The Bars That Jon Taffer Couldn't Rescue

Jon Taffer saves bars that are on the verge of shutting down on his reality show Bar Rescue. So far, he has rescued 188 bars across the United States. While 94 of them have remained afloat, 84 have shut their doors. It takes a massive amount of work to rescue a bar — from redesigning the menus, the interior and the logo to picking furnishings and more importantly, changing the attitude of those who run it.

The bars get a second chance and a new lease on life. With some, the changes stick and sales soar. But with some others, the doors close anyway. Taffer follows the progress of every rescued bar through an app on his phone. When some shut down despite his efforts, it doesn't bother him, he tells BroBible. He says, "You're talking to a guy who buys and sells restaurants and bars with no connection to them. They don't live and breathe. They don't have blood. It's a business. It has bricks and mortar around it." 

Here's a list of some of the bars that couldn't make it even after Taffer's help.

Jon Taffer rebrands a strip club

Weber's Place in Reseda, Calif., was a strip club before entrepreneur Kervin Clinton bought it in 2007 and turned it into a place that focused on live music. He wasn't making enough money and on top of that seemed to lose more because of theft by his own employees. Clinton was thousands of dollars in debt when he called for Jon Taffer's help. 

Taffer first took down any décor that still remained from when the bar was a strip club, like giant red lips that opened up to the kitchen. He also set up a closed-circuit television system so that Clinton could keep an eye on his staff at any given time through his phone. He wanted the bar to lose its identity as a live music place, for the best live music spots such as Troubadour were just a few blocks away on Sunset Boulevard. Instead, Taffer brought in a Caribbean theme as an ode to Clinton's roots and renamed the place Weber's Rum Bar and Grill (via Gazette Review).

Everything seemed to have ended well for Clinton. But the bar was not able to maintain the standards set by Taffer. According to Bar Rescue Updates, patrons complained of poor service and not being able to get most things listed on the menu. A year after the episode was aired in 2012, the bar closed in 2013.

From biker bar to whiskey bar

Angel's Sports Bar in Corona, Calif., was losing $4,000 a month before Jon Taffer and his crew came to save it in 2011. The bar was located next to a strip club of the same name. The building was unwelcoming, the interior dirty. The food quality was bad — the pizza was served on a frozen pizza tray. Furthermore, the credit card machine didn't work, and it cost $6 more for a customer to withdraw from the ATM at the bar. Since it catered to a large biking community, the sight of motorcycles parked outside the bar was common. According to research, as Taffer pointed out in the Bar Rescue episode, if there were three or more motorcycles outside the bar, 65% of the women above 34 wouldn't enter. 

Taffer rebranded the bar as a whiskey bar and changed the name to Racks Billiards and Bourbon. He renovated the interior to include a lounge area and billiard tables and set up a credit card terminal. To avoid the sight of bikes in the front of the bar, he put up a "no parking" board (via Gazette Review).

The bar's rating on Yelp was average, and the bar had remained afloat until August 2015, when a stabbing incident took place outside its premises. It dampened the traffic, and the bar ultimately shut down. In 2019, a fire destroyed the building — strangely, it wasn't an accident, said the Corona Fire Department

A historic gay club gets a new look

Founded in 1977, Gipsy was the first gay nightclub in Las Vegas. Despite its history, the club was $2 million in debt when Jon Taffer came to rescue it in 2013. Taffer found that the place was stuck in the past, with long drag shows that were outdated and slowed down the business at the bar. But more importantly, the owner Paul San Filipo had poor management skills and a disrespectful attitude towards his employees (via Paramount Network).

Taffer realized that the place needed a whole new concept if it was to connect with the contemporary crowd of Las Vegas. He redesigned the interior to give it a Florida South Beach feel of the 50s. He took down the old Gipsy name board and renamed the place SBLV Ultra Lounge. The 45-minute long drag show was replaced with shorter performances that included other dance forms, choreographed by Dominique Kelly who has worked with stars such as Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. The new concept made sure that customers didn't stay away from the bar for long, thereby ensuring higher sales.

Everyone, except the owner Filipo, seemed to love it. Filipo disliked it so much that he never showed up for the re-launch, and three days later, he shut it down, promising it would all be redone and opened soon. In 2020, the building was bulldozed to the ground, according to KNPR.

Jon Taffer battles a cockroach problem

With cockroaches in bottles, women dancing in skimpy clothes, and cringeworthy performances on stage, Jon Taffer called Headhunters, located in Austin, Texas, the worst bar he had seen in his 35-year long career as a bar consultant. Adding to the mountain of issues was the owner Steve Ricci's attitude, as he refused to take responsibility for the lack of hygiene at the place (via Paramount Network).

