Whatever Happened To These Popular Bar Rescue Bars?

"Bar Rescue" Season 9 is underway on Paramount Network, as Jon Taffer and his crew set out to save more establishments in the U.S. from going under. In eight seasons and counting, the show has aired more than 250 episodes featuring over 230 bars, ranging from brewhouses in major cities to small-town eateries. The venues may be different, but the premise is always the same: a failing bar receives a lifeline to turn its fortunes around.

According to RealityTVUpdates.com, only 47% of the businesses featured on the show are still open today. It's hard to keep a restaurant in business — even celebrity chefs face challenges to succeeding. Considering that an estimated 30% of restaurants fail in their first year, it's an impressive success rate, especially since impending failure is a requirement to be on the show. Still, time plays a factor. Of the 100+ "Bar Rescue" establishments still open, more than 50% were rescued in the past three seasons of the show, stretching back to 2018. 

"Bar Rescue" has had plenty of successes, but it's not always the stories with happy endings that make for the best television. Of the five top-rated episodes, according to IMDb, two of the bars are still open, two are closed, and one was never remodeled by the show. As it into Season 9, we took a look back at the top-ranked episode from each season, along with a few old favorites, to see where the establishments are today.

Angel's Sports Bar - Season 1

Like many of the bars from the earliest seasons, Angel's Sports Bar has long since passed into the bar-and-restaurant afterlife. Angel's, renamed Racks Billiards & Bourbon during the show, was the very first bar Jon Taffer set out to save on "Bar Rescue" back in 2011. Poor management, bad drinks, worse food, and an undertrained staff plagued the spot. A dirty, broken-down interior and exterior didn't help either, and issues with rowdy clientele pushed Angel's from a successful, profitable bar to one that was losing thousands of dollars a month.

After a rescue that included firing the manager and shifting from a sports bar that was nearly indistinguishable from the gentlemen's club next door into a whiskey bar, Racks Billiards & Bourbon thrived. The Corona, California, bar doubled sales in the two months after the remodel, but unfortunately, time would take its toll. In 2015, a stabbing took place outside Racks, and a year later, the business changed its name to Bar 1650 after its street address. 

In 2018, the former Angel's Sports Bar closed for good, but its story wasn't over yet. The building sat empty for a year before a four-alarm fire broke out and consumed a portion of the building. If there was any hope of a revival for Angel's, it went up in smoke with the fire, making the first "Bar Rescue" story one of both success and tragedy.

Extremes - Season 2

With a name like Extremes, it's not surprising to find out that the problems plaguing this California bar were, well, extreme. Originally featured in the Season 2 episode "Bikini Bust," Extremes was renamed Second Base Bar and Grill and managed to turn things around for a while. However, as the profits began rolling in, the owners refused to put any of the money back into the bar. The result was a "Bar Rescue" first, as Second Base received another visit from Taffer in Season 4.

The bar's return episode title, "Second Base, Third Strike," says all there is to say about the double-rescue attempt. When the owners refused to chip in for 30% of the renovation fees, Taffer walked out, leaving Second Base to fend for itself. So far, the bar has done just that, managing to remain open, though customer reviews are bad. Most negative comments center on the interior's strong odor, with the phrase "bio hazard" popping up multiple times on Yelp. Like Angel's, Second Base found itself in the center of tragedy after a fatal shooting took place outside in 2013. Still, the former Extremes remains in business. The bar has an active website, but the focus is more on the scantily clad waitstaff than on the food or drinks.

Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar - Season 2

If Extremes is a cautionary tale of what can happen if a bar returns to its old ways after a rescue, Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar is a success story of what can happen if Taffer's training is taken to heart. The bar, which is connected to a beach-side hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is still alive and thriving today. The website boasts that Bamboo Beach is the only beachfront tiki bar in Fort Lauderdale.  

Considering the long history of tiki bars in the U.S., it's hard to imagine a bar with such a prime location failing. But like so many "Bar Rescue" venues before and after it, Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar suffered from low-quality food, poor sanitation standards, and a middling staff. Today, the bar serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a wide variety of tropical cocktails and beverages. With a 4.3 star rating on Google as of early 2024, Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar is a "Bar Rescue" spot worth checking out on your next trip to Florida.

O'Face Bar - Season 3

The O'Face Bar, featured in the Season 3 episode "Punch-Drunk and Trailer-Trashed," comes in at number five on IMDb's list. The rating was likely earned because it was a "Bar Rescue" first, with Taffer walking out on the bar before completing the rescue.

