I really like shows like Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares and the logically ripped off Bar Rescue, in the same way that I like shows like Intervention. I like rooting for people in terrible situations to do better. We’re all in terrible situations and we want to do better.
That isn’t totally true, I think what I really like the most is the notion that the mechanisms of problems with anything is just missing, secret information. Yes, it is the myth of secret information: Your life is a mess, because of this one tiny thing, now that you know it, voila, it’s fixed. Vis a vis, your restaurant or bar also.
Wanting to believe in this idea of magical information really means a lot to me, so I watch these shows, but like most things that you know damn well aren’t true, you doubt and look for contrary information to disprove yourself. I watch every episode of Bar Rescue with my smartphone in my hand, looking up the name of the new restaurant, then the old restaurant (commonly they switch back to the old name), usually looking to see that it has failed.
That the secret information that Jon Taffer imparts and his soulless, generic approach to bar-building that by and large ignores local tastes or lack of interest on the part of the owners for said theme (Your bar now a Caribbean bar! Put on this Hawaiian shirt and say “Mon” instead of “Man” moving forward!).
Also it follows the same formula each time, which pretty much makes the following assumptions:
- POS systems are necessary or every bar will screech off course into a fiery ball of nonachievement
- Ibid, fancy drink machines
- Ibid, State of the art beer taps
- Ibid a new sign, designed using only the standard iconography available in MS-Word Clipart
- Ibid, stupid Cocktails, designed by a Mixologist, which according to HL Mencken’s 1948 work “The Vocabulary Of The Drinking Chamber” was invented not by a bartender but by a hack journalist for the Knickerbocker magazine in 1856, who wanted to refer to the profession sportively and I think it remained on that level until about 2005, when even the stupidest of shit became serious, somehow.
- Your bar needs a fancy bar top. I have never noticed the bar top of any bar other than a quick check like:
- Is there a bar top?
- Is it wet/dirty?
- Does it support this glass of liquid?
- The End.
Who Is Jon Taffypants?
Who is this Jon Taffer, besides seemingly missing an N somewhere in the middle of his last name and talking with that East Coast affect that sounds like he always has a Werther’s Original in his mouth?
Well his Wikipedia page offers few solid clues, and his Consultancy company’s website, Taffer Dynamics, is similarly short on information and tall on bullshit eBooks and “packages” that you can buy, which are also shitty ebooks.
I’m quite sure the man is pedigreed, but where’s the solid proof? What popular of famous bars does Jon Taffer own? Not sure, and even if he did launch many, many famous bars and nightclubs, this doesn’t mean that he can swoop into Cornfuck, Kansas and turn some shitty bar into Club 54. (Pardon my dearth of knowledge on popular or world renown nightclubs, I have none).
And besides, some people like shitty bars. I like shitty bars. My city of Long Beach, California may as well be called Shitty Bar, California (an interesting aside, there is a town called Diamond Bar, California that has only shitty bars and no good ones).
And call me old fashioned, but I think that non-chain bars or restaurants (pretty much the only goddamn thing people in their 30′s do, which is a real social problem) can’t really follow a formula. There are too many inter-dependencies on the community, current competitors, and the proprietors and workers of the bar themselves. I saw an episode where Taffer tried to turn some Pirate bar into a placed called the Corporate Bar & Grill.
Like I see how it’s sorta cheeky to business types, but it’s staffed by owners and workers who like the pirate theme as much as Judge Reinhold’s character did.
Do successful business types want a place that panders to them in a cheeky way? Not really. Successful business people are cheap and want to get hammered. If I were Taffer i’d walk into the Piratz bar and be like “Ok make your happy hour from 4:30 to 8:00 PM and offer cheap watered down drinks and tiny portions of seafood and tortured organica with mango salsa and this train will make hay”, then i’d turn on a dime, walk out the door and check my stopwatch: 45 Seconds. New record.
I haven’t written much Misanthropy lately and the truth of the matter is I Googled “Bar Rescue Track Record” and found nothing so I decided i’d do some research and put a full track record on my vanilla personal blog, then I started getting pissed so I copied and pasted and put it here when I really just wanted to go to sleep, go to work and go drinking at some shitty bar tomorrow night. Look how good I am to you assholes.