An ex-engineer, Ricci had put in all his life's savings to start Headhunters as a "fetish-themed tiki bar and music venue." While it did well in its initial days, as more live music bars cropped out around the Red River District in Austin, Headhunters failed to get any good bands. From being a hunter, it was now the hunted — being preyed on by the competition around. 

As part of the rescue in 2012, Taffer had professionals fumigate the place and clean up the mold. He got the employees on payroll after discovering (shockingly so) that they only took the evening's tips home. The concept of the bar was changed to steampunk and the name to Metal and Lace. 

While Ricci loved the new look, as seen in the episode, Gazette Review reports that the changes stayed on only a while. The bar went to being filthy, with roaches and all. And worse, the staff was never paid. In 2014, two years after the rescue, Ricci had to shut down the bar (via Austin Chronicle). 

A bar with an identity problem reaches out to Jon Taffer

Before Jon Taffer came to its rescue, this Huntington, New York, bar went by two names — Artful Dodger and Radio. As far as the story goes, according to Long-Islander News, when the owner Mike Conforti found sales plummeting, he hired a nightclub promoter Brian Gordon who rebranded the place, changing its name to Radio. He also introduced 18-and-over nights targeting a younger clientele. However, they never tipped, never spent a lot of money, and posed a potential risk of the bar getting sued for serving liquor to underage persons. That apart, the bar had serious mosquito and fruit fly problems, with many customers finding the tiny bugs floating in their drinks (via Paramount Network).

As part of the rescue by Jon Taffer in 2014, the bar was cleaned and sanitized, the bartenders were trained by an expert mixologist, and the 18-and-over nights were canceled. Taffer turned the rather dark and dingy building into a mysterious speakeasy called P's and Q's Autobody. After the rescue, the sales went up by 30%. However, a fire accident in the laundromat next to it damaged most of the building in 2015. They did rise form the ashes in 2016, only to shut their doors permanently in 2018. According to Newsday, it was bought by a bartender who worked there. He got rid of the speakeasy concept and named it Repeal XVIII.

A tale of two owners

At this bar, funnily, there was a confusion as to who really owned the bar. Sean Colwell founded The Sandbar Brewery and Grill — a beach-themed bar that had its own volleyball court located in Albuquerque, N.M. — in August 2017. For this, he had borrowed $60,000 from Mike Martinez and his team of investors, but he never paid it back. Though Colwell was adamant that he owned a percentage of the bar, when confronted he had no proof to show Jon Taffer that he did (via Paramount Network).

It became apparent to Taffer that the bar was losing money mainly because of Colwell's poor management skills. He was fired, and the rest of the staff was trained by mixologist Amy Koffsky and chef Jason Santos. The space was renamed Playa Island Bar and redone in a way that every piece of décor shouted beach. The cocktail menu included a shareable, large-format frozen drink and jello shots, targeting groups of people that came in together to play volleyball at the adjacent court.  

Six weeks after the bar was rescued by Taffer in August 2019, it seemed to do well, seeing a consistent increase in sales. However, according to Bar Rescue Updates, the bar reverted to its old name after taking a poll on social media. While it remains unclear exactly why, the bar shut down the same year in November.

John Taffer deals with poor management

New England's Ale House was almost a million dollars in debt before Jon Taffer and his team rescued it in 2019. The owner Tara Cook was quite desperate to get it back on track, otherwise, she could lose the bar, her home, and her truck, she told Taffer in the episode. Despite being in a locality with a good market, in Palm Harbor, Fla., the bar wasn't making any money (via Paramount Network).

The issue was poor management. The staff complained that the manager verbally assaulted them. Taffer took care of that by having Cook give the manager an ultimatum. 

Taffer devised a new concept for the place, keeping beer as the highlight. He renamed it Das Brauhaus and had the interior redone to look like a German beer house. Award-winning mixologist Mia Mastriani and chef Michael Ferraro were brought in to train the staff. A beer cocktail and a beer-cheese burger were included in the menu.

The bar got positive reviews on Yelp after the rescue, and the sales were up by 39 percent. However, Cook decided to close the bar on Mother's Day that same year as she found it hard to manage the place while going through a divorce and being a single mom with two kids (via Bar Rescue Updates).

John Taffer rebrands an outdated music venue

Lonie Walker launched Underground Wonder Bar in 1989 in Chicago as a place for live music, where she herself performed four nights a week. While it ran successfully for the first 21 years, in 2011 they were forced to move out to another location after the building they were in was sold. In the new and affluent location of the North River district, the rent was astronomically higher. Walker found herself unable to manage the rent and was over $500,000 in debt.  

Set in her ways, Walker still performed at the bar without realizing that her music was outdated and not doing much good for the business. When Jon Taffer did spill the truth, Walker did not take it well and even resisted any change that Taffer suggested. Taffer's biggest challenge was to convince Walker that the music didn't work, the décor was unsophisticated, and the menu (that included frozen pizza) was subpar (via Paramount Network).

