Despite the ominous “666” on the building of Lux Lounge in Rochester’s South Wedge, the bar can easily be compared to Cheers, with a funky, eclectic, ultraphip aftertaste. Thanks to owner Karrie Laughton’s creative energy, the once-gutted space at 666 South Ave. has provided many Rochester bar-goers with an alternative to “meat markets.” After recently celebrating Lux’s two-year anniversary, Laughton told insider about the headaches and happiness that have come from owning her own bar.
I’m guessing you had some experience behind a bar before you decided to open one, right?
Yes. First I was a waitress, then a cocktail waitress, and then I tried bartending. That’s how I got in the business.
So how did you make the jump into a career as a bar owner?
It kind of got to the point where I had to either get out or do it on my own. At the time I felt that this city needed a new alternative place to go. It seemed like every place was the same. I wanted to make something different to appeal to everybody. I knew I’d be good at it, too!
How did you know you’d be good at this?
Well, I worked at the Bug Jar for 10 years, and it was such a close-knit group … it was almost as if everyone ran the place. Of course, there was the boss, but we all had a hand in the business, and I really liked that. I just wanted to actually be the boss of my own place.
I heard about some of the wacky themed nights that bring people to Lux Lounge. What are some of the most popular?
We have something different going on every night. We have bingo on Sunday nights, Arts and Crafts Night on Monday nights … I make peanut butter and jellies on Tuesdays, and then Wednesdays we show movies in the back yard on the big screen. We build a fire in the chimenea, and it’s just a lot of fun….
Tell me about what’s behind some of these ideas.
I know I don’t want to do beer pong nights or ladies’ nights like all of the other bars …. I didn’t want a bar where people have to stare at a TV to be entertained, you know?
Are there any signature drinks that you’ve invented for the bar?
WEll, we have the Pabst Smear, which is a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of well booze for $3 …. That’s pretty hot right now.
What types of people does the bar attract?
We get all types of people … from college kids, punk rock kids, skateboarders … We also have a big gay clientele, and there are even neighborhood people in their 40s. I knew I would have a following from the Bug Jar, but I also worked at Muther’s for a long time, which is a local gay bar. I was like the token straight girl there. I got a following from there, too, so it was a nice mix from the beginning.
Tell me about the hell-themed decor at this place.
Well, it’s not the whole decor, but I had to play with the address, 666 South Ave. It’s not something I picked, it just happened to be the address …. It’s definitely not a ‘hell bar’ that’s gothic and creepy. We have a lot of devil trinkets and Jesus trinkets behind the bar just to have fun with the theme. It’s not an evil place, though. (Laughing)
What did you not expect coming into this career?
To be so tired all the time! It’s a lot of work and long hours. People come up to me and say, ‘I’d love to run a bar, it sounds like so much fun.’ I always say, ‘Yeah, if you like coming home at 4 in the morning almost every night and working 15- or 16-hour days.’ You’re basically throwing a party in your house every night. It can be exhausting.
What part of your job makes you happy you pursued this career?
It’s really rewarding to walk in and look at the place and think, ‘Oh my God, I did this.’ It’s really cool. I started from scratch, I mean, there was nothing in here. I had to put in everything, from electrical work to design work. That was huge for me because I’ve never done anything like it.
What are some misconceptions about bar owners?
A lot of people think because you own a bar that you’re just raking in the dough. You wouldn’t believe how much money goes out and is taken (in taxes) …. The biggest misconception about Lux Lounge is that … it’s a ‘freaky’ bar, but that’s not at all what it is! Everybody’s welcome.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of opening their own bar?
Make sure you don’t need much sleep, make sure you have twice as much money as you think you’re going to need, be careful about choosing a partner – I did this alone because I didn’t want any creative conflict – and make sure you don’t drink too much, because you don’t want to drink all your profit!