HAPPY HOUR AT HIRO’S SOUTH BEACH
October 7, 2014
By David Arthur Walters
Hiro’s Sushi Express at 1518 Washington Avenue is famous among locals for its inexpensive variety of sushi plates and its Happy Hour, held seven days a week, from 4 to 7 P.M. Sake, wine, and beer prices are cut for Happy Hour, but beer, particularly Corona and Heineken, is the main attraction for my beer hall comrades who habituate the sidewalk café in front to guzzle the hours away.
I myself prefer the Japanese brands, brewed in Canada. If I am hungry, I like to have five vegetable rolls for $4, or eight California rolls together with six Tekka pieces for $5.79. I sit where I can look out the windows at the habitués downing their beers, and I often catch myself gawking hypnotically at the gyrating figure in the advertisement of the all nude Club Madonna across the avenue.
Orders are placed at the counter, and you pick up your own drinks there. Customers can sit wherever, perhaps to wonder why the servers, often young Russian ladies, stay around so long and work so hard for pathetic tips—a service charge is not added to the price as is done at more expensive places.
Locals predominate, but the clientele is international due to word-of-mouth advertising and tourists walking in at random, so one may strike up conversations with all sorts of people including the local Puerto Ricans and Cubans who show up to get happy, followed by street people longing for a share of the brew. For example, I met a relative of a Cuban dictator who retired here. The relative, a gentleman, indeed, and obviously highly respected among his peers for one reason or the other, including buying them beers, attracted a few street people who showed him various items perhaps retrieved from alleys or stolen. He was uninterested in the junk, but he himself had a Samurai ceremonial sword he said he had purchased for $10.
A damper was recently put to the beer guzzling. The Happy Hour beer price was raised from $2 to $2.50 recently, including tax. That translates into another $3 per six-pack, which is the average consumption for the hangers on. I currently have around $7.50 per day to spend after rent, so the calamity for the guzzlers caused me to immediately cut my own visits to once every two weeks. But do not worry about me as I have several friends in the restaurant business whom I commiserate with. It is a tough business in South Beach to be in, so let me tell you that I am glad I do not have their bottom line: the old adage, “Never own your own restaurant,” is sage advice here. Believe me, the turnover is tragic.
By the way, $2.50 a pop is a still a good Happy Hour deal. A man tires of drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon at home, recently hiked by greedy distributors to $1. Yes, he likes to get out once in awhile, and Happy Hour is his only chance. He can go down the street to a Mexican place and drink Miller Genuine Draft all day long at $2.50 plus tax, or $2.73 each, and have a Corona there for $3.82 with tax. Sometimes you will see half-off Happy Hour prices at the more expensive places, but a service charge of say 18% is charged on the regular price. So, if the domestic beer is $4.00, you will pay $2.86 each with tax. However, you can sleep better knowing the waiter got $0.72 before income taxes if his boss follows the clarifications recently made by the Internal Revenue Service, counting service charges as taxable tips.
Whatever you do, have a happy Happy Hour!