Designer Forum - December 2012

By Sally Dinsmoor

 

The concept for Bikini Joe’s, a sports bar and grille, had already been rolling around chef John Geske’s head for two years when he approached Sally Dinsmoor Design to work with him on the interior design concept for the restaurant. As owner of several other restaurants located in El Paso, Texas, Geske felt that he had an understanding of what was lacking in the El Paso market and what would be successful during these uneasy economic times. His concept was to have a fun and relaxed atmosphere with great food and good music, with prices that would be easy on the pocketbook. 

The 7,000 square foot restaurant is located near El Paso International Airport, the ever-expanding Fort Bliss, and a business district filled with car dealerships and small shopping centers. The lunch and dinner crowd are a mix of blue-collar workers and professional types, while the nightlife caters to a younger crowd and soldiers, flocking in not only for the unique food but also for the televised sporting events and live performances from local bands.

Both the food and décor of the restaurant are based on a beachy Cancun flavor, rather than on El Paso’s typical style of Mexican food and interiors, which are seen on just about every street corner. Decorated with surfboards, colored lights, a two-headed taxidermy steer and Day of the Dead artifacts, Bikini Joe’s is not your typical desert oasis restaurant.

The existing freestanding structure was once a thriving Mexican restaurant, but it had been closed for over seven years and was in deplorable condition. The bathrooms were in need of complete renovation. A sunken dance area needed to be filled in, major roof repairs were required, and the kitchen needed to be gutted and enlarged. The budget left for finishes was extremely tight.

When the design concept was first discussed, Mr. Geske asked for decor that was “borderline tacky.” This concept fit with our already-tight budget. When asked if he wanted a place like those with peanut shells on the floor, he replied, “Yes, but without the peanut shells.” Fortunately, the existing restaurant came built-in with some pretty bad design, ugly light fixtures and very dated woodwork, and many of these items were saved during the initial demolition work. The first order of business was a trip to the local wrecking yard, McKinney Wrecking, to see what could be found there. A major design find was approximately 1,000 square feet of antique painted—and peeling—tin ceiling. The tin panels were installed on various walls and ceilings and were mixed with new corrugated steel panels. At one point the plan was to distress and age the look of the steel corrugated panels. However, the design team decided to leave them as is, and this made for a nice contrast between the old look of the ceiling panels and the new steel of the corrugated panels.

A wall that divided the existing bar from the restaurant was removed to provide a more open plan concept. The existing restaurant had two bars. A third interior bar was added, along with a bar on the back patio.

In keeping with the zany feel of the interior, seven different paint colors were used on the walls, columns and existing millwork. Salvaged 1970s-era oak school cafeteria chairs with vinyl seat covers were purchased from a local restaurant supply house. The dining room tabletops were custom-designed and fabricated with Mexican tiles by the owner in his home garage. High barstools and tables were custom-made in Mexico to save on the budget and to give an authentic feel to the space.

The flooring material selections were an important consideration. The existing bar floor was Saltillo clay tile. There was heavy damage to this floor. Tile was sourced to match the existing floor, but it was significantly over the budget. Another concern was the frequent sealing needed for this type of tile flooring. The wide grout joint lines were also something that the design team didn’t feel would work well with our wood-legged furniture. Safety was an additional concern, as there are many liquid spills in this type of establishment. 

Flooring materials were selected with four things in mind: cost, durability, maintenance and safety. Centiva luxury vinyl wood strip flooring was used throughout the two bar areas, front entrance lobby and game/waiting room. The vinyl wood strip flooring was specified in seven different wood patterns and colors and in three different widths. The designer and installer met on the jobsite to review a random, no-repeat installation. The design concept was to appear as close as possible to a real wood installation of odds and ends that you might find in a Cancun beach bar and grille. The product line has a wide range of colors, and the wood texture has a realistic look. The high durability and low maintenance of the product were significant factors in the specification of this flooring, as was the great warranty; having used Centiva products on healthcare projects, the design team was confident that it was the right choice for Bikini Joe’s. 

In the dining room of the restaurant, which is adjacent to the band stage, the plan called for a durable product that would help with acoustics. Carpet tile from The Mohawk Group’s Mosaic By Color program was used. This program utilizes designer sample returns and discontinued carpet tile; it makes use of product that might otherwise be headed to the landfill, and it was certainly great for this low budget. The designers purchased from the blue category of carpet tile, knowing that they would receive a wide mix of patterns, keeping with the design style, but all in blue tones that tied in with the coastal theme. This was a great solution, as the carpet tile could be easily cleaned or replaced when stained or damaged. Carpet tile has good acoustic properties to help with the noise of the large crowds and loud music. 

The porcelain floor tile, Porcealto from Daltile, was used in the bathrooms on the walls and floor. Ease of maintenance, slip resistance and durability were factors in this product being chosen. Dal-Tile’s Natural Hues colored glazed wall tile was selected for a random graphic design statement on the sink wall of the toilets. Left over colored wall tiles were broken up for placement of a random mosaic pattern on various bar faces throughout the space. The exterior bar features broken colored tile with areas of applied seashells. Dal-Tile was also the source for the kitchen floor quarry tile. This tile was selected for its slip resistant properties, durability, ease of maintenance and low cost. 

Even if a project is not a LEED or green project, careful consideration should always be taken in selecting and specifying high performance products with low maintenance requirements. High quality finish selections were chosen even though the design team had a tight budget. The products will not only perform better over a longer period of time, but maintenance is also easier. 

Bikini Joe’s opened in El Paso, Texas in the summer of 2011. Geske did have his finger on the pulse of what the city was lacking, as a second Bikini Joe’s opened in October 2012. Though the name was changed to Cabo Joe’s, the design concept stayed the same. Most of the flooring selections were duplicated in the new restaurant. 

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus



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