Columbia business owners advise Taneyhill: ‘Keep the nostalgia’ at Group Therapy

Steve Taneyhill, Gamecocks and Group Therapy

Steve Taneyhill, owner of Group Therapy in Five Points, talks
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Steve Taneyhill, owner of Group Therapy in Five Points, talks

Steve Taneyhill, the new owner of the iconic Group Therapy bar in Five Points, knows football. He is remembered for his brash demeanor and trademark long mullet as a USC quarterback in the 1990s. He coached high school football teams for 16 years, winning several state championships.

But he has never run a business. So we asked five long-time bar owners and Five Points veterans to offer some advice.

Scott Linaberry

Occupation: Real estate development

Co-owner: Curtiss-Wright Hangar at Hamilton-Owens Airport, which is becoming a brewery.

Linaberry worked at Group Therapy from 1995 until 2001. He then bought the old Five Points Theater with Group founder George Meares and turned it into two bars — the former Knock Knock Club and Flip Side.

“I started in Group when I was still in college and he (Taneyhill) was still throwing a football,” Linaberry said. “Owning Group Therapy is a big responsibility because it’s such a landmark and staple of Five Points, which is a landmark and staple of Columbia. You don’t want to be the guy to have to shut the doors on such an icon after 38 years.

“From a business perspective, it really is a lot of work,” he said. “It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And if you’re not doing that, you’re not doing it right.”

Also, Linaberry said, don’t turn the bar into your personal man cave.

“Do not use your own product,” he said. “It’s a very bad idea to be a regular at your own bar. And I can attest firsthand that my friends rarely got anything for free. They were my best friends but they didn’t expect it.”

Because Taneyhill is a celebrity in Columbia: “He needs to make it his own. He needs to use his name recognition and his success at Carolina. Sports paraphernalia, his jersey, whatever it is.”

The most important aspect, Linaberry said, is the employees.

“You could have two barrels with plywood on top of it, and if you have good hires, you’ll have a good business,” he said.

Richard Burts

Occupation: Developer

Owner: 701 Whaley and the Five Points building that houses Saluda’s, Starbucks and Papa Jazz

Richards Burts owned Monterrey Jack’s — the bar that launched the rock group Hootie and the Blowfish — from 1988 to 2001; Hannah Jane’s from 1993 to 2003; and Poor Richard’s (now Bar None) from 1991 to 1994. All were in Five Points.

Burts advised Taneyhill to plan for the future, but look to the past.

“You have to remember that Group is a classic,” he said. “It has a long, great history of being an iconic bar in Five Points. You don’t need to do a whole lot to it. It’s been well run for as many years as I’ve been down there, and it was the first bar I went to in Five Points.”

The key for succeeding in business in general, he said, is to be consistent.

“Establish your message and stick with it,” he said. “Don’t chase what others might be doing. If someone else lowers their prices, don’t follow suit. You don’t need everyone in the world to come in. You just need the people who like what you do to come in.”

Burts, a board member of the Five Points Association, also advised Taneyhill to become part of the Five Points family.

“Five points welcomes Steve with open arms,” he said. “And we would love to see him get involved in the association. Roll up your sleeves and help make great things happen for Five Points.”

Orlando Patterson

Owner: Goat’s in Five Points

Occupation: Bartender/manager/owner at Goatfeathers (now Goat’s) for 20 years

Orlando Patterson has some simple advice for Taneyhill.

“Don’t ruin the family name,” the veteran Five Points bartender, said, laughing. “Stay true to the perceived image of what Group Therapy is. Five Points is a small neighborhood, a close district. You need that same family feel.”

And like other owners and former owners, Patterson said Taneyhill has to treat his new job seriously and put in the hours to make it work.

“This is a business not a hobby,” he said. “You can have fun, but you have to make your numbers. One dollar Budweiser doesn’t pay the bills. You’ve got to make sure your numbers are comfortable.

“He should plan on having less free time,” Patterson added. “If he thought he worked hard as a coach or an athlete, he’s going to work harder. You can get someone you trust to help you, but you have to be there, you have to put in the hours.”

Patterson, not a huge sports fan, said Taneyhill has to go beyond his persona to grow the business.

“He played back in the 90s,” Patterson said. “Those folks have aged out of going out to party in Five Points. He’s got to develop a new clientele. He can’t rest on the laurels of his fame to get people in there. He needs to come up with a format — a vision of what the bar can be.

“The kids who go out in Five Points now might know who George Rogers is,” he said, referring to the former Heisman Trophy winner, “but not Steve Taneyhill.”

Kelly Whitlock

Owner: Kelly’s Deli & Pub in The Vista

Whitlock worked as a bartender at Group Therapy from 1991 to 2000. She opened Kelly’s Deli & Pub in The Vista in 2002.

She said his staff decisions would be key to Group’s continued success.

“Staff is very important; hire very good, loyal people,” she said. “You can’t be there all the time. They are your front line. They are representing you. They are representing your business.”

Whitlock, like the other bar owners, stressed that the hours will be long. But, she said, you have to learn to pace yourself.

“When I started Kelly’s, I was here 24-7,” she said. “But you have to not do that. Find a way to pull yourself back. You have to be there a lot. But see what times of day are best for you. I don’t work late nights, because I’m older now.”

Whitlock said that the appeal of Group has always been the regulars, the funky decor and the memories.

“Nostalgia is why it’s been there so long.” she said. “You need to keep that nostalgia.”

Scott Fleming

Former owner: Group Therapy

Scott Fleming, better known as “Hollywood,” worked at Group Therapy for 12 years and owned it for eight years until selling it to Taneyhill.

He is staying on for awhile to help with the transition, he said.

The most important aspect of the business, he said, are the customers.

“You want to have a friendly atmosphere,” he said. “Keep the customers happy and they’ll keep you happy.”

Fleming also advised Taneyhill to keep close ties with other business owners in the urban village.

“This is a close-knit community,” he said, “and working together is the best part of it. You’ve got a friend in your neighbor. In many places that doesn’t happen.”

He, like Burts, urged Taneyhill to join the Five Points Association.

“They are great to work with,” said Fleming, an association board member. “They are trying to improve the neighborhood, keep things vibrant and relevant.

“I hope everyone joins,” he said. “That’s how you go forward as a neighborhood.”