What does it take to run a bar and restaurant?

When Owen Burke and his business partner Tony Piraino first ran a bar called Pulse in 2005, the building they were leasing got demolished by the city for future progress. 

So they changed concepts, got a hold of a historic building in Greektown, and opened Firebird Tavern in 2013.

A decade in one concept is quite the accomplishment in their industry.

And recently, they expanded with a second location in Troy, Michigan. In this honest conversation at the Daily Detroit studio at TechTown, we talk about the ups, the challenges, and a lot more.

Show notes:

02:21 – History of the building in Greektown and introductions

06:17 – Why do a second location in Troy?

06:44 – The harsh impact of COVID on business, and the long-term changes

08:02 – Traffic feels down in Downtown Detroit to 2008, pre-bankruptcy levels and patterns

10:51 – Extensive plans to convert Monroe Street to be more pedestrian friendly, thoughts and impact

11:51 – The timing of I-375 project matters and it’s all interlocked

12:40 – Hard business lessons from the Avenue of Fashion closures on Livernois and businesses closed 

13:39 – Lessons learned since 2005 on making a place go

15:06 – Everyone will bring you a Bud Light. What’s different about your spot?

17:11 – On keeping staff

19:42 – Biggest changes in the Greektown neighborhood over the years

20:40 – Wrestling with negative headlines for Greektown and addressing issues late at night

23:47 – How important are events like the NFL Draft, Opening Day, and Super Bowl?

26:37 – General advice for others wanting to start a bar or restaurant

30:14 – What to order at Firebird Tavern

34:54 – How to get business? Answer the phone. Follow up. Build the events business.

39:21 – Online ordering is a multiple times the volume in the suburbs than the city. The volume is almost non-existent downtown; in suburbs, it’s a key part of business

40:10 – Who thought we’d be paying with our eyeballs? And the fact credit cards are everywhere when a lot used to be cash. Patrons are driving that change, since so few use cash now, credit card companies come with fees. 

43:26 – Hopes for 2024

Thanks to today’s sponsor, City Bird: https://www.citybirddetroit.com/

(To be clear, they had no impact on the content of the episode outside of their ad read)

Support the businesses that support us this holiday season.

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