UMATILLA, Ore. – From the outside, the Bridge Bistro & Brews might look like the old Riverside Sports Bar, but it’s very different on the inside, and the owners couldn’t be happier.
“Things are going well,” said Paulette Dufloth. She owns the Bridge with her husband Daren Dufloth. They also owned The Riverside, inheriting it from Daren’s father.
She called the transition, which began in May 2020, “wonderful”. She also said the community has been very supportive.
The Riverside opened in 1994 and it was a business that supported its family in a town the Dufloths love. He also employed several people, so they express no regrets about this. However, they had long wanted to convert the sports bar and strip club into a family restaurant.
On March 15, 2020, they ended The Riverside due to COVID-19 concerns. They stood in the middle of their business and wondered what they would do.
“We had some tough decisions to make,” said Paulette.
They went from earning an income to doing nothing, and they felt stressed.
Two days after the shutdown, they started renovating without making a decision about the business and whether they were going to make the transition.
Paulette felt exhausted by the affair. It was never her cup of tea, she said. And while they didn’t make a permanent statement right away, she said she was “hellish” on a big change and wouldn’t go back. The adult business would no longer exist, forever.
The industry, Paulette said, lends itself to a “different customer base” that is “less respectful” and “more difficult to control.”
Since she and Daren are both over 50, they see themselves in a “retirement phase” where they don’t want to deal with difficult clients.
“It was getting tough, mentally, for me to walk through the door at the end of the day,” she said. “I’ve worked really, really hard for those 23 years. It has aged me and I feel like my husband and I have sacrificed a lot since we got here, ”said Paulette.
In a few years, she might even sell The Bridge. For now, however, she said she wanted to build it more and “make it the best it can be.”
She said she recently had new opportunities that made this transition possible. With COVID-19, grants and loans have been made available to the company. They wouldn’t have been able to renovate without the help, she said.
Now, with the income from the kitchen rather than primarily the bar, Paulette said the business was as profitable as it had been before the pandemic. She has a hard time finding employees, but she searches and says that she thinks she will eventually find the right people.
There are some fun times with this change, however, she said. Sometimes people call The Bridge to ask if it’s open and if there are dancers performing.
Yes, they are open, she said. No, there are no dancers.
Another funny thing, Daren said, is when he hears the sound of babies, which is a weird thing to hear inside those walls.
Pivoting to something more “acceptable to the community”, he said, involved a “shift in mindset”. Small things, like buying high chairs for infants or getting bigger tables to accommodate families, needed to be done. They also had to change the advertising and reorient the kitchen. Portion control and kitchen cost analysis, which were afterthought, had to be learned.
Still, Daren Dufloth said he was happy about it and therefore appears to be the audience as well.