Courtesy of the Red (Ink), White & Blue
By Tommy A. Purvis
Go to the yuckthisbarandgrill.org and you’ll find lots of information about the well-known brand of country crooner Toby Keith . . . and the allegedly sly moves of Frank Capri—the chief executive officer who purchased the master license agreement to the corporate cowboy bar franchise.
The start-up site posts health and safety violations for Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants chain, but it also features legal troubles regarding the development of a bar & grill in Rancho Cucamonga.
The grand opening earlier this month of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill at Victoria Gardens was held the same night the country star’s made a Live in Overdrive tour stop at the San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore. Before the concert @TobyKeithMusic tweeted: “Rancho Cucamonga’s I Love This Bar welcomes you w/a smile . . . Come out for the after show party w/@KrystalKeith tonight” to promote his up-and-coming daughters’ act.
Considering Keith’s lyrics aren’t shy about showcasing a love of beer, it’s not surprising that booze is a key element in a blueprint that calls for bar walls to be adorned with Toby Keith artifacts, a knick knack gift shop and, of course, the signature 95-foot guitar-shaped bar. Ironically, the mason jars served up here are a Southern curiosity as they come filled to the brim with mass-produced domestic light beer. (More irony: Toby Keith’s Wild Shot Mezcal, an agave spirit, was described as “the worst new product from the show, hands down” according to an expert from DrinkSpirits.com at the Annual Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas in March.).
The Rancho Cucamonga grill is latest addition in the growing collection of corporate dive bars branded with a worn-out theme song, and all the other imitations and entrapments of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Capri left an unpaid half a million dollar tab in the effort to convert the abandoned West Elm contemporary furniture store into the already well-known signature honky-tonk.
But this isn’t the bar’s only unpaid bill.
The non-payment of funds to blue-collar laborers who often find themselves the subject of a lyric in a cruel country plot is documented in the rolls of the San Bernardino Superior Court docket. Non-payment to plumbing, insulation and air conditioning businesses—among other vital construction services—led to litigation with the plaintiffs: Aldan Inc., Masco Contractor Services and K&S Air Conditioning as the plaintiffs. A lien stemming from another business that alleges it was not paid $134,062 in August 2011 led to a lawsuit against Capri Concepts that is seeking payment for “supplied materials and labor for licensing, superintendent consulting, and demolition services.”
Of the 21 liens placed against Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill venues since 2010, 13 of them are connected to the Rancho Cucamonga restaurant, according to yuckthisbarandgrill.org
“Municipal agencies, public officials and elected leaders should know about the restaurant chain and the CEO’s financial record, as well as its history of litigation and liens” wrote Jen Suh, a research analyst from Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, in Las Vegas in a letter to Roxaane Qualls on the Cincinnati City Council. Officials in Hamilton County awarded developers of The Banks in Cincinnati $5.5 million to lure in prospective tenants like Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill to be anchors.
This union, acting under the auspices of UNITE HERE—an emerging powerful union of mostly hotel, food service and laundry workers—maintains the provocative yuckthisbarandgrill.com.
A business model that substitutes laissez-faire economics with a heavy side of corporate socialism is easily lost in the nationalistic message found in Keith’s music and a single menu item offering. The chain proudly gives away a free American Soldier Burger with a side of Freedom Fries for active military personnel with proper identification. The menu says the gesture is a nod to Keith’s well-known patriotism and USO trips to entertain troops overseas.