And so, here’s the Bar Rescue track record. Misanthropists, you won’t find this very interesting, move along:
Bar Rescue Track Record
(In order of appearance on television)
Bar Name: Angels Sports Bar
Location: Corona, California
New Name: Rack’s Billiards & Bourbon
RESULT: Seems to be doing about the same judging by Yelp reviews. This looked like your typical OC/Inland Empire shithole full of lifted truck assholes. Can’t blame Taffer for this but he should’ve turned it into some kind of UFC Homoerotic dungeon or something.
0 for 1
RESULT: Terrible Yelp Reviews. No changes in old vs. new reviews.
Bar Name: Chicago Abbey Pub and Music Theatre
Location: Chicago, Illinois
New Name: Name was kept
RESULT: Shitty Yelp reviews complaining about the makeover.
Bar Name: Kilkenny’s Irish Pub
Location: Redondo Beach, California
New Name: Breakwall
RESULT: Closed. The two sisters from the episode that ran this place were rather attractive, though I cannot credit Taffer or his show for this.
Bar Name: Swanky Bubbles
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
New Name: Sheer (changed back to old name)
RESULT: Closed, per Yelp.
The Blue Frog Sings The Blues
Bar Name: The Blue Frog 22
Location: Chicago, Illinois
New Name: The Local Chicago’s Best Burgers & Beer
Name-Post Bar Rescue: Blue Frog’s Local 22
Bad to the Bone
Bar Name: The Chicken Bone
Location: Framingham, Massachusetts
New Name: The Bone Chicken & Tunes (changed back to old name)
RESULT: Reverted to former name, many shitty reviews. A few reviewers with no friends on Yelp said the makeover was great, FWIW.
Bar Name: Champs Sports Pub
Location: Burbank, California
New Name: Name was kept
RESULT: Mixed reviews. Reviewers mention they don’t see the food/drinks from the show.
Bar Name: Canyon Inn Sports Bar & Grill
Location: Yorba Linda, California
New Name: Canyon Saloon Spirits & Steaks (changed back to old name)
RESULT: Very similar to the Angel’s bar above, this is a douchebag bar, one yelp commenter said “Canyon Inn is where all the 909ers go so they can say that they party in Orange County. The parking lot is filled with Lifted F150s covered with Tapout and “I’d rather be in Glamis” stickers. The clientel isnt much better. Spikey hair, flat bill hats and black socks with DCs…added with the douche bag attitude commonly found in the 909 breed.” I’d say the makeover didn’t transform the Clientele the way Taffer said it would.
Bar Name: Angry Ham’s Garage
Location: Framingham, Massachusetts
New Name: Octane Bar and Grill (changed back to old name)
RESULT: Reverted back to old name and theme. Octane, wow what a creative name.
Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Dumb
Bar Name: Piratz Tavern
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
New Name: Corporate Bar & Grill (changed back to old name and theme)
0 for 11
Bar Name: The Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
New Name: Bamboo Beach Club & Tiki Bar
RESULT: Not that i’d call a 3 star yelp review average a success by a world renowned bar operator and consultant, but the name has stuck and despite the reviews that pretty much say it’s only decent because of the location, they have stuck to some of the food and drink specials. This is 1 for 12, and it’s a single. If Jon Taffer were a Single A baseball player he’d be batting 0.083 and this texas leaguer over the Third Baseman’s head might or might not save him from a Greyhound ticket back to a life of alcoholism and methamphetamines in his shitty hometown, ironically where there may be a bar that Jon Taffer has tried to rescue.
1 for 12
Bar Name: J.A. Murphy’s Pub
Location: Fells Point, Baltimore
New Name: Murphy’s Law
RESULT: ClOSED. Now to be fair these bars may suffer from all kinds of pre-existing conditions, but for a bar to close right after world renowned expert Taffer comes in and makes it over is really an embarrassment. I don’t know a thing about Baltimore but I do know that if a decent bar opened in my area (similarly sized, I think) it would at least last awhile on the hype if it had even a decent foundation that has used the “science” that Taffer prides himself on.