The list of issues facing the Council Bluffs, Iowa, establishment was long when "Bar Rescue" arrived. From disappointing drinks, slow service, and an owner who physically assaulted an employee, things only went from bad to worse after O'Face Bar's appearance on the show. Shortly after the episode aired in early March 2014, the Council Bluffs city council voted to rescind the establishment's liquor license, citing the bar's damaging representation of the city. While the bar did manage to restore its license, the troubles continued when one of the owners was sentenced to jail time after sexually assaulting an employee.

Remarkably, the bar is still open, though it lacks any online presence, and the reviews are rough. The O'Face Bar was deemed unworthy of a rescue thanks in large part to the former owner's history of violence, one that continued well after the cameras stopped rolling. So while it remains in operation, it's hardly a venue Taffer is going to brag about.

Handlebar Cafe - Season 3

"Two Flew Over the Handlebars" was another Season 3 episode that featured the rescue of a biker bar in Connecticut dubbed The Handlebar Cafe. Situated in a town of fewer than 6,000 people, the Handlebar Cafe suffered from bad business practices like overpouring drinks, no food menu, and an owner who was consistently behind the bar drunk. "Bar Rescue" stepped in to alleviate many of the problems with the usual mix of bartender training, an improved food offering, and some much-needed tough love from Jon Taffer.

However, the bar quickly rejected several changes after the show aired, including switching back to the name Handlebar Cafe from the show-appointed Handlebar and Grill. Many of the menu updates were also abandoned, but the bar is still open for business more than a decade after "Bar Rescue" stopped by. Today, the Handlebar Cafe is open seven days a week and maintains a Facebook page as "a quality five-star dive bar."

The Hooch Bar & Grill - Season 4

Some spots are just beyond saving, which could be said for The Hooch Bar & Grill, star of the Season 4 episode "Vulgar Vixens." The title points to the main problem the bar faced, which came in the form of a rude and verbally abusive owner. While Taffer did his best to rein in the owner's temper, plenty of other issues also arose during the stress test, including a customer discovering mold in their drink.

Ultimately, "Bar Rescue" poured $100,000 worth of renovations into The Hooch and provided it with the name Proving Ground Bar & Grill, but it wasn't enough to save this Michigan establishment. The bar shut down a year after "Vulgar Vixens" aired, though its Yelp page is still active and contains reviews dating back to 2015, many of which include complaints about the owner and waitstaff. Following the bar's closure, the building was demolished and a gas station has since taken up residence in the space.

Rhythm & Brews - Season 4

There are a few things that a restaurant simply can't have if it wants to be successful, and near the top of that list are mice. Unfortunately, that's exactly what spelled the end for 5th & Vine, formerly known as Rhythm & Brewers. Featured in the episode "Schmuck Dynasty," Rhythm & Brews was a New York bar owned by two brothers that had become overrun by a local biker gang. Toss in the fact that anyone could walk into the kitchen and make themselves a pizza, and the bar was a clear candidate for a rescue.

The show classed the joint up and transformed the former biker hangout into a wine bar, but less than two years after "Bar Rescue" stopped by, the establishment was shut down by the health department for 61 violations. Among the infractions were "evidence of mice or live mice present in facility's food and/or non-food areas" and the presence of flies in the food prep areas. The bar managed to pass a subsequent inspection and reopen its doors but ultimately shut down for good only a few months later.

Paddy's Pub - Season 5

Number three on IMDb's ranking is Paddy's Pub, star of the Season 5 episode "Things That Go Pahrump in the Night." The episode follows the mother-son duo who own the bar in Pahrump, Nevada. While the mother owned the space, she left it to her adult son to run, and considering he ended up on "Bar Rescue," things clearly did not go well.

In the pantheon of "Bar Rescue" bars, Paddy's Pub was far from the worst. The biggest problems were undertrained (and sometimes hungover) bartenders and a manager who seemed more interested in partying than actually working. There was also the confusing theme. The space was decked out in green, including shamrock decorations in the window, but lacked anything else to distinguish it as an Irish pub. Taffer and his team turned things around without any major breakdowns, and by the end, Paddy's had become Pat's Courtyard Bar. 

When the show stopped by for a check-in six weeks later, things appeared to be going well, but shortly after, the bar reverted to the name Paddy's Pub and dropped many of the changes "Bar Rescue" helped implement. Another name change came shortly after, but becoming the Oasis Bar still wasn't enough to keep Paddy's from falling off the wagon and it closed up shop for good in 2017, less than a year after its episode aired.

