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Entire Bar Staff of Phoenix Irish Bar Fired…Right Before St. Paddy’s Day

Updated: Mar 12, 2018 08:15
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Photo from Phoenix Irish Bar’s website

On Sunday afternoon bar manager Marissa Poulin was working her shift at the Phoenix Irish Bar when owner Eugene Power walked in and told her that the bar was closing and that she was to go home. Poulin explained by email that Power told her “The server would close the entire bar by himself. I asked if I should tell the night girls not to come in and he said yes – tell everybody their checks will be in the mail tomorrow. He made it sound like he was shutting the doors for good and that absolutely everyone was losing their jobs.”

The odd part was, the bar didn’t close. Poulin drove by later and apparently the server was still helping tables and a new woman was behind the bar. “He straight up lied to me and told me we were closing down the business for good,” Poulin writes, “and as soon as I left, he opened it again.” To make matters worse Power didn’t even tell his employees they were fired. Poulin messaged them to let them know what happened and when the staff texted Power, it was then that he confirmed they no longer had jobs.

This not the first time Power has fired his entire staff, in fact, Poulin is pretty sure that’s how she originally got hired there. It appears that Power has a history of erratic behavior, firing and rehiring staff at random. Poulin has worked at the Phoenix Irish Bar off and on for nearly 10 years and another bartender I talked to Ashley Melanson has worked there off and on for the past six years. “Off and on” seems to be a theme at the Phoenix though, according to Melanson it’s a common occurrence with much of the staff. Melanson further explained by email “I grew used to the owner, Eugene, freaking out over various situations over the years. The most recent was the drastic loss of business compared to years ago.” Poulin wrote that “He’s fired multiple people in short time spans, without letting me, the manager, even know so that I could have time to replace them.”

Anyone who works in San Francisco nightlife will tell you that despite the fact that there is so much wealth in San Francisco these days, business is down. Many of the people who used to be part of SF’s nightlife and bar culture have been pushed out of The City and the people who have replaced them spend so much time at work that they often only go out on weekends. It appears that instead of acknowledging the fact that the Mission has drastically changed in recent years, Power blames his bar staff for the dropping profits.

The bar in better times. (photo from the Phoenix Irish Bar website).

According to both Poulin and Melanson, Power is an absentee boss and almost never at the Phoenix. To ensure the staff wasn’t giving out free drinks he had the bar back weigh out the bottles and kegs each week to make sure they matched up with the sales reports. After the bar back moved back to Mexico, someone else eventually was designated the task. Given the steep learning curve for this archaic and time consuming system, where the calculations are done by hand, a single missed number can send everything awry. As Poulin notes, “We tried to implement Bevager but since it didn’t give him exact amounts, he decided to get rid of it – even though those reports would save him thousands more than the pennies he is counting by weighing the bottles.” So instead he began blaming the employees for his loss of revenue.

Both Poulin and Melanson mentioned Power insisted the staff was giving away the bar and stealing from him. I can personally attest that this is not true. I was actually at the Phoenix the other day for a couple drinks and some happy hour snacks, and Melanson was bartending. Even though I’ve known her for years, as far as I can recall, I paid for everything I consumed except for the drink the nice fella down the bar bought for me.

So to say this mass firing is fucked up is an understatement. While an owner has the right to fire and hire as they see fit, firing your staff and not letting them know is straight up wrong. Beyond that though, it’s a really shitty way to be a business owner and even a person. Much of the staff at the Phoenix has been there for years and were dedicated to the bar and the regular customers. Plus, for most of them, the Phoenix was their primary source of income and some have families who they support with it. And then beyond even all that, Saint Patrick’s Day, the bar’s busiest day of the years, is less than two weeks away. Hiring a new staff and getting them ready for that kind of shit show in such a short amount of time is laughable.

If you feel this is unjust treatment of hardworking people, you’ll join me in not longer patronizing The Phoenix Bar and Restaurant. I don’t want to give my money to someone who treats his employees this way. Do you?

If you run a bar or restaurant and are looking for some great staff members, there’s a bunch good people who now need work. Please let us know in the comments that your place is looking for help. That way these folks can reach out to you.

Before publication I reached out to Eugene Power, owner of the Phoenix Irish Bar, for comment but has yet to respond. 

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Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.