Bar Rescue is an American reality television series that premiered on Spike on July 17, 2011 – rebranded as Paramount Network in 2018. It stars Jon Taffer, a long-time food and beverage industry consultant specializing in nightclubs, bars, and pubs, who offers his professional expertise plus renovations and equipment to desperately failing bars in order to save them from closing. In the UK, the show originally aired on 5*, later moving to Spike (UK).
Intertitle from seasons 1–5
|Created by||Darrin Reed|
|Directed by||Neal Gallagher|
|Narrated by||P.J. King|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||196 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||41–42 mins.|
|Original release||July 17, 2011 –|
|Related shows||Marriage Rescue|
The series stars Jon Taffer, owner and chairman of bar/nightclub consulting firm Taffer Dynamics, Inc. Taffer is a bar and nightclub owner who has started, flipped, or owned numerous establishments in a career that spans over three decades. Bar owners submit an application via the Paramount Network website to have their failing establishment "rescued" by Taffer and his team of experts.
A typical episode begins with Taffer's team performing reconnaissance and surveillance on a struggling bar to determine its operational and service weaknesses. For the recon, one or more team members and/or local residents enter the bar, order food and drinks to gauge their quality, and form an opinion of the atmosphere and service. The surveillance involves hidden cameras, pre-installed with the owner's consent, through which Taffer and his team watch the kitchen and customer service areas. He then introduces himself to the owner(s) and staff to discuss his findings, and to describe the changes he believes should be made (management, customer service, cleanliness, etc.) in order to make the bar profitable. He also examines the bar's financial records to find possible cost savings. During these meetings, Taffer exhibits a brusque, no-nonsense, and confrontational attitude intended to goad the owner(s) and staff into making drastic changes to the way the bar is run – including the firing of inept and/or dishonest employees when necessary.
Taffer's team members train the staff on methods of improving food/drink preparation, customer service, and efficiency, frequently concentrating on a more limited selection of recipes than the bar typically offers. After the initial training, Taffer puts the bar through a "stress test" (similar to a soft opening), inviting in a large crowd of patrons in order to determine how well the staff can use their newly learned skills to deal with the pressure of a busy night. He uses market research, technological tools, and partner companies to scientifically measure the bar's performance. After discussing the stress 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, more extensive phase of training, overhauling the menu to fit the new concept. Once this phase is complete, Taffer closes the bar for a few days so that construction crews can redesign the interior. Deep-cleaning and structural work are performed when necessary. After the overhauled bar (often re-branded with a completely new name or a variation of the old one) 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 changes in the bar's success or failure since the re-opening, through a combination of text and interviews with the owners and staff. Bars are not required to keep the changes that Taffer implements, and some have reverted to their original names, concepts, and/or menus since being featured on the show.
The bars featured on the show are already in dire financial and operational situations by the time Taffer intervenes, posting a significant challenge to a turnaround. Despite this, data shows that over half the bars featured, 92 of the first 166 featured through the midway point of season 6, have remained open, with the remaining 74 unable to overcome their challenges.
The series is from The Biggest Loser producers J.D. Roth and Todd A. Nelson for 3 Ball Productions/Eyeworks US. Spike announced picking up 10 episodes of Bar Rescue in January 2011. The show began shooting in April 2011. It was renewed on September 14, 2011 for a second season in the summer of 2012, from which the first episode of that season aired on July 29. Season 3 of the show premiered on February 10, 2013. On May 9, 2013, Spike TV renewed Bar Rescue for a fourth season of 20 more episodes.
On March 21, 2014, Spike TV ordered 20 more episodes of Bar Rescue. On June 27, Taffer announced on his Facebook page that he will be begin shooting 30 episodes for season 4 after a week-long trip to Paris. The first half premiered on October 5, 2014 while the second half premiered on February 8, 2015. On May 30, 2015, Taffer announced on his Facebook page that he finished shooting season 4. It was announced that the remaining episodes for season 4 would air beginning Sunday, June 21, 2015.
