Why Do Some Bars On ‘Bar Rescue’ Still Fail After Being Rescued? — A Talk With Jon Taffer

How does the business of Bar Rescue work? Obviously you take on great costs to do these renovations. Who’s paying for it? Is the bar owner paying for it, are you guys paying for it, is there a split? How does it work?

We have sponsors. Diageo is a big sponsor of the show. And the sponsors put up some dollars for the supplies that are used to remodel. Companies like Partender, 2TouchPOS, Draft Beer System — these companies are all my friends.

Remember, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. So a lot of these people are my friends that donate equipment or products. And a lot of these are paying sponsors that come in and bring products, along with the dollars that the network puts up. But to make a long story short, we pay for everything: The bar owner doesn’t pay anything or owe us anything, nor do we take anything when we leave. It’s completely free, unencumbered and given to the owner.

Got it. I always wondered if there was an equitable split or something.

No, I’m there to save a business if I can and I don’t reach in their pocket ever. Their job is to learn. My job is to write checks and make the business better.

You’ve done some really interesting concepts over the past couple years that are way different from your usual Bar Rescue formula. Do you have a particular favorite that you look back on and you’re really proud of?

Yeah, Jack’s Firehouse which is the bar with the firetruck in it. That’s a family with three firemen in it. They’re doing really well. The Hot Rock in Florida where you cook on the rocks and you have skewers is one of my favorite concepts — they’re tracking around $4-5,000 a day. Bonny & Read’s in Hollywood, Florida. That little bar used to do $500 a day. Are you sitting down?

It’s doing $6,000 now. I see the numbers on my phone every day.

There is one concept that hasn’t aired yet called the Oak Tavern. It’s owned by a 22 year veteran Major League Baseball pitcher. I won’t say his name, but all he has left is his bar.

You raise a really interesting point if I may speak to it for a moment. I’ve done 87 bar rescues. I can’t do 20 Irish Pubs. So every concept has to be new, every concept has to be different. I don’t know anybody else who can come up with 87 concepts, most people create one concept and that’s what they build for the rest of their lives. For example, Steele Platt is a dear friend of mine. He is the guy who created Yard House. Thats a great concept, but after he created it he built 53 Yard Houses.

For me, every bar has to be different. They must be new and unique and they all are. That’s what I’m most proud of — I’ve done 87 concepts and no two of them are quite alike and over 80 percent of them are doing quite well. So I can’t pick a formula like a sports bar and stay with it. I have to create a new formula every couple days.

Do you know off the top of your head what the most financially successful one is?

Well the worst financial ones are Piratz and LA Brew. LA Brew because they never tried — that’s as bad as it gets. Piratz never made money and probably should have closed when they did. And then there was Headhunters — that guy was just out to lunch. Those three are the biggest failures of mine.

The most successful? Spirits on Bourbon is up over a million and a half a year from when I started. They do 13,000 Resurrection Cocktails a month. The barbershop chair alone does $70,000 a month — it’s one of the most photographed attractions on Bourbon street. 22 Klicks Bar & Grill was featured on the episode last week. Todd, who was on the show, his numbers are up about 100%. Sordi’s Tavern, up about 400% in sales. Moonrunners is starting a franchise and creating their own moonshine brand. I’m helping them with that now.

Of the 80% that are successful, a third are really successful, more than a third are doing better, and then a third continue to struggle.

You know what’s interesting? As a professional consultant I work with huge chains all the time. If you look at a franchise community for a big brand, about a third of the franchisee owners are really good at it, a third of them are good at it, and a third of them are a problem. That’s how it works in the franchise community and in Bar Rescue the stats are really similar. A third do great, a third do ok, and a third keep struggling.

I’m very happy to hear Spirits on Bourbon is on one of your top most successful ones. I visited when I was in NOLA a year ago. They really play up the Bar Rescue marketing angle very hard.

As they should.

Two more questions. Can you ever go to a bar and enjoy it? Or is your mind always thinking as a consultant?

I’ve always had the ability to turn that off. But then three years ago, something happened — I became a celebrity. I can turn it off and sit down with someone and have a good time. But they can’t turn it off because of who I am, so I feel them feeling my presence when I’m in a bar. Do you know what I mean? It can be a little uncomfortable at some times.

I’m there to have a drink and a good time. But often their fear of me being there or reaction to me being there can ruin the experience. I’m fine going into a dive bar and sitting down to have a beer with a buddy — that doesn’t bother me at all. I just don’t love being stared at all night long.

I’m sure you get a thousand selfie requests too in those situations.

I do, and I honor every one. Always.

I live in New York City and, in my opinion, it’s best city in the world for bars. Why has there never been a Bar Rescue in New York City?

As you know, we’ve done Sunnyside, Queens. We’ve done Staten Island. We’ve done Yonkers. We’ve done Huntington, Long Island. We have not come in on the island of Manhattan and honestly it’s because the logistics are a nightmare. I travel with a crew of 57. I travel with my own carpenters, my own crews, my own sound guys, my producers. We need to set up a tent and we build stuff on site that I put in. So we need space and logistical room for what we do.

But you know, I’m a Manhattan boy and I grew up in New York, so I will get us a Manhattan episode if it kills me to make it happen. The logistics to do it in Manhattan make it not so easy. It’s not a permit issue, it’s just that the carpenters will have to be three blocks away, and a production office will be two blocks away, and my trailer will be down the block. It’s a lot trickier than being setting up shop in the parking lot behind the bar.

But we want to do one, so we will figure it out. There’s a lot of candidates out there in New York for sure.

And finally, can we get a “Shut it down”? 

Brandon Wenerd is BroBible's publisher, writing on this site since 2009. He writes about sports, music, men's fashion, outdoor gear, traveling, skiing, and epic adventures. Based in Los Angeles, he also enjoys interviewing athletes and entertainers. Proud Penn State alum, former New Yorker. Email: brandon@brobible.com