He came. He saw. He yelled.
Spike TV’s popular reality show, “Bar Rescu,e” and its intense host, Jon Taffer, dipped into Metro Detroit earlier this year to give four area bars a makeover. Taffer is a bar and restaurant industry consultant with 30 years experience; “Bar Rescue” has revamped nearly 100 businesses since it started in 2011.
The three locally-shot episodes that already aired included screaming bouts, angry owners, topless hula-hooping, filthy kitchen equipment, lazy employees, and enough name-calling to fill an episode of “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Last month, the four-episode run started with “Vulgar Vixens,” a feature on Hooch Bar and Grill at 5157 S. Telegraph in Dearborn Heights. Taffer called owner Chandra Phillips, who was $350,000 in debt, “quite possibly the most unlikeable person I have ever seen” for the way she berated her scantily-clad female employees.
In spite of that, Taffer and his team worked with her staff to properly train them on how to work the grill and mix drinks. He put in all new automotive-themed decor, updated the color scheme and changed the name of the bar to the Proving Ground Bar & Grill.
“This is a hats off to the 70,000 high-tech employees for the auto industry in the Detroit area,” said Taffer.
“It means everything to us, it’s a fresh new start in our lives,” said Phillips on the show.
The training and fresh look didn’t help, it seems. The end-of-episode update said 10 weeks after relaunch, the Proving Ground Bar & Grill grossed less than $23,000 in food and beverage sales.
The following week, Taffer went to Ann Arbor to tangle with the Arena owner Mike Flore. This episode may have had the most testosterone, but it appears to also be the most successful rehab.
Taffer changed a lot of things about the long-standing corner sports bar, but not the name, which is unusual for “Bar Rescue.” Although they minced words on the show, Flore appeared happy with the visit and renovation, which included a new awning in front, and updated seating and decor. Taffer also put in a beer-dispensing “claw machine” game, but just a few days after the show aired, the game was spotted turned off and unused in the back of the bar.
“This wasn’t a failing bar,” says Arena regular Jim Walke of Ann Arbor. He was one of dozens of people attending a trivia game at the Arena last month, just a few days after the episode aired. He said the bar did need updating, and Flore was smart to let the show pay for it.
According to “Bar Rescue,” the Arena, at 203 E. Washington, grossed $220,000 in food and beverage sales within six weeks after relaunch.
Taffer took a softer touch with the bar owner of Jazz Katz, 29555 Northwestern in Southfield, who was featured in last Sunday’s episode, “Boss Lady Blues.” Dr. Tamika Scott is a psychologist who was trying to run the live music venue and restaurant with the help of her parents and an undisciplined staff.
Taffer sent in Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Robert Hurst undercover to get a look at the place before the star of the show made his initial appearance. The lackadaisical attitude of the club’s lone bartender had Taffer fired up and he stormed in from off-set, calling the bartender “a piece of (expletive).”
“If a patient has something toxic in their lives what do you do?” Taffer asked Scott. “This bar is your patient and you have to remove what is toxic.”
Scott fired her lazy bartender and Taffer — after a plate-breaking rampage of the dirty kitchen — helped her get her club on track by redecorating everything, overhauling the menu, properly training the staff and doubling the size of the bar. He also renamed the bar Back Beat so the club wouldn’t be pigeonholed into offering just one type of music.
An update at the end of the episode said Back Beat had grossed less than $8,000 in six weeks, and that Scott continues to struggle.
This Sunday, see what Taffer does to southwest Detroit gentleman’s club Chix on Dix. The episode airs at 10 p.m. on Spike TV.
‘Boss Lady Blues’
episode featuring local club Jazz Katz re-runs 9 p.m. Sunday
episode featuring local club Chix premiers 10 p.m. Sunday