Reality TV series Bar Rescue premiered on the Spike Channel in 2011. It stars Jon Taffer, an industry consultant specializing in nightclubs and pubs. Taffer and his team of industry experts use their considerable expertise for their rescues, focusing on everything from specialty drink recipes to physical makeovers. In addition, the Bar Rescue team supplies new themes and equipment for the bar makeovers.
Taffer is owner and chairman of bar and nightclub consulting firm Taffer Dynamics, Inc. He has started, flipped, or owned over 800 establishments in a career that spans more than 30 years.
GIVING A HAND TO STRUGGLING BARS
Owners of failing bars submit an application via the Spike TV website to have their troubled establishments “rescued” by Taffer and his team.
Typical episodes begin with one or more of Taffer’s team members going into the struggling bar. They order food and drinks to gauge quality, and form an opinion of the atmosphere and service. The team uses hidden cameras, pre-installed with the owner’s consent, to watch the kitchen and customer service areas.
Taffer then discusses his findings with the owner(s) and staff, and enumerates the changes he believes should be made (management, customer service, cleanliness, etc.) to make the bar profitable. During these meetings, Taffer has a domineering attitude intended to push the owner(s) and staff into making drastic changes to the bar, including the firing of employees when necessary.
Taffer’s team members train the staff on methods of improving food/drink preparation, customer service, and efficiency. Taffer then puts the bar through a soft opening, inviting a large crowd of patrons in order to determine how effective the newly trained staff is under the pressure of a busy night. After discussing the test’s results with owners and staff, Taffer meets with his experts to begin devising a new concept for the bar.
The experts put the staff through a second phase of training, and adapt the menu to fit the new concept. Taffer then closes the bar for a few days so that construction crews can redesign the interior. After the overhauled and often renamed bar is unveiled, Taffer takes the owners and staff on a tour to point out its new features. During the grand re-opening, he observes the overall improvement as a large crowd again packs the bar.
An epilogue segment describes the bar’s success or failure since the re-opening. Bars are not required to keep the changes that Taffer implements; some have reverted to their original names, concepts, and/or menus since being featured on the show. Some have since closed, or changed ownership.
THE CREW BEHIND THE SHOW
Taffer depends of the expertise of 24 chefs, 29 mixologists, and such specialists as health inspectors, interior designers, inventory control and gaming specialists, and comedy, hookah, DJ and karaoke experts.
Besides Jon Taffer, other key personnel include his wife, Nicole Taffer, who serves as Marketing/Bar Reconstruction Specialist, and their daughter, Samantha “Sam” Taffer, who is the show’s Mixologist/Bar Reconstruction Specialist.
RESCUES GONE BAD
Although many of the bars featured on the show go on to survive and succeed, some do not.
Breakwall, a rescue from season one, closed in January 2012. Season one’s Swanky Bubbles also closed its doors.
Rocket 6 in Austin, Texas, reverted to its old name, The Brixton, six weeks after its relaunch. Although the owner continued using social media to insult critics as documented in the show, the bar has not closed.
The Rocky Point Cantina in Tempe, Arizona, closed after a repaint of the bar triggered a code inspection, which uncovered years of modifications to the building that had been completed without building permits. The bar owner opted to close the bar rather than bringing his building up to code.
Extremes Sports Bar and Grill, which was renamed Second Base in season 2, become a failure again. Taffer was asked to “re-rescue” the bar in season 4. During the episode he discovered that the owner had opened another bar, and had sunk most of the profits made from Second Base into the new bar. Taffer decided to walk.
Brew U in Murfreesboro, TN, which was featured in the third season has closed. Before Taffer’s rescue, Brew U was named Fairways Golf & Grill During that episode, the bar infamously had a mushroom growing in the walk-in cooler.
DON’T INSULT HIS WIFE
In one of the more bizarre episodes, Dr. Paul Wilkes sent an email to the producers pitching a Las Vegas bar, the Sand Dollar ― in which Wilkes is part owner ― as one Taffer could turn around. When being filmed for an audition for the show, Wilkes says he took the advice of casting director Lauren Kalb of Metal Flowers, a reality TV casting company, to act “outlandish” in an effort to get on the show.
During the December 2012 filming, Wilkes and one of his partners began talking about going to strip bars. In subsequent meetings with employees of Bongo LLC, a limited liability company of producer 3 Ball Productions, Wilkes says he was encouraged to make “offensive comments about women” and act out for the cameras. As part of the audition process, producers sent host Jon Taffer's wife, Nicole, to Sand Dollar. Wilkes says he was goaded to hit on Mrs. Taffer.
Nicole ordered a Sex on the Beach at the bar. Dr. Wilkes bellied up and used cheesy pickup lines, including: "Probably my most impressive trick is just from looking at the bend of your arm, I can tell you what your vagina looks like.
"So, if you bend your arm, and go like that, that's like Grade A va-gee. "
According to the lawsuit, Taffer, who had been watching the filming outside and came rushing into the bar, called Dr. Wilkes a pervert and a scumbag, and then smashed the drink Wilkes was holding into his face. The show’s video, however, shows Staffer berating Wilkes, and then walking out.
Wilkes filed suit in 2014 in LA Superior Court, and is seeking general, actual and punitive damages as well as medical and legal expenses, pain and suffering and “other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper” from the incident. The doctor is suing Taffer; his wife Nicole, and Bongo LLC.