19 Jun 2018

Opinions:

Sometimes, a Bar is Just a Bar

Idle Hands bar. Photo courtesy of Erik Holzherr

My name is Erik Holzherr and I am the owner of several bars in DC, among them Idle Hands (formerly known as Church&State).

I was very excited to open a board game-themed bar on H Street with drink and game names that are funny/ironic and intended to fit in with the edgy culture of the H Street Corridor. Idle Hands is meant to appeal to thirty-something and older patrons who want a more relaxed and entertaining environment while listening to beats from the 90s. Unfortunately, some of the initial wording on the description was not well received and has caused an angry backlash online.

First, let me start with a clear apology. I apologize to those in the community and those online who were offended by some of the language in our initial marketing campaign. As a son, brother, and uncle to the most important women in my life, I treat all my female staff and patrons with the utmost respect– as if they were my mother, sisters, or niece. I require all my staff to do the same. I am truly mortified that our description has been perceived as supporting someone like Harvey Weinstein. The “casting
couch” was the now-changed name of a couch in the bar where you can “cast” dice for board games or play retro four-player video games. It was clear to me at the soft opening that the play on words was not well received. Therefore, this language was immediately removed before our opening. We again apologize for any offense caused.

Second, if you don’t like the new bar, it’s ok: You don’t have to patronize it. Not every bar will appeal to everyone. However, this doesn’t mean you have to hide behind the anonymity of the internet and try to hurt my business even if you have never stepped foot inside. That is cowardice. If you feel strongly about something, please come talk to me. I will listen to your concerns and, if warranted, will change my actions and/or apologize. As a business owner, my intent is never to upset or insult people but to ensure everyone has a happy and safe visit.

Finally, there is indeed a serious problem with sexual harassment in the restaurant industry and I am glad that people within this community are outspoken when they catch a whiff of it. For the past ten years now, I have been diligent in training my staff on alcohol awareness and safety training. I have an excellent, dedicated team who is sober at all times when working. They are a group of jovial bartenders and servers who do their very best to give excellent hospitality and maintain an upbeat and safe environment. We immediately step in whenever a guest may feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Besides knowing about drink recipes, products and liquor history, my staff are excellent communicators, negotiators, peace-makers, police, and the cheapest psychiatrists in town. I hear countless stories of staff being mistreated in establishments—whether it be harassment or not being compensated fairly according to law. At my businesses, we keep staff far longer than the industry average and for that I am most proud. I work hard to provide a safe and healthy work environment. This is their bar too. My staff actually want to be here, and it shows.

Since I have your ear, I would like to put in a plug for voting “No” today on Initiative 77.

Here’s why: Perhaps the tipping system needs to be reformed, but by trying to yank it in one sweep is foolish and will be more than painful for many establishments in DC. It is an extremely tough time to be in this industry as more establishments open every day. Restaurants and bars survive by ultra-thin margins and this proposal can easily end many small and local establishments in one sweep. And once they go, they will never come back.

Thank you for reading what I have to say and thank you for your support. I appreciate you all.

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