Omid Rafiei, who along with wife Andrea and partner Aly Valiani are the new owners of Wakefield Crowbar, said that he had known previous owner Randy Meador when the property was just Meador’s house with two volleyball courts on it.
“We were involved well before it was the Crowbar,” Omid Rafiei said.
He and Andrea Rafiei, who met in a kickball league in Austin, started the Houston Sports & Social Club in 2011. In 2012, they began hosting their volleyball leagues on Wakefield Drive in Garden Oaks.
“The league had grown so much,” Omid said. “Randy asked if we thought he should open a bar and restaurant and we said yes.”
After some flush years and a few rockier ones following Hurricane Harvey and all the road construction on Alba Road, which Meador detailed for The Leader in 2017, Omid said Meador asked the couple if they’d like to become investors in the restaurant to help enliven the venue. After thinking it over, Omid proposed what he thought might be a better option – buying Crowbar outright.
The purchase was a separate venture from the social club with different investors.
“We worked on the deal for about a year and closed the day of Game 6 of the World Series,” Omid said. “That day was a pretty fast sprint.”
Now with two months under their belt, the new owners have started their own reimagining of the space. As near neighbors – the couple has lived in the area since 2012 – with two boys younger than 4 years old, they knew that the neighborhood needed another venue that was family friendly but would still appeal to other loyal clientele.
To that aim, they are testing a new menu that includes both a kids menu and brunch. While Omid said the goal is to improve the quality and diversity of food options, Andrea said they won’t be altering things completely.
“It will still be an American-style bar and grill,” she said.
Other improvements will be a play area for the kids with turf and a play scape. Andrea said when the volleyball court nearest Wakefield is not in use, it is used as a big sandbox for the kids. With the new brunch, parents can eat and their children can play.
Because the bar’s rule is no children after 9 p.m., Andrea said they will be able to offer something to all patrons.
A recent example of this was the Wakefield Wonderland event that Crowbar held in early December along with nearby Walking Stick Brewing Company. The daytime event had a bounce house and train rides along with a live band, kids’ sand court and face painting.
The suggested donation for entry was donated to Oaks Dads’ Club to repair the lights at its Pony Field off of Judiway Street.
That night was a Brushes and Booze art exhibit for the adults.
“It’s a balance,” Andrea said. “We’ll have different user groups at different times.”
Part of their ability to serve a wide range of interests will be the renovation of their private room, which Omid describes as a clean slate. He envisions it being equally functional for a company meeting or a birthday party.
“We want to take that space to the next level,” Omid said.
Other capital improvements will be made to the outdoor deck. Omid said they plan to invest more than $100,000 into the facility over the next couple of years.
Another area of emphasis for the owners is the operational side, such as making sure guests are greeted and that quality control in the kitchen is upheld.
Omid said Wakefield Crowbar’s Monday steak night, which is handled by Elements Houston, will allow them to close the kitchen weekly for a deep clean.
The first round of improvements will be on display at Crowbar’s Super Bowl party in February, but Andrea said they have already been getting positive feedback from the community.
“Everybody seems to be super excited,” Andrea said.