The V-Spot – 10 questions for 10 years in Scranton with co-owner Vinnie Archer
In mid-November, The V-Spot turned 10 years old, a major milestone for any small business, but they didn’t really get the chance to celebrate.
Already operating at 50 percent capacity due to COVID-19 regulations, the popular North Scranton watering hole was one of many Pennsylvania bars and restaurants forced to close on Thanksgiving Eve, the state’s biggest drinking day of the year, under Governor Tom Wolf’s orders, and it didn’t stay open for long before the government shut businesses down again on Dec. 12, citing indoor venues as a major cause of the spread of coronavirus despite social distancing and sanitization standards.
In a year that started with the staff expecting to break sales records, The V-Spot spent much of 2020 closed to the public, kept alive with takeout food, live streaming concerts from its stage, and donations from patrons and local musicians who love this cozy corner bar and its fun-loving staff.
Meanwhile, co-owner Vinnie Archer has been reminiscing and looking back on simpler times for the service industry.
“I got my very first bartending job in January of 2000. I was already 33 years old. Being encouraged to wear flair during my shifts was definitely the way to remind me of how I should’ve studied harder in college. Once I realized how good I looked wearing super colorful buttons all over my shirt, I knew my destiny was in shiny, clear sight,” he began.
“I would have to guess there are dozens of reasons why I’m still bartending. I’m hooked on ‘bartending.’ The business part of owning a bar has very few highlights. Drama with customers is the most taxing by far. Helping myself to endless amounts of beers, vodka, and chicken wings does power me forward out of bed every morning, though.”
Now 54 years old, Archer said it was never a goal to own his own business, “just an occasional fleeting thought.”
“I used to live two blocks away from a corner bar that I thought was the ideal setup for me – one person bartending, one person cooking. I could picture myself running something like that. Jeff and Lisa from The Dugout planted that seed. I never foresaw I would one day be nurturing an enormous overgrown picker bush.”
He teamed up with co-owner Frank Lombardo to remodel the former JD’s Crackers building and open The V-Spot on Nov. 12, 2010, earning a loyal customer base over time to become one of the area’s best rock clubs with live entertainment every night of the week. With Wolf’s current COVID-19 mitigation orders set to expire on Jan. 4, it will take some time for the Providence Road bar to get back to that kind of schedule as they reopen at 50 percent capacity on Monday, but NEPA Scene wanted to prepare for its return by asking Archer 10 questions to mark 10 years of good times and, after a difficult 2020, better times.
NEPA SCENE: How did you and Frank choose the name of the bar?
VINNIE ARCHER: We labored over that for quite a while. Both names that we narrowed it down to were each less than universally inviting, so we would ask as many friends, primarily concerned with women’s replies, this exact question: “You are looking to go hang out at a bar you haven’t been to yet. From your car, you see two identical looking businesses across the street from each other. One is called ‘The Dirty Bird,’ the other is called ‘The V-Spot.’ Which one are you most likely to choose?” Stalter’s Cafe, just two doors away, was the No. 1 answer. We went with The V-Spot because Michael Stalter wouldn’t allow us to use “Stalter’s North,” plus The V-Spot sits at the point where two streets meet at a traffic light in the form of a “V.” Thanks for nothing, Mike!
NS: The V-Spot advertising and social media presence is known for its fun personality and irreverent humor. Why do you put so much of yourself into it rather than adopt the “professional” voice that many businesses use to present themselves to the public?
VA: If I’m going to go through all the horseshit a bar owner/bartender has to put up with, the trade-off should be to attract and have the most like-minded, goofy, easygoing people at all the bar stools and tables. Laughing is my second-favorite thing in the world. Making people laugh, shared with making my kids address me only as “Lord Business” or “Pure Muscle,” top my list.
NS: What is your favorite part about working a shift at The V-Spot?
VA: Hold on… deep breath… No one yells at me when I’m late.
Saying to a stranger who just ordered food, “Are you sure? I would never eat that,” gets me giggly. This happens weekly.
