The Filling Station Pub is Running on Empty

This year, over 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, The Filling Station Pub in San Diego, California will become just another statistic. In 2003, Sissy Xue moved to San Diego, California from Hong Kong in pursuit of the American dream. Ten years later, in 2013, Sissy opened The Filling Station Pub across the street from the Marine Corps' Miramar Air Station. It was an instant success, making an average of $60,000 per month. And catering to the military was something close to Sissy’s heart – her son is in the Air Force Reserve. Sissy hired bartenders with the intention of attracting Marines from across the street, but her plan backfired. Soon, Filling Station Pub had a revolving door of bartenders, leaving Sissy with an untrained staff that drove away customers. Thinking her staff was to blame for her sinking profits, Sissy installed surveillance cameras to monitor their every move. Sissy’s inability to keep control has left her with an unruly staff, an inconsistent clientele and a neglected bar. Now, Sissy’s $400,000 in debt and losing $15,000 a month. With her American dream on the line, Sissy has agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books and make a call for help to Bar Rescue.

For the kitchen, Jon Taffer brings in Chef Nick Liberato. With his extensive training and experience, Nick can turn any average cook into a hero in the galley. For the bar, Jon has called in decorated mixologist Phil Wills. Phil’s expertise in designing craft cocktails can transform any cocktail menu into a national treasure. During recon, Chef Nick points out that the outside of The Filling Station Pub is not inviting. Miramar consists mostly of Marine Corps officers with a median age of 34 years old, 85% of which are married with an average income of $62,000. To attract them, a bar needs to be comfortable.

Jon’s recon team consists of XTRA 1360 AM FOX Sports San Diego personalities Mike Costa and Dave Palet. These two top rated sports talk hosts were chosen for their huge social reach. Jon’s spies enter The Filling Station Pub, a 3,200-square-foot space housing 3 pool tables and a neglected kitchen. When the spies ask the bartender about her specialty, she says she makes flavored Long Islands. The beverages made for Mike and Dave were terrible looked incredibly feminine, making the spies look and feel out of place. When they asked for Manhattans, the bartender couldn’t make one properly. Hoping the third time would be the charm, Mike and Dave ordered dirty martinis, which also ended up being awful. The kitchen is closed so the spies can’t test the food.

The Science

  • Guests who order and eat food will stay an average of 51 minutes longer. That extra time allows bartenders to sell 1 or 2 additional beverages.
  • Do not use a rocks glass placed inside a tin to strain cocktails. Not only is it unprofessional, it’s unsanitary.
  • Water from ice is a key component in many cocktails as it dilutes harsher ingredients that balance the combined flavors. Most cocktails are simply stirred with ice to achieve dilution, while also serving to chill the liquid. But a cocktail containing citrus should always be shaken. This introduces air into the liquid which breaks down the compounds in the citrus oils, softening the acidic taste. Combined with the dilution from the ice, this results in a well-balanced cocktail without an excessively bitter taste.

The Relaunch

The Filling Station is renamed Off Base Bar. Because The Filling Station Pub is located in a strip mall, the exterior cannot be altered significantly. Instead, Jon chose the name to take advantage of Miramar’s personnel saying that they’re going off base. He also strove to capture the feel of an officer’s club. Six weeks later, bar sales are up 30% and food sales are up 100%. Sissy no longer uses her 16-camera security system to manage the bar.

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

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