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Is Applebee's a Family Restaurant...or a Nightclub?

“See what happens when the highchairs are put away.”

My last post about the Applebee’s opening soon in Point Fosdick Square drew many responses on Patch and Facebook, both in favor and against the chain restaurant’s presence there.  As one commenter put it, “Like it or not, it’s going to be a part of Gig Harbor.”  Very true.  And in spite of my generally negative attitude about their arrival, I still hope it will be a net positive for our community.

It wasn’t until I saw another comment regarding their Happy Hour that a little switch went off in my head.  Didn’t I read something about Applebee’s re-branding themselves as a nightlife destination?

Sure enough, I did.  For some time, Applebee’s in Florida have experimented with the concept.  At 10 pm, they made some cosmetic changes to the restaurant regarding lighting and added touches like a dance floor, DJ, karaoke, and theme nights.  Their well-known drink and appetizer Happy Hour specials were offered.  The Today Show covered the late night makeovers in a segment a few months ago.

It was a success so the concept, called “bee’s Late Night” is being rolled out nationally with the tag line “See what happens when the highchairs are put away.”

My first thought was an experience we had at a family-type restaurant (not Applebee’s) in Wenatchee last year.  After a Wenatchee Wild hockey game on a Friday, we came in around 9:30 pm for a late dinner with the kids and some local friends.  Our table was right up against the bar with a partial wall with windows separating us.  Karaoke was in full swing and we were drunkenly serenaded at maximum volume with songs featuring some prominent obscene lyrics.  The servers and management didn’t seem concerned at all so we’ve never been back.

It was during that visit that I learned that Cee Lo Green’s hit song “Forget You” actually has a different word for “Forget” in the original version.  So at least I learned something new.  But so did the kids.

According to an article in BusinessWeek, Applebee’s keeps the lyrics to their music PG-rated.  I’m glad to hear that.  I have no problem with that language in a bar or nightclub but when you are in a place where children can be present, you have a responsibility to make sure that the environment is appropriate.  Limit the off-color karaoke to hours when the family restaurant side is closed.  You can’t have it both ways.

I think that will be the challenge for Applebee’s if they try to go this route.  Even with cleaned-up lyrics to the dance music and karaoke, the noise and general nightclub atmosphere isn’t a place that’s going to draw in families after 10 pm.

Maybe Gig Harbor needs a place like this.  I've heard from many Gig Harborites that there are few good nightlife destinations here so people seeking this are going out of town.  And how many families are out looking for dinner after 10 pm?  We keep some pretty weird hours due to our line of work but I think most families are home by that time.

One important point to make is that there is no indication at this time that the new Gig Harbor Applebee’s will become an after hours “bee’s” nightclub.  I haven't heard of any of the Washington locations switching to this concept.  But if it does, I don't think that it's necessarily a bad thing.  What do you think?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Eric P Gioia January 22, 2013 at 01:22 AM
I am going to go with a family establishment and restaurant.
Debbie Williams January 22, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Business in our community is good. We need places to eat and serve cocktails..look how busy Moctezuma's is..it's all good people
Mark Hoppen January 24, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Amy, "Grace" might be an overstatement, but it will diversify dining options. Thinking of such things, I'd like to have an Olive Garden.
your friendly server melissa March 05, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Applebees in gig harbor will open doors on monday march 11th!! Welcoming guest with great attitudes,friendliness,and great tasting food.I'am proud to be a new applebees team member,i'am extremly excited to meet folks in the community and all around it.All of us team members are fully preparing to opening doors n show our guest we are the best.I will be a server and my garauntee to our guest would be that you will enjoy,be impressed,comfortable,happy and of course full.I cant wait to see ya,stop by n let us show u a good time. :) thank you. your friendly server, melissa
Mary Ann Van Doren March 28, 2013 at 05:16 PM
We went to Applebees for dinner the other night and enjoyed a good tasting meal at a good price. Service was excellent, too. Although it was about 9:00 at night, we were surprised at how many families with young children were dining (toddlers and younger). My only complaint was the music was too loud to have any kind of a conversation, which made it seem more like a sports bar atmosphere than a Family Restaurant.

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