Keeping my smile when I say “Hey, happy hour just ended,” and they say, “I wish you didn’t work here.” You know, I’m like a prisoner in his own jail.
NS: You often talk about the friendly staff and their importance to the business. What does it take to be a longtime staff member at The V-Spot? What makes the perfect employee?
VA: Total obedience. Constant compliments. Frequent requests to embellish on my love for, but not exclusive to, Led Zeppelin, floppy eared rabbits, my pre-puberty swimming career, what I want for Christmas, how I behave at professional boxing events, why “Kill Bill 2” is better than the first, Almond Joys and, of course, my part in continuing to populate the planet in my mid-50s. Employee handbook, page one: “Stroke the boss.”
Perfect employee? I think the single most impressive feature that any bartender anywhere can possess is the gift of making patrons feel “welcomed,” especially first-timers. When a bar has that type of person working for them, they are luckier than they know. I’m the absolute luckiest. All but one of my bartenders are as kind as can be. The “other” one’s body is just so bangin’ that no one gives two shits how nice or not she is.
NS: What is the most frequent question you’re asked by customers, and how do you typically respond to it?
VA: “Why don’t you give all your shifts to that girl with the really great body?” Then I like to pour Tabasco directly into the straw they’ll use to enjoy their next mixed drink.
NS: Is there a special drink or a dish that The V-Spot specializes in or you think the bar does particularly well?
VA: I believe we do food exceptionally well. All of our meals besides the finger foods on our appetizer menu are made from scratch. Pizza and wing sauces, “house cheese,” coleslaw, habanero glaze, crab cakes, open-faced roast beef sandwiches, quesadillas, burgers, and steaks – all arrive to us fresh daily. We employ one full-time and one part-time cook. The day they lose their fingers in a freak piranha petting accident, we’re screwed. Both Bernie and Jeff are worth their weight in gold. Check times here are unheard of. They’re so fast, so consistent. If anyone ever tries to steal them for me, they’re waking up with a horse’s head.
NS: I’m sure you have a million stories, but can you think of one personal story about The V-Spot that you think sums up why this bar is so fun?
VA: Nope. No way. Impossible. I can’t. I’m thinking… one story? There was this one time when this nice lady’s water broke and I found myself delivering triplets right on our pool table.
NS: That doesn’t sound like it actually happened.
VA: When she didn’t name any of the kids after me, I gave her the bill to refelt the pool table.
NS: A lot of bars are going in the direction of jukeboxes and DJs all the time instead of live music. Why has live music, whether solo acts or full bands, always been an important part of The V-Spot?
VA: I needed to run a bar infused with people who wanted to watch, see, and feel live music just as much as I did. I played in bands in my 20s, probably have attended over 100 concerts, for sure. I want people to rock out… and I want them to chill out too. The acoustic nights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are the perfect backdrop for meeting up with friends. Bedsides, who wants to hear “WAP” on the jukebox while you’re talking about your ex’s new girlfriend?
NS: Was 2020 the most difficult year for the bar yet?
VA: Yeah, by far. The last two weeks we were open at 100 percent was March. Back to back, they were the two highest weeks in sales we ever had! Our place was always busy, but now it wasn’t just on the weekends – random weekdays could see us at max capacity at 9 p.m. It was crazy. I was buying salon care-level hair care products back then. Now it’s good ol’ Suave ‘til things get back to normal.
NS: Are you optimistic about this year? What do you see on the horizon for 2021 and beyond?
VA: I have to be. I’m having my sixth child in May 2021. No one’s gonna show up to another diaper party of mine, you know? I’m going to have to grind harder, think smarter, drink less even…
As far as 2021 and beyond, I just want to continue with the staff we currently have, both kitchen and bartenders, and doormen too. I love them. We all know our jobs, and we perform them for the most part with smiles, except when someone says, “Oh, I need 13 layered B-52 shots, not 12.” Then we go right for the bottle of Tabasco…