For most, nursing homes bring to mind an image no one really wants to think about. But Lorien Health Services CEO Lou Grimmel set out to change that. Why, thought Grimmel, should nursing-home residents live any differently from anyone else? Grimmel says he wanted to give residents of his Taneytown assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility a way to continue to live their lives to the fullest.
So, he opened a public house, or, as it’s more commonly known, a pub. Five years ago, Flick’s Pub — named for former Taneytown mayor W. Robert Flickinger — opened, providing a unique perk for residents and a watering hole for the entire community. But would the community join residents to drink beer, eat wings and watch the game?
Not right away, according pub manager Sonya McMillion. The idea “took a little getting used to” for Taneytown residents, but today, she says, the town flocks to Flick’s. Friendships among Lorien Taneytown residents and the community have sprung up, she adds happily. Over drinks, great conversation, live music and dancing, these previously segregated Taneytown communities have blended into one.
By Flick’s fifth anniversary, 80 to 90 percent of its customers lived outside the nursing home, according to McMillion. Flick’s celebrated this milestone with a Woodstock-themed party. Duo Redemption Road played ’60s-era songs “as a nod to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock,” McMillion says. “It was a fun way to thank our customers.”
Grimmel says he would have liked Flick’s Pub to have been available when his mother entered Lorien’s assisted-living facility. He recalls conversations with his mom were more engaging over a meal or a glass of wine.
A typical clinical setting, says Grimmel, cannot reproduce the effects of being in the community for residents and for the families who care for them. “Flick’s is vibrant and full of life. It’s a place where family and friends can visit, talk and relax.”
Lorien is family-run: Grimmel’s uncle, who had 10 children and 37 grandchildren, founded the company. Grimmel says his uncle “always reminded us that we’re taking care of someone’s mom and dad. That philosophy and culture spurred Flick’s.”
Flick’s has helped its own residents see assisted living and nursing homes in a much different light, reversing their ideas of what a nursing home is, says Grimmel. “People who visit have a totally different perspective because of Flick’s. I hear: ‘I can’t believe this place is a nursing home.’”
When McMillion saw the pub for the first time, she immediately saw its potential. “I thought: Wow! It’s just the cutest little spot,” she remembers. The kitchen offered pub favorites like crab cake sandwiches, burgers, crab dip and wings. The Orioles game played on flat-screen TVs. Some families sat in the booths while other groups were perched at the bar discussing sports. “Dim the lights, add some live music, and it could be a hotspot,” she remembers thinking.
It has become just that. Flick’s offers live music every Friday and Saturday night, and reservations regularly fill up by midweek. Events such as wine tastings and beer pairings typically draw 50 to 70 people. They have lunch-and-learn events, painting parties, DJs and dancing.
“We have people from the community engaging with our residents in a safe, respectful environment,” McMillion says. “We have regular customers now from all over the Taneytown area who have made best friends with our residents. They’re recognizing that it doesn’t matter what age we are. We all want social interaction. We all want fun. We want to feel accepted. The friendships, the bonds I’ve seen here, it’s almost like you don’t see the walker anymore. You just see the human being.”