Back to the Bar: Most Delusional Owners

In the last few years, Jon Taffer has put his heart and soul into rescuing bars across the nation. But the question is, what happens when he leaves? Do they continue to succeed or, without Jon, do they fail? He’s returning to the bars that had the most delusional owners. They think they’re being filmed for a simple follow up but what these owners don’t realize is Jon is sending in his spies. They’re trying the food, drinking the drinks and getting the overall customer experience. From the intel they gather, Jon is going to make his judgment. There’s a thin line between success and failure in the bar world and owners walk a tightrope. So, Jon is sending in his spies to report back on four bars he rescued that had the most delusional owners to see if they held it together after he left or went off the deep end. He started with Dimples, America’s first karaoke bar, in Burbank, California. Then Jon went to Taza, a former hookah bar in Omaha, Nebraska. He also went to 22 Klicks in Hope Mills, North Carolina and, finally, back to Austin, Texas for Metal and Lace, formerly known as Headhunters. Get ready for some shocking updates as Jon goes Back to the Bar!

When Jon first arrived at Dimples two years ago, it was covered in clutter and had a grossly outdated sound system, all run by an older owner who had some very old-fashioned and offensive ideas regarding running a business and treating women. In an attempt to bring Dimples into the 21st Century, Jon tossed out all of the junk that was cluttering the bar. With owner Sal’s blessing he promoted bartender Elle to karaoke host and his team turned the bar into a sleek venue. Jon sent Kara Eldridge, who happens to be a professional karaoke host, into Dimples to do some recon. Since karaoke bars are all about entertaining groups of people, Kara brought several friends with her. Unfortunately, Kara reported back that the clutter and stripper pole are back in the bar and Sal has stubbornly refused to give up hosting duties, or give up his sexually aggressive behavior towards female guests. The female spies felt uncomfortable when interacting with Sal. It wasn’t all bad news, though. The sound system, according to Kara, is one of the best she’s ever encountered. Bar manager Kim says that not only are Jon’s signature drinks - which tie together the Hollywood theme of the bar - bestsellers, she would thank Jon for turning Dimples around if she saw him again. Also, Roberto, who experienced a medical incident during Dimples’ first appearance on Bar Rescue, has been replaced by a younger chef, bartender Josh. Jon’s spies said that the food and drinks were good but Sal continues to be a hurdle to the bar’s success, as recent reviews such as, “This place is horrible!”, “The owner is a creep,” and “nothing has changed [since Bar Rescue left]" have been rolling in. Sadly, Dimples has also received a 60-day notice to vacate the property since the block on which it sits was bought up for an apartment complex project, meaning Sal has to find a new location if he wishes to keep his bar going. While sales are up $5,000 per month, it will cost Sal at least $300,000 to $400,000 to purchase a new location. In Jon’s opinion, had Sal not brought the clutter and stripper pole back, sexually harassed female guests and not insisted on hosting karaoke, he would be in a better financial position in terms of finding a new location for Dimples. In Jon’s opinion, the jury’s out on this bar.

The Sciences

  • Karaoke brings in groups of 3 or more. Because of this, shareable menus are the best way to increase guest spend. Since, psychologically speaking, customers fixate more on prices of entrées, an appetizer-focused menu can generate twice the profits of an entrée-driven menu.

When Jon rescued Oasis Hookah Bar, he transformed it into Taza Nightclub because it was discovered that there was no demand for hookah amongst the vast majority of those of drinking age in Omaha, Nebraska. Jon sent in hookah expert Hookah John for recon who discovered, much to his dismay, that Taza Nightclub had been renamed Taza Hookah Lounge. In owner Jesse Hill’s eyes, Taza is now a hookah-nightclub hybrid. The return of the hookah concept indicates that owner Jesse isn’t making decisions for his guests, he’s making choices based upon his interests. Curious as to whether the staff knows what they’re doing with hookahs since they clearly had no training or knowledge during Jon’s visit, Hookah John asked to see the storage and preparation area. Oasis was one of the filthiest venues ever featured on Bar Rescue but the place is clean and organized now. Not only that, the staff was given access to much better hookahs and tobaccos and know how to expertly prepare both for guests. The big bombshell, however, was Hookah John’s and Jon’s discovery that Jesse made the decision to allow minors between the ages of 18 and 20 into Taza. “This is a nightclub! He’s letting children in the door!” exclaimed a shocked Jon Taffer. Letting just one alcoholic beverage to be served to a minor can put a bar’s liquor license and future in jeopardy. One employee, server Nate, believes that Jesse didn’t give the nightclub concept enough of a chance to work and feels both the hookahs and minors are bad for business. Jesse seriously believes that hookah is more profitable than liquor. Hookah John discovered that, upon speaking with several guests, the of-age guests had little to no interest in the hookahs and weren’t staying long at Taza because of all of the smoke in the bar. Taza bar sales are $1,800 per week while hookah sales are $200 per week, representing an increase in sales per month of $2,000. Also, Jesse has paid off about a quarter of his debt. According to Jon, the jury is also out on Taza.

