Only weeks before Bar Louie’s new Las Colinas location opened, General Manager Mark Anderson was charged with hiring a new restaurant staff. He wanted to emphasize personalities that would create a fun atmosphere that accepted everyone. In one word, he was looking for Louies.
“We call them Louie,” Anderson said. “Everybody’s Louie. All of the employees, from our Director of Operations to the COO of our company, everybody is Louie.”
The bar’s Director of Operations Diana Mather attributes the Louie ideal as more a mindset.
“You have to have a little bit of swagger and you have to have a great personality,” Mather said. “We want those different personalities. We want you to show your tattoos; we want you to be you. That’s what makes us so cool, because there are so many different people and together we all make this Louie. It’s a little bit of everything, unless you’re boring or too serious.”
With a staff in place, Bar Louie welcomed both city leaders and every day patrons to the official grand opening on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
The event triggers the start of a number of grand openings in the Toyota Music Factory area over the next few months. With the opening of their new location, Bar Louie now has 130 stores nation-wide, including 13 in Texas and 7 in the DFW area. The Las Colinas location is special, Anderson said, because it is one of only a handful of Bar Louie’s built from the ground up.
“We normally don’t build bars from the ground up,” Anderson said. “We usually take over older buildings or lost leases and make them our own.”
Founded in downtown Chicago in 1990, Bar Louie is headquartered in Addison. The Las Colinas location offers 20 beers on tap and 32 signature cocktails. The kitchen is also open nightly until 2 a.m. to accommodate crowds leaving the Music Factory’s concert space.
Bar Louie will host live music on Friday nights and, according to Anderson, lean towards the 80s rock revival genre.
EXPERIENCE WITH BARS AND DANCE PARTIES
Anderson was approached about running the location four months ago and said it was a perfect opportunity.
“It’s a passion of mine to run bars, to start them, to open them up, and to revamp them,” he said. “Usually Bar Louie’s are really exciting concepts, so when we had a conversation, I was intrigued.”
Anderson has been working in restaurants and bars since he was a young boy. He grew up in Liverpool working as a busboy while his dad was a chef. Years later, Anderson began running dance parties for crowds of thousands in the middle of Africa before moving to Sherman Oaks, California.
While in California, Anderson worked with Wolfgang Puck, who taught him one of his most important rules of operating a bar or restaurant.
“He told me that no matter what, everybody has to leave happy,” Anderson said. “Chase them down if you have to, but make sure that they leave 100 percent happy, and you’ll get them to come back over and over again. We’re going to strive to do that here.”
FREEDOM WITHIN A FRAMEWORK
Bar Louie operates on a “Freedom within a Framework”, allowing general managers to work more freely within the confines of a general bar structure. That expansive management style appealed to Anderson.
“They give you the bar, they give you this is what we do, but you can do anything within that framework, and that to me is exciting,” Anderson said. “That allows me to be a little bit more free in the choices I choose, the people I hire, why I hire them, from taking care of the locals, taking care of the community.”
The freedom within a framework mindset is exactly what Bar Louie COO Tony Wehner thinks is key to the franchise’s success.
“It’s freedom to be you and that’s what I think really attributes to the great experiences that we give our guests,” Wehner said. “MALT is important to us, and that’s music, atmosphere, lighting, and temperature. We believe that creating a great environment is so important, and our managers are obsessed with that.”
Anderson emphasizes the bar’s ability to adapt to its community, and admits the location probably won’t be the same in three months because they want to serve and grow with their patrons.
“It’s great to have events. They’re 8,000 people coming in, but when they’re gone, we need to take care of the community,” Anderson said. “That’s my goal. My drive is the community first. They’re important to us.”
Bar Louie Director of Operations Diana Mather, who joined the company in 2011, said that even though the company is big, every store feels local. That starts by hiring a local general manager and giving him the ability to hire the staff.
“Each Bar Louie becomes a different animal,” Mather said. “It’s going to have a different personality even though we have the same standards. Every Bar Louie is different and a lot of that is the personality in whatever the local market needs us to be.”
Mayor Stopher emphasized the impact a bar or restaurant can have on a local economy. This Bar Louie location will bring 73 jobs to the Irving area and city leaders hope the location will also bring in revenue from outside the community to spend locally.
“Restaurants have tremendous impact on a local economy on the sales tax they generate as well as the people they bring in from outside the community. We have so many people who come into Irving every day to work, and if they have a great place to have lunch, this is where they’ll come,” he said.
PULLING THE MUSIC FACTORY TOGETHER
The Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce presented Bar Louie with a membership plaque as well as a business card directory. Irving Mayor Rick Stopher was on hand for the ribbon cutting and marked the occasion as an entertainment milestone for the city.
“This starts to pull our entertainment area together,” Stopher said. “You’ve got to have a place that will bring people in, so they’ll go to a show, but then they’ll leave. We need to figure out a way to keep them here, so they can enjoy everything we have to offer, as well as the people who live here are looking for a place to have fun. It fills both of those needs.”