In May 2015, Taffer announced season 5, with at least 20 episodes, on his Facebook page, with an update from Spike, issued in July 2016, that they had increased the fifth season to a total of 30 episodes.
The bars featured on the show are already in dire financial and operational situations by the time Taffer intervenes, posting a significant challenge to a turnaround. Nearly half the bars featured, 74 of the first 166 featured through the midway point of season 6, were unable to overcome their challenges.
For example, the changes the show made to Downey's Irish Pub, featured in the July 24, 2011, episode "Downey's and Out", were not enough to prevent a planned sheriff's sale on August 2, 2011, due to $2.4 million owed to the city of Philadelphia and Wells Fargo bank, including $125,881 in business-privilege, wage, liquor and other taxes. Breakwall (from the season 1 episode, "Beach Bummer") closed in January 2012. Season 1's Swanky Bubbles, after reverting to its original title, has also closed its doors. The show's first rescued bar of season 2, Piratz Tavern, reverted to its original pirate theme and would later close in April 2015 (see below). The Chicken Bone, Canyon Inn, Angry Ham's Garage, Weber's Place, The Brixton, ZanZbar Stand Up Scottsdale!, and KC's reverted to their original names. The Chicken Bone brought back its previously popular menu, while Angry Ham's replaced unpopular items with previously popular items from its original menu. Season 2's J.A. Murphys was sold by the owners shortly after the makeover, becoming a Mexican restaurant. Stand Up Scottsdale reverted to its original name due to problems with becoming a franchise of The Laugh Factory.
Rocket Room 6 in Austin, Texas, reverted to its old name, The Brixton, 6 weeks after its relaunch. The owner continued his use of social media to insult critics who were documented in the show, although the bar was 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 bring his building up to code.
The pirate-themed Piratz Tavern in Silver Spring, Maryland, which had been rebranded Corporate Bar and Grill by Taffer, reversed all of the changes Taffer made to the bar shortly after their episode was filmed. The owner released a YouTube video called "Piratz Revenge", showing the "Corporate" sign created by Taffer's team being shot at and burned in effigy. The video was heavily disliked by YouTube viewers, and garnered a positive rating of only 4%. Taffer of their decision, "If you had a pirate concept that had failed for five years and had a new concept, would you go back to the concept that failed for five years or try something new? It defies logic that someone would go back to a (failed) concept just because they don't like the new name." The owners blamed the "negative publicity" on the show. Piratz was revisited as part of the April 5, 2015 episode, in which Taffer grades the bar an "epic fail", and the owner sought a second rescue. Within a week of the revisited episode's premiere, however, Piratz decided to close its doors for good. In a "Back to the Bar" episode, the owners made amends with Taffer and announce that they plan to open a new bar, Bar Refuge, within the next year in Florida. They also appeared alongside their daughter in the episode "Getting Freaky at the Tikis" as recon spies for The Tiki Lounge.
Taffer's most expensive rescue also resulted in his biggest failure. His visit to The Los Angeles Brewing Company during season 4 saw him put $1 million into updating the bar, which included the installation of a self-service beer tap and an in-house brewing system, which was intended to allow the bar, which was rebranded as LABrewCo, to start serving its own beer. Four months after the rescue, the brewing system was discovered to have never been used, the self-serve tap was disconnected, and the owner had reverted changes to the bar taps and the menu. In addition, LABrewCo's liquor license had been suspended and the business was put up for sale.
The Dugout episode
Taffer's redesign of baseball-themed bar The Dugout, across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, resulted in a series first: Taffer redesigned the bar, but didn't hold a grand reopening. The owner, Ed, previously owned the building while the bar was owned by a tenant. After months of no rent payed, Ed evicted the owner and took over. Not wanting a bar, Ed refused to take advantage of the massive potential profit: the bar was across from Wrigley Field. This frustrated his staff to no end and his constant drinking and attitude made him no shortage of enemies. Every attempt by Taffer and his experts to get through to Ed failed miserably, as he would barely react, let alone show emotion, earning him the nickname "Smiling Ed". In the end, Taffer only showed the staff the newly dubbed "Press Box" and left the next move up to them. When Ed showed up drunk, several staff members quit and Taffer left. As of now, the bar is still open. However, Ed has split it into two parts: The Dugout on the bottom floor and the Press Box on top. He also still shows little interest in saving the bar and no gratitude towards Bar Rescue.
