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||7|
|No. of episodes||212 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||41–42 mins.|
|Original release||July 17, 2011 –|
|Related shows||Marriage Rescue|
Bar Rescue is an American reality television series that airs on Paramount Network. 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.
A spin-off series titled Marriage Rescue premiered on June 2, 2019.
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 would 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.
A sixth season was announced with a March 11, 2018 start date.
On May 2, 2019, the series was renewed for a seventh season with 12 episodes. The seventh season's roll-out from March 2020 until June 2020 was a victim of unfortunate timing, starting at the first height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Due to stay-at-home orders throughout the country and takeout food-only non-alcohol restrictions placed on the industry, the majority of the bars featured in the season were unable to take advantage of the post-episode publicity boost usually afforded the featured bars. It also effectively froze the show indefinitely from any future filming or planning for a presumptive eighth season.
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 Tiki" 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.
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 paid, 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's first walkout was the trailer-themed O'Face Bar in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the season 3 "Punch Drunk and Trailer Trashed" episode. The owners, Matt and Karen, named the bar after a vulgar expression and engaged in terrible behavior to their staff. In one of Bar Rescue's most infamous moments, Matt and Karen responded to a staff member fight by firing the victim, bartender Cerissa, instead of its instigator, manager Amanda, (as Jon demanded), because they liked Amanda more. Jon was infuriated and almost left on the spot. The owners made amends by firing Amanda and apologizing to Cerissa, but this cost a day of training.
Their treatment of customers was little better. 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 still more time by bickering and family drama. Karen blamed security guard Syck, one of the bar's only decent people, for shortcomings. Karen also had a drinking problem and carried her own bell to ring when she wanted more alcohol. (The entire staff drank at work, but not to the extremes Karen displayed). She had a lousy attitude, refused to accept personal responsibility and habitually blamed Matt, who in turn berated anyone who snapped at her.
Yet another memorable scene showed the staff and owners occupied with arguing in the backroom instead of training, while Jon and his experts waited in vain at the bar. Jon had to go in the back room, break up the fight and list each action that resulted in his decision to declare their bar unworthy of rescue.
The final straw for Jon was his background check of the staff, which exposed evidence of criminal acts, a video of Matt slapping Dave and offering Syck a raise to throw him through a window. Matt showed no remorse. Jon refused to involve himself with, or risk his reputation, for people with such a lack of morals and professionalism. He refused to rescue their bar and walked out, telling Matt and Karen that they needed psychiatric help and marriage counseling more than they needed a bar rescue. 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's owners had remodeled it, but its negative depiction and dreadful brand identity were unchanged. Drink and food sales were unimproved, although Matt displayed promise by removing a regular who acted inappropriately toward a female spy.
Return to Second Base
Jon's second walkout occurred in the season 4 "Second Base, Third Strike" episode. This began as a planned re-rescue of baseball-themed Second Base in Orange, California, (the prior episode "Bikini Bust", when it was called Extremes Sports Bar).
At first Gary, who was promoted to manager at the end of "Bikini Bust", appeared to be at fault because he did not seem to do his job and blamed successful bars nearby for stealing customers. At one point Gary became so agitated he pushed down a retaining wall. Instead Jon discovered that owner Terry didn't give his staff tools or funds required to operate his bar, constantly replaced old bartenders with new ones he didn't even meet and abandoned Jon's menu and uniform changes.
Terry invested all of Second Base's funds into a (supposedly) more successful new bar instead of making improvements or even covering basic operating expenses for Second Base. He refused to listen to criticism and badmouthed Jon and his expert Lisamarie Joyce. Despite this he still expected Jon to come in and save his bar again without personal effort. Jon, with his characteristic insistence on owner responsibility, had no intentions of cooperating with this notion. After a stress test which Jon deemed one of the worst he has ever seen, he gave Terry an ultimatum: he would re-remodel the bar, but only if Terry put up $30,000 of the expense himself. Terry now claimed his new bar lacked enough success to support Second Base and refused. Angry, disgusted and disappointed because one of his favorite bar concepts ever had been ruined, Jon called Terry a slime bucket and departed. Terry's final excuse to Jon was that he would’ve agreed to contribute to the new remodel if he had the money, to which Jon replied to Terry that he would’ve had the money if he ran Second Base the right way. Jon did, however, promise to assist Second Base's staff in finding new jobs.
Black Light District
Owner Dave refused to accept any changes to the building, drink menu, or music choices. He would only play punk rock, deeming anything else as "selling out." He made it clear he'd rather have his bar close than play another genre. He displayed an immense ego, going so far as to insult customers who criticized the music along with Jon and mixologist Phil Wills. He sneered at Phil's attempt to prepare a fruit-based drink menu that sold well at other music-themed bars.
The Vandals bassist Joe Escalante, who acted as a recon spy, pointed out that as much as he himself loved punk rock, it was a specialized genre unlikely to keep a bar in business by itself. Instead of finding fault with Escalante's knowledge or logic, Dave chose to respond with a personal attack. He mocked Escalante's "grandpa sweater" and implied that the 35-year veteran of the punk scene was too old to "get" punk. The insulted bassist departed from the episode. The only change Dave was interested in was the addition of a kitchen. Jon found this ludicrous since Dave couldn't even run a bar right. Dave's bar was filthy and he proved more of a hindrance than help during Stress Test. When Dave told Jon to his face to leave, insisting he knew better, Jon happily complied. The staff, especially jilted investor Gabe, was dismayed by Dave's apathetic attitude and the hope Jon took away with him.
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. As a result, the "Don't Mess with Taffer's Wife" episode no longer airs in reruns on Paramount Network or appears on the network's website and apps.
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 in primetime. However, it failed to remove the episode replay carried three hours later at 1 a.m. ET/10 p.m. PT from its broadcast automation system, thus it still aired. The network drew criticism for the error, in light of the circumstances. Since the accidental airing, the episode has never re-aired, 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.
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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