Walker did finally come on board, before Taffer renovated the interiors and changed the name to Clear Bar. 

The changes stayed only for a while. The Clear Bar name was dropped, and Walker got back to performing at the bar soon after the rescue (via DNA Info). She was still not able to pay her monthly rent of $18,000 a month and had to close in 2017 – three years after the rescue.

A lack of experience marks this bar's problems

Adam Shorter quit his career in finance to get into bar business in the hope that he would make more money to help out his family, including his sister's medical bills. He sold his house and used all his retirement money as an initial investment and employed his family members at his newly opened Island Bar and Grill in Blue Island, Ill. While it seemed like a sweet family affair, the only issue, and a rather important one, was that none of them had any prior experience in the restaurant industry (via Paramount Network).

Though Shorter knew that some of his staff was costing his bar a lot of money, he couldn't get himself to fire them until Jon Taffer and his team intervened in 2016. Shorter kept his sentiments aside and let a few go. It was an important step if he wanted to make money and clear a $400,000 debt. The place was redesigned to give a chic downtown vibe, and the name was changed to Island Lounge.

Six weeks after the relaunch, the bar saw a 10% increase in sales. However, two years later, there was a shooting incident outside the bar that involved one of the bouncers. Because of this, their license was revoked and they were forced to shut down, reports CBS Chicago

A 2-in-1 concept that didn't last

Lickety Split in Philadelphia was $110,000 in debt and at the risk of closing down in a few months, when Jon Taffer and his team were approached to save it. Taffer found owner Tom Gaylord, a former detective, drunk and disrespectful to his staff. The bar, though located in a prime location filled with a heavy tourist crowd, had subpar food and beverages. Their beers were stored at a much higher temperature than they should be. The refrigerator was filled with old pizza dough, raw chicken, and sausage that had started smelling.

Taffer redid the interiors, turning the two-story space into two different concepts. The lower level was called Alleged Pizza and Bar and featured a pizza station right by the window. The upper level was called 2nd State Lounge and had an entirely different-looking menu. He also introduced Gaylord to a doctor who specialized in post traumatic stress, to help him with his drinking problem (via Paramount Network).

While the episode had a happily-ever-after ending, the bar didn't. Most of the décor at Alleged Pizza was taken down soon after the rescue. The upper level was converted into a space for live entertainment (via The Philadelphia Inquirer). The year after Taffer's rescue, in 2015, the place closed down. Now in its place stands a restaurant/bar named Milkboy, Gazette Review reports. 

A drunk owner's downfall

Dirty Rooster in Antioch, Ill., saw boating enthusiasts in summer and snow mobile enthusiasts in winter, thanks to access to Lake Marie. But despite the fact that the place was abuzz almost all year round, it was losing up to $4,000 a month. Jon Taffer came to the bar's rescue after a call from the bar's co-owner Rob Hoffman. Hoffman co-owned the bar along with two others. While he was deeply attached to the bar (even lived right above it), Hoffman had a drinking problem (via Paramount Network).

When drunk, he gave away free drinks to customers costing the bar a lot of money. Taffer connected Hoffman to a counselor and gave him a second chance to prove he could manage the bar. The concept of the bar was changed to reflect a lakeside hangout spot. Renamed Lake Marie Lodge, the dull grey walls inside were changed to look like they were made of wood. A boat-shaped promotional platform was set up right at the entrance to pull the crowd in. A little over a month after Taffer's rescue, the bar's food and beverage sales were up by 70%. 

However, eventually, Hoffman went back to his old ways, reports the Gazette Review. The bar got rid of the special cocktails that the staff was trained to make, as well as received several negative Google reviews about service, furniture, and beverage quality. The bar is permanently closed. A bait and tackle shop now stands in its place.

John Taffer vs. death metal

Once a Mexican restaurant, Rocky Point Cantina in Tempe, Ariz., was turned into a Cuban-themed bar and restaurant called Havana Cabana. Jon Taffer was asked to rescue the place after the owners Fran and Mary Massimiano found themselves $1.5 million in debt and losing $10,000 per month (via Paramount Network).

The place, prior to Taffer's intervention, was a concert space for heavy death metal bands and only opened when there was a booking for a show. A lot of the seating space and an entire bar area was unused. Taffer brought in three new bartenders, two extra cooks, and a new manager to get the place back on track. While the renovated space added a lot of color and brought in a larger crowd, bringing the Massimiano family $6000 a month, it also led to their downfall.

According to Phoenix New Times, the bar never got the permits for the name change. When the management sought to apply for a live entertainment permit at Havana Cabana, it was discovered that the place hadn't a permit to start with. All the performances that were scheduled at the venue had to be canceled, and the place finally closed its doors two months after the rescue.