El K'rajo Beach Bar - Season 6

"Bar Rescue" did something unique in the Season 6 episode "Operation: Puerto Rico." Rather than trying to save a failing bar, the show headed to Puerto Rico to help several bars and towns recover from the devastation caused in 2017 by Hurricane Maria. This included El K'rajo Beach Bar, located on the island's northeastern coast. After the hurricane devastated the bar, ripping the roof clean off and dumping more than six feet of sand inside, the owners worked to restore the space on their own, but nature intervened again, destroying all of their work in a subsequent storm.

With the help of several celebrity friends and corporate sponsors, Taffer and crew helped bring El K'rajo Beach Bar back to life. It appears to still be going strong today, and as of 2023, the bar was open and garnering generally positive reviews. However, the Facebook page for El K'rajo went dormant in February of 2023 after several seemingly random posts about "Law and Order: SVU." Since then, there has been no update to the page, but also no indication that the bar has closed. An email to El K'rajo Beach Bar has received no reply as of this article's publication date, so for now, the assumption is that the bar is still open until confirmed otherwise.

Drunken Donkey - Season 6

It's hard not to end up on "Bar Rescue" with a name like Drunken Donkey. Toss in lime green walls, poorly prepared frozen food, and a beer inventory that far exceeded the establishment's output, and the Texas bar was desperately in need of the famous Jon Taffer touch.

"Bar Rescue" ended up helping to slim down the restaurant's menu, which was bursting with 16 pages of items, and eliminated several positions in the overstaffed bar. By the end of the episode, titled "Green Walls and Donkey Balls," Drunken Donkey was renamed the Butcher and Brew Pub and it was operating with a newfound efficiency.

Nearly five years after the episode aired, the previous name is back, and there is now a second Drunken Donkey location. The restaurant's website describes it as a relaxing place to try craft beer and tasty food with friends while catching the game on TV. And yes, the walls are still green.

The Union - Season 7

A common theme among "Bar Rescue" establishments is to undergo a name change during the episode and then quickly discard it after the cameras stop rolling. The Midway Tavern, formerly The Union, in Midvale, Utah, is the rare exception that stuck with the new name and appears to be doing all the better for it. Rescued in the episode "Still Bill," The Midway is a true "Bar Rescue" success story. 

After serving sub-par food and failing to keep up with drink orders during Jon Taffer's initial review and subsequent stress test, the restaurant seems to have turned things around and is going strong today. The Midway Tavern website features an extensive food menu which includes a weekend brunch. Customer reviews are generally positive, and numerous people have mentioned the nightly karaoke as a highlight. The establishment even gives "Bar Rescue" a shout-out on its About Us page.

Cerealholic Cafe & Bar - Season 8

The top-ranked episode on IMDb's "Bar Rescue" list is from Season 8. "Magically Atrocious" aired in May 2022, and less than two years later, Cerealholic Cafe & Bar — which was renamed The Loft Elevated Bar + Food — is no more. Part of the bar and restaurant's short shelf life may be attributed to its original, unique concept. The Cerealholic Cafe & Bar was themed around breakfast cereal, with menu items including Bedrock Chicken Strips (house-made chicken strips coated in a Fruity Pebble-infused batter) and a Grilled Loop Sandwich, described as a Fruit Loop-infused triple-decker grilled cheese. At the very least, it's hard to knock the creativity.

However, the cereal-centric concept wasn't profitable, so "Bar Rescue" shifted the menu toward more classic fare in its transition to The Loft. Ultimately, the work may have been all for naught, as The Loft closed just a few months after "Magically Atrocious" aired. The family-owned bar cited family issues as the reason behind the closure. Those looking for a drink in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, are still in luck, though, as the former Cerealholic space is now occupied by the SpookEasy Lounge, which offers a haunted theme and tea made from the kava root.

Skip and Jan's Sports Grill - Season 9

The first bar of the latest season rounds out our list. "Deadliest Kitchen" kicked off Season 9 with a trip to Arizona, where Taffer took on Skip and Jan's, a bar saved from closure by a former employee who stepped in to purchase the business when the original owners were looking to sell. The bar faced multiple issues, including being home to one of the dirtiest kitchens Taffer had ever seen, which is certainly saying something.

Still, a facelift and a name change to Natalie's Bar and Grill, after the new owner, have been enough to keep the business open to this point. Only time will tell if Natalie's has what it takes to remain a "Bar Rescue" success story, or if the establishment will fall back into the habits that landed it in its predicament and on the show in the first place.