Throughout the series, Taffer has walked out of a bar without rescuing it three times.
Taffer first walks out of the trailer-themed O'Face Bar in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the season 3 episode "Punch Drunk and Trailer Trashed". The owners, Matt and Karen, named the bar after a vulgar expression and treated their staff terribly, even going so far as firing the victim of a fight, bartender Cerissa instead of the instigator, manager Amanda as Jon demanded, as they liked Amanda more. This almost made him leave and though they eventually fixed it by firing Amanda and apologizing to Cerissa, it cost them a day of training. Their treatment of customers wasn't much better, as Matt refused to give customers the recipe to their signature O'Gasm shot and bartender Dave was irresponsible with fire. After an abysmal stress test, they wasted even more time with bickering and family drama, with Karen insisting on laying the blame squarely at the feet of one of the only decent people in the bar, security guard Syck. To make matters worse, Karen had a drinking problem, even carrying her own bell to ring when she wanted another (the other staff members drank, but not to the extremes Karen displayed), and a lousy attitude, refusing to accept responsibility and instead blaming Matt, who in turn berated anyone who snapped at her. In a memorable scene, instead of training, the staff and owners spent a long time arguing in the backroom while Jon and his expert waited in the bar for them to get to work with it ultimately coming to the point that Jon had to go into the back, break up the fight and describe everything that had been done so far that caused him to think the bar unworthy of a rescue. The final straw came when Jon did a background check, resulting in evidence of criminal acts and a video of Matt slapping Dave and offering Syck a raise to throw him through a window, an act Matt showed no remorse for. Refusing to be involved with people with such awful morals, Jon walked out. An incensed Matt yelled at Syck while the latter gave his final thoughts. Syck was later fired and Amanda rehired. In a follow-up episode of "Back to the Bar", Jon learned that the bar had undergone remodeling, but with a further emphasis on its dreadful brand, and the drinks and sales were no better, though Matt showed promise by removing a regular who was acting inappropriately towards a female spy.
Return to Second Base
The second walkout occurred in the season 4 episode "Second Base, Third Strike", which began as a planned re-rescue of the baseball-themed Second Base in Orange, California (previously seen in the episode "Bikini Bust", when it was called Extremes Sports Bar). At first, it appeared that Gary, who was made manager at the end of the original episode, was to blame as he didn't seem to be doing his job or care, blaming other more successful bars for stealing customers and at one point becoming so agitated that he pushed down a retaining wall. However, Jon soon learned that Terry, the owner, didn't give his staff any of the tools or funds needed to run the bar, constantly replaced bartenders with new ones he didn't even meet, got rid of the changes to the menu and uniforms and put money into a supposedly more successful new bar instead of spending a dime on Second Base, which was slowly falling apart. He also wouldn't listen to any criticism, badmouthing both Jon and one of his experts, Lisamarie Joyce. Despite all this, he still expected Jon to come in and save the bar again without putting any effort in himself, something Jon had no intention of doing. Finally, after what Jon said was one of the worst stress tests he’d ever seen, Jon gave Terry an ultimatum: he'd re-remodel the bar, but only if Terry put 30% of the cost in himself. Now claiming that his new bar wasn't that successful, he refused and Jon got very angry at Terry and called him a slime bucket and left. Although disappointed that one of the best bar concepts he had ever done had been ruined, Jon ultimately promised that he would help the staff find new jobs.
