On tonight’s Spike episode of “Bar Rescue,” Jon Taffer and his crew came to Tonic Lounge, a music venue in Portland, Oregon to conduct this rescue. In 2012, Rod Bitton sunk all his money into this bar; however, never having been in the service business and $250,000 in debt with six months before the doors close for good, he agreed to call Jon Taffer for help.
As Jon, mixologist Lisamarie Joyce and executive chef Vic Vegas watch the place from his SUV, there is no mention in the signage of a live music venue. Jon has asked two locals familiar with the food, drink and music scene of Portland to go inside to check out the place for him. They immediately spot a filthy carpet, and a friendly bartender named Heather. She makes up drinks as she goes along so the cocktail menu does not exist. In the kitchen, there is a fluorescent light above the cutting board with a swarm of bugs flying around it.
The band for the night is a guy with a Viking horned helmet and his ass showing screaming into a microphone. Jon went in to stop the unreasonable facsimile of what Rod considered music. When he took the staff aside along with Rod, the guys stated that they tried to change things up, but Rod refused. Rod disagreed with them but had no leg to stand on. When they spoke of money, Rod said he paid them on time, but Heather’s last paycheck was eight weeks ago. Jon insisted that Rod wrote out her eight checks immediately and for her to advise Jon if any bounced.
In the kitchen, the bug infestation was worse than they saw on camera. Vic Vegas told him, “Ants with wings, Bro!” Jon screamed at Rod telling him that people could get sick from the bugs in the kitchen and asked him if he cared or not about his customers. Before they left, Lisamarie checked the liquor bottles and sure enough, they were infested too; and nobody noticed any of this?
Heather and Rob cleaned the entire place all night, and she just hopes Jon appreciates the work Rob did to make it better. The place was spotless, and no bugs were found anywhere. Heather cashed her checks, and Jon was happy for her. When the staff got together, Jon asked why the name of the band was not on the marquee last night? It was because Rod refuses to delegate. So Jon immediately gave the job to Joe and showed Rod how easy it was to assign tasks to his staff. Then they spoke up and told Rod how much they cared for the place, but felt that he did not care or respect them. Once they were all on the same page, the training began in the bar and kitchen. For the stress test that night, there will be no live music, just a bar and grill. As things were going well in the kitchen, the bar was a different story. The drinks were not good, and the bartender had to leave to fix the ginger ale tap. Jon asked Rod what he could do to make things better, but he had no reply. He offered him several things that he should do, but none seemed to be what he wanted to do. When Jon told him to go out and talk to the customers, he walked toward the bar. Tony, was trying to keep the place calm, but Rod had no clue what he could do because he never did anything and relied on his people, but would not give them any authority.
The staff did their best to make the stress test a success, but spent so much time waiting for glasses and ice that they rushed their pours and made bad drinks. Rod just hung around while everyone else worked their tails off. After the stress test was over, Rod stated that he was going to prove how much he cared and how he would change in the future.
Jon spent some time with Rod and suggested that Joe and Tony became co-managers. Rod seemed to agree but never thought about it. Jon will fit the food and drinks to the theme of a rock and roll bar. Drinks with names like Gimme Shelter and Strawberry Fields were a few of the new appealing drinks. When the redo was completed, the staff met outside for the unveiling. The new name was Panic Room with words like Bar and High Volume on the sign; no more guessing what kind of establishment it was.
Inside, the bar was a far cry from the lackluster and boring one it was before. The stage was perfectly put together, and Jon installed a music system, so there would be rock and roll all the time, even when a live band was not playing. The grand reopening was an immediate success, and Jon brought in a great band. As he left, he was satisfied knowing that he and his staff did another very good job on this episode of “Bar Rescue.”
Six weeks after the relaunch, the food and beverage sales are up twenty percent. Tony and Jon continue to manage the bar and music program and Rod willingly takes his staff’s advice.