Back to the Bar: Empty Pockets

The show has rescued over 100 bars.

Spike TV's Bar Rescue claims an 80% success rate. Jon Taffer is so proud of that rate that he shows no fear when it comes to speaking with the other 20 percent. The Bar Rescue host says that he’ll stand by every single decision he’s made because they’ve all been based on what he calls “bar science fact.” Pointing out that by the time this “Back to the Bar” airs the show will have rescued over 100 bars, Jon decided to kick off the special episode with a fashion show of sorts. Over the years, he said, they have come across some amazing/ridiculous uniforms. Descending from the top 5 slot to number one, the uniforms belonged to the following bars:

  • Extreme Sports Bar
  • Handlebar & Grill
  • Characters Quarters
  • Piratz Tavern
  • MT Bottle

Uniform fashion show - Back to the Bar Empty Pockets - Spike TV's Bar Rescue

The fashion show segued nicely into the first revisited bar, since Brandi from MT Bottle was on hand to show off the uniform (she has since moved on, citing an inability to make enough money at the bar). When Jon arrived at MT Bottle, run by husband and wife team Tracy and Gina Bigford, the bar was far from a classy place. They had a readymade blue collar clientele but instead attracted bikers and bikinis. They also didn’t have a liquor license because they felt it was too expensive and their customers took advantage of local BYOB rules. Jon was shocked to find that Gina worked two jobs to keep the bar afloat yet her husband basically sat around and did nothing. He was also surprised to find a disgusting natural spring in the basement of the bar. Jon decided that he would have to perform an under-the-ground-up renovation and also purchase the $1,000 liquor license for the bar himself. After getting through to the owners and training the staff, Jon transformed MT Bottle into Bottles & Cans.

Jon sent Lisamarie Joyce back to Bottles & Cans. She found that the owners had put “MT” back into the name. The design elements were still in place and the bar looked and smelled clean, although the water feature Jon rigged outside of the bar to help drain the natural spring broke. Gina said they didn’t know how to fix it and Lisamarie commented that the water smelled awful but didn’t seem as bad as it had been before the rescue. A lab found that a water sample contained 600,000 counts of bacteria. Even worse, the mixologist and bar trainer inquired about the Bar Rescue cocktails and was informed that MT Bottles & Cans had lost their liquor license. That’s obviously a devastating turn of events, particularly when one considers that a short time after the relaunch MT Bottles & Cans’ revenue was up 61 percent.  It turns out that the state says the bar is 330 feet outside the city limits of Murfreesboro. “Government,” Jon said, “at its best.”

Murfreesboro city limits - Back to the Bar Empty Pockets - Spike TV's Bar Rescue

As far as the BYOB problem the bar had faced before and during their episode of Bar Rescue, Jon sent former bartender Brandi into the bar to test management. She and her boyfriend brought a bottle of whisky into the bar, taking and handing out shots. Tracy stepped in to cut her off, prompting Jon to say the owners had done everything right. He encouraged everyone in unincorporated Rutherford Country to sign the petition the Bigfords need to get their liquor license back (they need 6,000 signatures).

After speaking with Gina from MT Bottle, Jon spoke with fired Fairways (also located in Murfreesboro, TN) cook Kevin via Skype. Kevin refused to take responsibility for Fairways’ kitchen problems, for some reason blaming the issues on a lack of labeling and dating of food products. He eventurally killed the video connection after a bit of back and forth with Jon. Next, Tracy and Juciano of the infamous Piratz Tavern spoke with Jon, only they were actually in the studio and spoke with Jon in person. The Piratz rescue has gone down as one of the most famous episodes in the show’s history, prompting Jon to refer to the owners as “practically Bar Rescue royalty.” The owners of the defunct Piratz Tavern told Jon that they’ve moved on and are looking to open a bar in Florida named Bar Refuge, which they expect to open between the end of this year or the beginning of 2017.

Another infamous moment from Bar Rescue history was revisited after Jon spoke with Tracy and Juciano. Viewers probably remember the “gravy battle” that took place between Chef Pink and cook Sal of Six Point Inn. There was no love lost between the two and the two decided to duke it out once and for all. They each made their own gravy, the audience was served both blindly, and Pink came out the winner. This did not sit well with Sal who, instead of accepting a hug from Chef Pink, stormed off and had a meltdown.

Chef Pink and Sal - Back to the Bar Empty Pockets - Spike TV's Bar Rescue

In case you’re wondering why excellent gravy is so difficult to make, here’s the science:

  • The key to perfect gravy is emulsification, the process of combining two liquids that would not ordinarily mix. The more vigorously you combine the fat-based meat extract and the water-based stock with a neutral carrier like flour, the liquids disperse into tiny droplets called a suspension. Achieving the right flavor profile and texture within a consistent suspension is the key to good gravy.

Finally, Jon took a look at Underground Wonder Bar, which was transformed into Clear Bar during their episode. Even though owner Lonie Walker signed a contract barring her from changing the name for one year, Clear Bar is now Lonie Walker’s Underground Wonderbar due to a loophole the owner found.

Lonie Walker's Underground Wonder Bar - Back to the Bar Empty Pockets - Spike TV's Bar Rescue

The bar also did away with the ice program, and Lonie is back onstage performing her music. Still, the bar was packed when Chef Pink went in to check on it. Unfortunately, Chef Pink’s pizza program was tossed in favor of frozen pizzas, something that seems like a huge faux pas in the city of Chicago, particularly in the hip and affluent neighborhood of River North. Lonie’s son Jordan is still GM of the bar and was behind the bar with Lisamarie Joyce at this “Back to the Bar” special taping. Jon decided that the jury’s out on Lonie Walker’s Underground Wonder Bar and wished Jordan well.


Suggested Articles

Devin Burns discusses how Omni Hotels are focusing bringing guests back safely and measured reopenings.

Brand manager, Conor Neville, discusses why they are optimistic about the future and the trends that have come to the forefront.

Grubhub's latest earnings report saw average daily users up 32% but the net loss was reported $45 million in the red.