Black Light District
The third walkout occurs at the punk rock-themed Black Light District in Long Beach, California in the season 4 episode "Drunk on Punk". Owner Dave refused to accept any changes to either the building, drink menu, or music choice (he would only play punk rock and called playing anything else "selling out", making it clear he'd rather the bar close than play another genre). He also displayed an immense ego, going so far as to insult any customer who criticized the music, as well as Jon, mixologist Phil Wills (for daring to prepare fruit-based drinks that had sold well at other music-themed bars), and The Vandals bassist Joe Escalante, who acted as one of the recon spies in that episode, for pointing out that as much as Escalante himself loved punk rock, punk was a specialized genre unlikely to keep a bar in business by itself. Dave's response to Escalante was not to find fault with Escalante's knowledge or logic, but rather to mock Escalante's "grandpa sweater", implying the 35-year veteran of the punk scene was too old to "get" punk, which led to the insulted bassist's rapid departure from the episode. The only change Dave was interested in was the addition of a kitchen, an idea Jon found ludicrous, since he couldn't even run a bar right, as it was filthy and he proved to be more of a hindrance than help during the stress test. Finally, when Dave literally told Jon to his face to leave, insisting that he knew better, Jon happily complied, to the dismay of the staff, especially jilted investor Gabe, and a completely apathetic attitude from Dave.
Jon and Nicole Taffer, along with the show's production company Bongo LLC, have been sued by Dr. Paul T. Wilkes from Bar 702 (formerly Sand Dollar). In episode "Don't Mess with Taffer's Wife", Wilkes is shown to hit on Nicole, and Jon yells at him in retaliation. However, Wilkes stated that the producers ordered him to be sleazy and make offensive comments on women, and texted him to "Hit on Mrs. Taffer hardcore!!" After Wilkes did so, Wilkes states that Taffer called the control room to tell them to have a drink near the spot where he intended to confront Wilkes, so he could throw it in his face, and said to a colleague, "Now I'm going to show you why my show is Number One." According to Wilkes, Taffer came in to confront him and showed him footage of his audition tapes, in which he insulted the way Taffer dressed. Taffer then physically assaulted Wilkes, leading to a scuffle, resulting in a hyperventilating Taffer collapsing onto the floor. Wilkes stated that he suffered from emotional distress and symptoms such as migraines, nausea, vomiting, night terrors, crying spells, severe depression, and anxiety attacks as a result of the confrontation. As of August 11, 2017, the case was dismissed with prejudice at the request of Dr. Wilkes after it settled in arbitration for a confidential amount.
Nashville rescue/Wayne Mills murder
During the taping for season 3, Taffer visited BoondoxXx BBQ & Juke Joint in Nashville, Tennessee and worked with owner Chris Ferrell, who was noted for having a hot temper. The rescued bar was renamed Pit & Barrel and the episode featuring the bar was to air on November 24, 2013, but on the night before the episode was supposed to air, Ferrell was arrested by Nashville police for shooting and killing country singer Wayne Mills during an argument inside the remodeled Pit & Barrel. Spike immediately pulled the episode from its originally scheduled premiere slot but did not remove the episode completely, so the regularly scheduled encore presentation of the episode, which aired in the early morning hours of November 25, accidentally served as the premiere and the network drew criticism for the error in light of the circumstances. Since the accidental airing, the episode has not officially re-aired on Spike, though it has been distributed on file-sharing websites.
Ferrell stood trial for the murder of Mills and asserted he acted in self-defense, claiming that Mills had violated the bar's nonsmoking rule and had threatened to kill him with a broken beer bottle. The jury convicted Ferrell of second-degree murder in March 2015 after a long-delayed trial, and he was given a 20-year sentence without the possibility of parole. The verdict and sentence are being appealed.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||10||July 17, 2011||September 25, 2011|
|2||10||July 29, 2012||September 30, 2012|
|3||40||February 10, 2013||May 4, 2014|
|4||58||October 5, 2014||July 31, 2016|
|5||31||August 7, 2016||September 17, 2017|
|6||TBA||March 11, 2018||TBA|
In the UK, the show airs on 5*, starting from January 8, 2014. It has since moved to the British Spike Channel since Viacom acquired Channel 5 UK. It's also aired in The Netherlands on Spike. In Sweden Bar Rescue is shown daily on TV12 and TV4 Fakta XL. In Italy the show is called "Bar da incubo" (Nightmare Bar). It is shown daily on Cielo tv and Italy Spike Channel.
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