging for maintenance. His order of draft beer was nowhere near the word cold and the glass of margarita was too strong no thanks to excess alcohol.
Davis then tried the claw machine and the lobster he captured was thrown in a pot of water that’s not yet boiling, a practice that not only subjects the poor crustacean to a slow and agonizing death but also doesn’t remove the bacteria on its shell. Taffer and Febres approached Davis and the trio showed Lee the bad quality of the lobster’s meat.
While the two masters inspected the areas under their expertise, Taffer explained to Lee that she was too busy working behind the counter that she neglected her duties as an owner. He also made her realize that the lobster tank was nothing but trouble for the bar and that it eats up space that can fit four seats.
In the bar area Taffer shook the counter in front of Lee and her manager Bill refused to take responsibility for something that can be fixed in ten minutes. Bill walked out of Lona’s Wardlow Station after taking offense at Taffer’s words and after being told by the owner that he was a disappointment.
Taffer returned the following morning with the bar area cleaned and the counter repaired. Bill was also in the bar and had to apologize for leaving his colleagues behind while they stayed up all night cleaning the place. Now with the matters of yesterday finally settled Taffer moved on to the problems at hand, starting with the fact that during the recon night the amount of booze poured doesn’t match the cash flow. Bill was the one behind the counter during that night but he denied taking home even a single dime. Taffer warned the manager that he will be under strict surveillance from now on.
Davis taught the bartenders how to whip out the perfect glass of margarita, while Febres trained the cook Ally with the use of fresh ingredients as she relied on using canned goods for her cooking. That night Lee welcomed customers for a stress test so Taffer could determine the weak links in the bar.
Coach, one of the bartenders, worked at a snail’s pace and took multiple attempts before he could create one margarita perfectly. To get away from the difficult task Coach only poured beers and Bill was oblivious to the problem. The barback Mikey was tasked to take over Coach’s duties and proved to be a fast and capable bartender. In the kitchen orders piled up and Ally was pressured by the overwhelming numbers as she only worked alone without any help. Lee still believed that her bar and the employees were doing a great job despite a lot of complaints from the customers. After the stress test Taffer fired Bill in front of everyone as he failed to fulfill his duties as a manager.
Two days before the relaunch Taffer appointed Mikey as the new head bartender, and Ally was crowned as kitchen manager who will work with the new line cook Maria Elena. Davis introduced a drink menu composed of simple cocktails that only used few ingredients, while Febres came up with Mexican dishes for the bar’s new food items.
After the renovation Lona’s Wardlow Station was now known as Lona’s City Limits Cantina. The dull black and white façade was splashed in red and brown, and huge Cantina and Fajitas signs were painted on the flank to help turn heads towards the bar’s direction. The counter in the bar area was not replaced but instead it was refinished and stenciled to maintain a rustic Mexican look. Taffer installed a Chillrite Beer System so every mug served was on the recommended 32 degree temperature. The notorious lobster tank was replaced with a fruit-squeezing machine courtesy of local sculptor Sean Duggan so patrons can customize their drinks with something fresh. A new POS system behind the counter was connected to a remote printer in the kitchen so orders can be easily handled without much hassle.
To emphasize the bar’s strategic location Taffer had the space where the lobster tank used to reside splashed in a different theme that reflected the industrial feel of Signal Hill. True to his word four tables were made to fit in the space which can help bring additional income. The bar’s entrance, situated in Long Beach, also featured a unique atmosphere.
Taffer left Lona’s City Limits Cantina packed with happy employees and excited customers, and Lee was now energized with confidence towards her business.
Lona’s Wardlow Station Now in 2018 – The After Bar Rescue Update
Three months later Lee reported an increase in sales and a flock of both old and new patrons coming to the bar.
Lona’s City Limits Cantina is still open with positive reviews on their unofficial Facebook page and on Yelp. Judging by some of the reviews it seems that Lee brought Bill back into the fold, although he was praised as nice and fast.
The bar serves both American and Mexican food. They also have karaoke nights and NTN trivia as well.
Click here to visit their unofficial Facebook page.