Five people have been fired from Blitz Bars in an argument that appears to have hinged on an image shift in the once and future sports bars.
Televisions have been removed from walls in the bars only to be hastily returned, along with the bars’ signature menu item, totchos, which also disappeared briefly.
On Monday I received an email from Season Kepfer, then manager of the Blitz Ladd, about changes that have been taking place at both Blitz locations. The effusive press release noted that both Blitz locations (In NW across from Powell’s and bordering Ladd’s Addition in the SE) had changed from “collegiate sportsbar to neighborhood bar,” with renewed focus on drinks and atmosphere. Reading in part:
Over the last two months while the economy has been swirling in confusion, the folks who run Blitz have been at the grindstone repackaging their bar/restaurants on both sides of the river. Still locally owned and operated, both Blitz locations have accomplished extensive interior improvements and completely redeveloped their menus, pricing and service approach to better engage their neighborhood markets. .
To accomplish the change, the press release continued, former Doug Fir director of operations from 2004-2006 Todd Morey was brought in to facilitate the redirection of the watering holes.
Yesterday evening at 5:39 pm I received a second e-mail from Kepfer:
So, scratch that Press Release for Blitz please. As of yesterday afternoon, May 13th, Todd Morey along with the rest of the management staff from both Blitz locations were laid off. Mr. Morey would appreciate his name being disassociated from Blitz in general please.
Speaking with Kepfer this morning she explained that roughly two months ago, Blitz owner Mark Madden purged the previous management and staff of both Blitz locations due to what Kepfer described as alleged “problems with discipline and some legal issues.”
She says that Morey and herself were brought on to change the image of the rowdy sports bars. “There was a lot of talk of turning Blitz into a kind of McMenamins situation and expanding,” said Kepfer.
Accordingly, Kepfer said that she, Morey, and the rest of the new management team went to work and had effectively met the deadline for the makeover within six to eight weeks of being hired.
“Everything was completely kosher,” Kepfer insisted. “Everything was given to Mark and he signed off on everything.” She said net profit and loss reports showed that the bars were on the upswing, but that Madden seemed uninterested.
According to Kepfer, last Wednesday, May 13th, just days after she sent out the press release, Madden called a meeting with all of the new managers and told them they were fired. The reason, Kepfer alleges, was because Madden and interested parties wanted to take the Blitz bars in a new direction. A total of five people lost their jobs, including Kepfer, Morey, and Elizabeth Marquam (of Beaker and Flask and the Victory).
Richard Grimes, a representative for Madden who now also facilitates the management for both Blitz locations, declined to comment citing “personnel issues” when it came to allegations that Madden had signed off on all the changes, but did say that he felt Blitz was on the same path that they’ve always been on. “We never intended to get away from the sports,” he told me this afternoon. “We started as a sports bar and we’re continuing as a sports bar.”
“There was never any intention to turn either location into a lounge,” Grimes said. “That was made clear to the [previous] management.”
Grimes continued, “Our position is that these guys came in and made positive changes. They classed up the place, but took it beyond a direction that we wanted to go.”
According to Grimes, the bar received very negative feedback after certain changes to the bars including the movement and or removal of televisions. He contests the suggestion that the changes led to a more neighborhood-like bar. “As we went away from a sports bar, we became less of a neighborhood bar,” he says.
He notes that, at least for the owners, there are no hard feelings toward the previous management team. He’d rather focus on the future, which he says includes the increase in television sports packages at both locations and a return of “totchos.”
Based on what Kepfer had to say about the experience, the love is certainly lost. She’ll be applying for unemployment and noted, “Craigslist is looking more promising.”
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