Consider the effect the Regulars have on the restaurant business. In the year ended October 2004, 140 new restaurants opened in Denver, according to the department of environmental health, yet nearly as many closed, with 110 recorded. Kelly fell into both of those stats. A successful restaurant is a three-legged stool; all the legs must be sturdy and stable. There's the front of the house, the kitchen, and the cash register. A busy restaurant is a happy restaurant. With the Regulars, the front of the house has a palpable energy that invigorates the house. The servers are bustling and diners know they've come to a cool place. Money changes hands and everyone leaves happy. Without the Regulars, a restaurant is a quiet place. No one is making money, and there's a lot of time to stand around and bitch. Since Kelly opened Somethin' Else, it has vacillated precariously between busy and quiet.
There's no doubt Sean Kelly knows how to make the kitchen work. But he's never been a front-of-the-house guy. He's not comfortable on the bustling restaurant floor slapping customers' backs. He's never been Mr. Personality and he can't fake it. He'd never make it as a TV chef. Plus, simple things like ordering wine are a hassle for him as he doesn't drink. He's always had his head over the burners, working with his back to the dining room. Now, however, with his back against the wall and his family's livelihood at stake, Kelly has been forcing himself to change as much as he can in order to make Somethin' Else work.
There's his wardrobe. "I need new clothes," Kelly says with a mix of exasperation and embarrassment. "For 25 years all I've worn are these stupid black-and-white checkered pants with greasy T-shirts. I need some new pants, but I don't even have time to go shopping." To purge the ghost of Clair de Lune, he's redecorated the place: new paint, new tables. But the biggest change is that little plastic box attached to a phone cord, next to the cash register. "It's hard to look at that credit card machine and think I didn't sell out," he says. "But I have bigger responsibilities now."
One by one, Kelly is confronting the pitfalls that befell him at Clair de Lune, and he's making changes. Couldn't get a reservation at Clair de Lune? He doesn't even take them at Somethin' Else. Thought Clair de Lune was too pricey? At Somethin' Else, you control how much you spend. Order a glass of wine and a salad and no one will scoff. And, of course, Somethin' Else takes credit cards. "I lost money on The Biscuit, I lost money on Clair de Lune; I can't afford to lose money on this," he explains. It wasn't easy, but Kelly made these changes because he believes this is the restaurant Denver wants. He believes it's a restaurant that can succeed and a restaurant his family can swallow. And besides, what else would he do to cover the time left on his lease?