1 for 13
Mystique or Murder?
Bar Name: Mystique Lounge
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
New Name: Aura Nightclub
RESULT: Closed. Remember how I was just comparing Taffer to a Single A baseball player on the verge of being released? Taffer just hit into two double plays.
1 for 14
Bar Name: The Olive Pit
Location: Orange, California
New Name: The O.P. (modernized old name)
RESULT: Reverted back to old name, theme. Don’t serve food. Same place before it was rescued.
1 for 15
Broke Black Sheep
Bar Name: Black Sheep
Location: Cheviot, Ohio
New Name: The Public House
1 for 16
Weber’s of Lies
Bar Name: Weber’s Place
Location: Reseda, California
New Name: Weber’s Rum Bar and Grill (modernized old name)
RESULT: I watched this episode last night and since it’s near where I live considered giving it a look since I like Tiki Bars (think the Tiki Ti in east hollywood). The reviews look awful, everyone lamenting that the place had character before.
1 for 17
Bar Name: Win, Place or Show Sports Bar & Grill
Location: Fairfield, Ohio
New Name: America Live Bar & BBQ
RESULT: CLOSED. Also watched this one last night. In fairness the logo looked kind of cool in a generic way, borrowed heavily from Live Aid or those types of concerts, but i’ve been to shitty towns in Ohio and figured if I lived in that area i’d probably go to this bar for music sometimes. Taffer did OK with this one, although I have no idea about what other bars are in the area. (Ok just checked, looks like mostly dive bars. Duh, make a cool dive bar. Well it looks like he sorta tried to but in a very Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock type way..). In looking at some news story that says the owners were way behind on their rent and the owner locked the place up, Two things, if the place was popping the owner would probably wait for the rent money to come, or the owner might be a shithead who figured he could kick them out for non-payment and rent it for more to someone else and keep all the nice shit that Bar Rescue did to it. I’ll give this one to him because property owners can ruin great places and it’s not definitive what ruined this place, although the camera angles on this episode were obviously deceptive to make it look like there was over 100 people in the place on the “launch”, though it looked like about 40.
2 for 18
2 for 18 is a .111 batting average. This is about what a pitcher in major league baseball (who usually is forced to sacrifice bunt) bats when they are a really poor hitter.
To put it into business terms, let’s say that you opened 18 businesses at the cost of $200,000 each. You would need these two (which are not huge successes, as noted) to earn $3.6 Million in profit just to break even on your bad investments.
You have a probability of about 18% in coming out ahead at playing 20 hands of Blackjack, a game that is designed for the player to lose. With Bar Rescue’s percentage of 11% success (based on my very liberal standards of not closing or being a disaster) you’d be almost twice as likely to win money at a Las Vegas casino than you would investing your money in a bar that has been rescued by the Spike TV show.
Sadly for us, there is no secret information, there is no magic beans. We will most likely not have posh pre-retirement careers as consultants. Success is in work, not in magic. It doesn’t upset me that this reality show is not what it purports to be, more so that it’s just so much not what it purports to be. None of the bars are rescued, and Jon Taffer doesn’t make money with bars, but rather with selling bar owners magic beans.
In HL Mencken’s work referenced earlier, which I just happened to be reading around the same time, he he closes with a last grab at understanding the etymology of words created in barrooms, which like Bar Rescue’s efforts fails, so does he:
“Most of the authorities say that it arose from the fact that the bartenders of the 1890′s called a glass a ball and that highball flowed naturally from the fact that what was formerly a whiskey-and-soda needed a taller glass than a straight whiskey. But all the bartenders above 80 that I am acquainted with say that ball was never used for a glass. Other authorities report that highball was lifted from railroad men, who use the term for go ahead. But this sounds pretty thin, for if the railroad men of that era ever detected a bartender putting water (and especially soda water) into whiskey they would have butchered him on the spot. Highball is listed in nearly all the dictionaries published since 1930, but not one of them attempts its etymology. Nor does any of them try to unravel the mystery of cocktail. “
Edit: if you’ve been on Bar Rescue or been to a bar on Bar Rescue give me some inside info below in the comments. thank you please.