Friday, February 3, 2023

Mandala Lounge Update- What Happened After Bar Rescue

Mandala Lounge before Bar Rescue

In 2007, Greg Hawkins opened up Mandala Lounge. When they first opened, it was absolutely the biggest thing going on in San Mateo – they were the only bar providing the custom cocktail deal. Greg looked at other bars in town and their menus, and none of them were anywhere near Mandala’s – owning a bar had been Greg’s own dream since his early days in the nightclub business. He insists that he is a good bar owner because he likes people and he likes to schmooze. Greg’s success was not long lived; the economy crashed in 2008, and they went from doing $60,000 a month to only $24,000.

Despite Greg’s experience with nightclubs and as bars, Greg could not pull them out of the rut – he insists that he could not get the place any cleaner or how to be more creative with the drinks. As the business fell apart, Greg took out more and more of his frustrations on his staff. One of Greg’s bartenders admits that Greg is very smart but very controlling and has an abrasive personality. His stepson, Angelo, says that Greg is hard to work with – in a video clip, Greg yells at Angelo for overpouring the alcohol in a drink. Greg’s pretentious attitude has left Mandala Lounge with a complacent staff, a lackluster clientele, and an underutilized space. It is up to Jon Taffer to help the bar recover from its -$5,000 deficit.

Mandala Lounge on Bar Rescue

The interior of Mandala Lounge – the lighting makes the walls look less pink than they actually are

Jon pulls up to the Mandala Lounge, which looks completely abandoned from the outside. He has been told that Mandala Lounge is an upscale martini bar, although his cocktail expert, Mia Mastroianni, disagrees. The bar is desolate and abandoned, and the black paint of the bar helps to make it disappear. The bar does not pop out and looks horrible – there is not even a sign, it is instead a banner. The bar in San Mateo, California is not inviting or welcoming. Even with a population of 160,000 and 43% of the population being 25 and under, there is nothing about the bar that would manage to pull them in.

The concept is causing him to fail, Jon explains. Inside the bar, Jon and Mia watch from the car; the bar inside is a bright, vibrant pink. John Hopkins performed a study and found that when people look at the color pink, their appetite diminishes, so they are inclined to eat and drink less. The pink room is not conducive to sales. The patio outside is very nice and welcoming, although nobody is on the patio. Greg, the owner, sits at the bar critiquing his bartenders on their service – he keeps making fart noises with his mouth and says that the noises are the amount of pour that the servers are doing. The bartenders bickering while they serve drinks – even worse, there are only about 20 to 25 patrons in the bar with four bartenders behind the bar, as well as owner Greg.

Greg is very degrading in his treatment of the bartenders, and Jon explains that Greg is the type of manager that looks over your shoulder every chance they get. One of the bottles is broken and has glass inside the bottle – Mia explains that this happened when they took off one of the pour spouts, but pour spots need to be constantly cleaned or else they will stick to the bottle. Greg gives the command to move the liquor to another bottle, which is illegal. Greg thinks he knows the game, and obviously he does not. Jon calls in his three-woman recon team, sending in three young woman. The spies enter the narrow 2,200 square foot space with pink walls, cramped seating, and an underutilized patio. Theresa, Jenn and Lisa enter and are served by Greg’s stepson, Angelo. Greg immediately appears and starts to serve the women, explaining some of the drinks – one of the drinks is a combination of a whiskey and flavored vodka. This destroys the flavor of both drinks.

Greg, pictured right, with his wife Carin, pictured left

To make matters worse, he swirls the cocktail mixer in his hand, which is completely unprofessional and ruins the drink by making it warmer. The women cough and mutter that their mouth is numb, and the drink is confirmed to be nasty. Greg simply replies, “the drink isn’t for everyone.” He then says, “it offends your sensibilities,” and Mia points out that he is very pretentious. There are no female bartenders, which Mia explains makes no sense because female bartenders make sense – women like female bartenders, and men like female bartenders.

Jon pulls up a video where Greg explains that, in his own crude language, “hot women behind the bar are a pain in the ass.” He does not have time to put “some chick behind the bar that can pour a drink,” and “if anyone can find a woman that can bartend as fast as him, he’ll put her behind the bar.” Mia is enraged and says that Greg is living in the 50s, and that she has an arsenal of lady-bartender friends who can kick the butt of anyone in the bar. Jon, enraged by his arrogance, storms in with Mia to take care of matters.

Greg’s arrogance gets in the way of the bar rescue, and Jon and Greg get into a screaming match before Jon demands that the bar be closed down and scrubbed clean. The staff is confused, as if they have never fully cleaned the bar properly before. Jon and Mia set out with the bar rescue, revitalizing Mandala Lounge with a fresh makeover, new drink menu, and retraining the staff on their etiquette and drink menu.

Mandala Lounge Now in 2018- The After ‘Bar Rescue’ Update

The revamped Mandala Lounge, now known as “38th Floor Bar”

With new drinks added that focus on whiskey like “The Gold Rush” and “The Golden Date,” Mandala Lounge’s menu changed to include drinks for everyone. The interior of the bar has been revamped away from its ugly pink color, and Jon even forced a sit-down meeting with Greg and his father. His father reveals that Greg was very resistant to change and feels like the bar should have been sold two years ago, and Greg finally comes to grips with the fact that he feels like a failure in his parents’ eyes.

Mandala Lounge has been renamed to 38th Floor Bar, and Jon has encouraged Greg’s wife, Carin, to take a step up in running the daily operations. The outside of the bar has been revamped to have a contemporary look to really drive home the city experience, and inside the front of the bar is a lobby that resembles an elevator. The inside of the bar has been refurbished to look like the patrons really are on the 38th floor of a building, and Greg admits that the bar feels so much bigger. Greg and Carin are amazed – the outside patio has been outfitted with new furniture and fixtures to feel like a deck on the 38th floor of a building. It is even furnished with heaters.

The 38th Floor Bar closed for good in April, 2016. April 29th and 30th were the last call for any drinks, but the debt was simply too overwhelming for the bar to continue operations. The bar increased revenue by as much as 40%, but it simply was not enough to keep Mandala Lounge/38th Floor Bar running.

Steven Kahn
King of the Bears, Shark Tank enthusiast, failed network engineer, sour cream enthusiast, Nanchaku instructor, Techman, Mega Man X fan, vaporizing know-how


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