The Science

  • Upon Jon’s first visit to Taza, Jesse bragged that there was no competition regarding his hookah concept. Jon pointed out that 70% of the time a business has no competition, it’s an indication that there is no demand for or interest in that particular concept.
  • Taza’s dance floor is 20 feet by 25 feet. In a confined room, secondhand smoke contains six times more pollution than a busy highway. In some cases, it will take just 20 minutes for secondhand smoke to affect people through airway restriction and impaired breathing, neither of which is good for physical exertion, such as dancing. Customers driven out by secondhand smoke and minors translate into a loss in profits.

Just around 15 miles from Fort Bragg, one of the world’s largest US Army installations, 22 Klicks was Jon’s next stop. Owner Todd Harr was stubborn and delusional, defying Jon and his experts to teach him anything about owning and operating a bar. Jon sent three soldiers – David, Kevin and Ted – into the Hope Mills, North Carolina bar. The first things they noticed upon entering 22 Klicks was that the venue was very clean and inviting with a diverse crowd. The soldiers, just back from Afghanistan, were pleased and relieved to see that the bar wasn’t just full of young Army personnel but also drew in veterans. Not only that, 22 Klicks was packed on a Wednesday, one of the hardest days of the week to attract a crowd to a bar. David, Kevin and Ted noted that they received prompt and friendly service and good drinks. The big test was the gator bites the three spies ordered. Those who watched the first appearance of 22 Klicks on Bar Rescue remember that the gator bites were raw and inedible. In stark, positive contrast, the bites were delicious and motivated the spies to return so they could try the rest of the menu. Jon proudly declared, “Todd nailed the food, drink and service.” However, cleanliness was such an issue during Jon’s first visit that he decided to really put 22 Klicks to the test, sending in a health inspector. Todd was nervous but the bar scored a 95. Kitchen sales are up 30% and the bar is grossing $35,000 to $45,000 monthly. Jon proudly called 22 Klicks a success.

The last bar was owned by the most delusional owner of the dirtiest bar ever featured on Bar Rescue. Metal and Lace, formerly known as Headhunters, hosted incredibly offensive performances and owner Steve Ricci routinely disrespected and failed to pay his employees. In fact, Jon almost walked out on this rescue because he was so disgusted by Steve. He changed his mind because he felt it wasn’t fair to the staff to not attempt to rescue what could have been a great bar. Jon sat down the staff and had them fill out the proper paperwork to be paid as employees. It’s probably not entirely shocking that Metal and Lace has closed, forcing Jon to label it a resounding failure.

Jon wanted to know why Metal and Lace failed. According to Steve, there are “probably 15 reasons” why the bar closed. Rattling several, Steve had plenty of things to blame except, of course, for himself: the wow factor went away when Jon left, the cost of doing business went up, Austin has been growing and laws are working against businesses, taxes went increased, he had to deal with difficult customers, staff members and musicians, the city took away the bar’s parking and, curiously, the fire department took away the venue’s heat. Not content to let Steve speak for a failed business, Jon put ex-bartenders Chloe and Looney in touch with one another. “I can’t complain, except for about Steve,” said Looney when asked how he was doing by Chloe. Chloe said that while Jon was at the bar, everything was great: Metal and Lace looked great, felt great, was clean and had a successful bar menu. However, when Jon left, Steve went right back to his old ways. Chloe stayed on for about 4 months after the relaunch, trying in vain to make the bar successful. When Steve continually ruined Metal and Lace, she left. Looney revealed that one day Steve called him to say he needed help to move the bar into storage while he made plans to move to a new location or reopen the current one. That, of course, never happened. Chloe is now unemployed after attempting to get something going at a few other bars and Looney is working retail and living with his uncle. Steve seems to be doing just fine as a consultant in the medical device and biomedical fields yet, according to his ex-bartender, owes Looney $8,000. Jon was dismayed to hear Looney say, “When Jon asked us if wanted to save the bar, I wish I would have said no.”

The two Metal and Lace ex-bartenders decided to confront Steve at his home after Chloe exposed that the former owner had never paid any of the employees even after Jon had them fill out the proper paperwork. Upon being confronted, Steve claimed he thought that Chloe and Looney “were set” and doing just fine. He also stated that he thinks the bar had been a success, continuing to blame everything from a lack of parking, taxes and insurance rather than himself for Metal and Lace closing. “The business was great and then front tanked,” he said, blaming Jon. Steve then kicked out Chloe, Looney and the Bar Rescue staff after Looney asked when he planned on paying him what he owed. Jon hopes that Looney takes Steve to court and gets every penny owed to him.

To find out more about Bar Rescue episodes make sure to check out Spike TV

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