Special/Signature Issues » The Bar Guide

This Old Bar

Keeping the taps flowing at an 70-year-old institution.

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Kyle and Katy Measell, owners of Philip's Continental Lounge (5704 Grove Ave.), used to hang out there in the mid-'70s when the place was hopping on Thursday nights. Opened in 1939 by the Shaheen family, Phil's still thrives, its customers a mix of young and old. After a few managerial changes, the Measells took over in 2003, determined to add their personal touches while keeping the fun vibe customers loved in the first place. Kyle Measell tells us how to keep an 70-year-old, perhaps slightly tipsy, warhorse running.

Don't change a thing. “That's the old theory. Keep it simple. Don't try and fix what's already working. And we didn't, we just added on. That was my goal: to add new things to a place that's been here forever.”

Keep your problems at home. “To me, the best advice I can tell a bartender is put all your problems aside. When you come to work, smile and be friendly. People don't want to hear [your problems]. People want to come here, have a cocktail and maybe watch some TV.”

Share the wealth. “[Our waitresses] share tips. They don't pick and choose tables or we don't assign them tables because everybody knows that people don't tip the same. This way there's no bickering or fighting. They have to work together and they help each other. They split the tips at the end of their shift. I'd say that works. That keeps them happy.”

The customer is always right? “I still would shoot the person that came up with that concept because you know … they're not. Everybody knows that. But you've got to treat them like they are right. ‘I’ll fix whatever your problems might be,' you know what I mean?”

Keep 'em light. “Underpour [drinks]. No question. You're trying to have people enjoy themselves but be safe. You can kind of work it with your clientele. If you know [the customer] is going to have one or two you might give them a nice strong drink. But if someone is going to sit there for four hours and drink five or six drinks you're probably going to go light, or even start here and once someone has had a drink you can always downsize and they're not going to know the difference. They really won't.”

Mind your manners. “I just think people like to hear their names. It's a lot of people but you try. You say hello to people and you thank them, you know. They're customers. You want them to come back.”

 

CORRECTION: In the original version, we reported that Phil's is 80 years old. It is 70.

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