Passing a Bar (Rescue) Exam!

Reflections About One of My Favorite TV Shows

Photo by Marc Fulgar on Unsplash

Let me start off this article by making it VERY clear that I am a teetotaler. That is, I NEVER drink alcohol. I don't stop anyone else from doing it, but it is not my thing. According to Wikipedia, "Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices (and possibly advocates) teetotalism is called a teetotaler (plural teetotalers) or is simply said to be teetotal." For me, alcohol has more drawbacks than benefits. People get into auto accidents. Other can't control their emotions or bladders. And others get sick or generally act stupid. I can do all of that WITHOUT imbibing in alcohol. Thank you.

This is to not say that I have not been to a bar or two. I just don't take in the alcohol. When I do go to a bar, I step up to the bar with all the other manly men and order my drink like a real man. 

"Sir, may I have a Coke with......ice?"

Then, I take a few gulps of my drink before the bikers get to take me out back and beat a social lesson into me.

On other times, I've had friends give me an ultimatum like: 

"If you don't have a drink with me, you'll hurt my feelings."

I will be quick to respond, "Well, it looks like you will have to deal with your hurt feelings, A Coke with ice IS a drink. It is not something to wear. I have to—get this—DRINK it."

Of course, when a social loudmouth picks up a round of drinks for those who have not stumbled away dead drunk, I am very quick to ask for a ROOT beer. That is the ONLY beer allowed into this body. 

One day, when I wasn't in a bar, I stayed home to relax. I turned on the cable channel and saw this show called Bar Rescue, hosted by a gentleman named Jon Taffer. Right away, it caught my attention. It seems that Mr. Taffer's mission is to help any bar/tavern/pub that calls upon him for some sort of assistance which is usually a financial one. Some bar owners are usually in the hole for, maybe, $10,000 a month or possibly $250,000 a year or something in that ball park. When I was done with college in 1978, I sweated over paying back an $8,000 loan from the bank. I'd be praying for a Mack truck to run me over repeatedly and bring me some sweet relief if I owed $250,000 like these folks do.

The amazing part, the part that leaves me in disbelief, is what these bar owners and/or their employees do before he walks in. He usually starts off with surveillance. In the surveillance, there usually were fights between customers and bar employees, customers and customers, employees and employees, owners and employees, girls wrestling in a kiddie pool full of cooked spaghetti (I am not making this up) and women either acting like strippers or hookers giving away the goods. There was even one show where a man, riding a horse, came into the bar and the horse actually dropped a few #2s on the floor. I kid you not. I never knew that stuff like this actually happened before, but what did I tell you earlier? Alcohol can make you do stupid things at times.

Then, Mr. Taffer walks into a bar (Sounds like the start of a joke, but it isn't.) to introduce himself. Most of the time, he is not happy and I don't blame him. He will recap to the owner what he saw on the tape. Now, if I was an owner and that was happening in my place of business, I would be too embarrassed to call him in because he is recording the stuff for his show. Anyway, he continues the visit by also checking the kitchen. Usually, a dirty NYC subway bathroom is far cleaner than these places. Nice to know. Next time I go to a bar, I will bring my own root beer soda and a turkey and Swiss hero from a nearby Subway deli. That way, I can leave a $10 tip at the bar and leave with my good health. I've seen him wipe scum off grills, food containers, and all sorts of things where food may come into contact. (Yuck! I'm feeling sick to my stomach just writing this.) He will often yell, throw some items around and then order them (the staff) to clean up everything in preparation for a health exam upon his return. Thank goodness they pass the exam. Would you believe that, after seeing that mess, some owners have the cajones to argue with him? What fools they are.

When he comes back the next day, he introduces two people. One is a mixologist, a person whose skill is making the drinks. The second person is the kitchen expert. They send these experts to their respective areas to do what they do best. Even though I don't drink alcohol, I like watching the mixologist because they teach the bar folks all sorts of new drinks. I recognize some of the drinks because I have heard of them or a variation of them before. Others are completely new. The announcer of the show always describes the ingredients and the name of the drink. THAT sounds like the joke.

"First he is gonna pour in a quarter glass of whiskey into a tall glass followed by a half an ounce of vodka, Alka Seltzer, some beer, add porcupine urine for flavor topped with a rotten onion, a lime and shake. This drink is called Your Mother's Busted Bra."

After the place is cleaned up and the lessons are over, Mr. Taffer puts the bar under his Pressure Test. That is to see how well the staff has learned by applying what they have learned with actual customers. It could go nicely or not. If it does, they recap, look to see what went well and what didn't and then move on. Other times, if it did not go well, the same thing—keep what (or who) works and toss out the rest.

Finally, the staff is told to come back in two or three days. That gives Mr. Taffer time to redesign their bars. This is another aspect of the show that I like. If nothing else, he does an excellent job at redesigning these businesses. They get up-to-date equipment, better location stations, and other nice oddities depending on the theme of the bar. If someone (Hopefully a VERY beautiful woman) came to my apartment to do that kind of stuff for me, you'd NEVER hear me complain. Most of the owners are fine with it. There was one episode where a woman owner decided to change the name back and her customer base dropped. Two other owners took all of the changes that he did for them to increase their business and tore everything out. The second of those two actually burned the stuff in a bonfire. It was not even clear to me as to who pays for all of the work he did for them. Of course, those two nutjobs ended up closing their businesses for good anyway. Thank goodness.

The signs that things will be much better are the increased profits and much better morale. Mr. Taffer always gets thanks from the owners who truly appreciate his work and stick to the changes he made.

Me? As I said before, I am not a daily visitor of these establishments. It is nice to see, on TV, what goes on in some of these places. It was also interesting to see that he is always coming up with new episodes each week. There must be an overwhelming number of bad bars out there. Great show! I don't know why bartenders don't watch his show on a daily basis, but it should be a mandatory requirement if one wants to own a bar/pub/tavern.

Meanwhile, I am still waiting for my turkey and Swiss cheese hero and my root beer in a closed can.

Photo by Dogancan Ozturan on Unsplash

Maurice Bernier
Maurice Bernier

I am a diehard New Yorker! I was born, raised and love my NYC. My blood bleeds orange & blue for my New York Mets. I hope that you like my work. I am cranking them out as fast as I can. Please enjoy & share with your friends.

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Passing a Bar (Rescue) Exam!