CORNELIUS – The bar industry can be a fickle one, but Saeed’s Bar & Grill has survived in its current location for more than 19 years after a 17-year stint in Charlotte's University area.
Owner Saeed Safaie has evolved his business throughout that time, personally installing features like the tiki bar and volleyball courts at the Catawba Avenue bar behind road-facing Pelican’s Snoballs. During the warmer months, the outdoor amenities of Saeed’s are bustling with activity, with two volleyball courts, ping pong tables and cornhole boards available.
Herald Citizen: How did you get into the bar industry?
Saeed Safaie: I graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 1985, and the whole time I was in school, I worked in restaurants and bars. My first job was at the Radisson Inn in Charlotte as a banquet waiter. At that time, I didn't speak any English, so it worked out.
HC: What are some of the most popular drinks you serve?
SS: We have beer specials every night, but people come for our famous Jell-O shots. They’re $2. Sometimes people buy 20-30 at a time.
HC: How does the karaoke aspect work?
SS: We’re well-known as a karaoke bar. It runs every day from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. We add songs every six months. Nobody else does it seven nights a week (in the lake area). We have people come from Winston-Salem and beyond to do it. Our first niche is karaoke, the second is volleyball.
HC: Since volleyball leagues play here several nights a week, how did that get started?
SS: Four years ago, a woman from Midtown Sundries came to me and said she could bring people to play volleyball. Me and my son started to put the courts up and put a fence and stuff around. We now have an outside bathroom and showers.
HC: As the only owner, what are your responsibilities?
SS: I’m usually here six days a week. It’s a lot of hard work. I’ve had to do a lot of improvements, or I would be out of business in two years or less. It’s been a challenge, but ‘Thanks, God,’ it’s been good.
HC: What are some changes that you haven’t kept?
SS: We used to be open for lunches. I wanted to have a sign by the road that said we were open for lunch, but the town is restrictive with signs, so I just open at 4 every day. We still sell food and do catering.
HC: What do you think has kept you in business for so long?
SS: You ask me why I’m still here, and if I’m not here, it’s not the same. People come here because they know I’m here. … It’s not all about the money – it’s about friendship. If people come play (volleyball) and have a good time, they’ll come back.