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Is Bar Rescue Real? The Truth Behind the Hit TV Show

The in’s and out’s of the reality of “Bar Rescue”

Viewers often wonder, “Is Bar Rescue real, or is it a staged show?”

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bar rescue

Some of the bars look beyond repair, and some owners have incredible backstories that seem unbelievable.

But it’s a reality show, which means it’s all real, right? The answer is a little more nuanced than a straightforward yes or no.

A reality show differs from a documentary, so you’ll get skewed information from Bar Rescue. If it were a documentary, everything would be factual, and there would be considerably less drama.

Reality shows draw in major ratings, so producers play a part in the overall storylines of each episode.


What Is Bar Rescue?

Bar Rescue is a reality show where host Jon Taffer travels around the United States, transforming struggling bars into places everyone wants to spend their evenings.

Taffer has over 40 years of experience working in and owning bars, so he is a consultant for locations struggling to make ends meet.

Taffer assesses each bar and helps the owner renovate their business. Together, Taffer and the bar staff work to make the location more inviting for patrons.

They also assess the menu offerings, pricing, and profit margin. The show aims to help each bar go from losing money to making a major profit.


Is Jon Taffer a Real Person?

Yes, Jon Taffer is a real person. He’s an entrepreneur who started his career as a bartender, so he pulls on that experience as the host of Bar Rescue.

He managed the famous West Hollywood bar, The Troubadour, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By 1989, Taffer opened his first bar.

In 2010, Taffer became president of the Nightclub and Bar Media Group, then started the Bar Rescue show in 2011. Taffer published a book, Raise the Bar, in 2013, sharing his experience from 40 years in the bar scene.


How Do They Pick Bars for Bar Rescue?

Many bar owners you see on Bar Rescue seem to need more help than Jon Taffer could ever give, so you might wonder how they get picked for the show.

Taffer isn’t gentle on the bar owners, either, making you wonder who would willingly want to get berated on TV.

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The truth is that bar owners apply to the show. While you might think it would be too awkward and humiliating to appear on the show, these bar owners likely want to save their business and ensure they can turn a profit instead of having to close and possibly declare bankruptcy.

Jon Taffer has an address to submit applications on his website, and there’s even an email application form there to simplify the process.

The Paramount Network occasionally hosts casting calls for bar owners to attend. They could pitch their story to producers instead of filling out an application.

In some cases, the network reaches out to struggling bars to see if they want to be on the show, but not all accept that offer.

The show has featured over 200 bars, so clearly, they’re not desperate for people to apply.

Even if you’re worried Jon Taffer is going to be ruthless, it’s worth the chance to get your bar back on track and produce a profit.


Is Bar Rescue Real or Scripted?

The basic premise of Bar Rescue is real: bar owners who lose money on their business want help from an expert to turn around their establishment. They hire Jon Taffer as a consultant since he has decades of experience managing bars.

The only hitch is that the bar owners must agree to let Paramount tape the entire experience.

With that information in mind, you can see how Bar Rescue starts off fairly realistic. However, it’s not too exciting to watch businesses try to renovate their location, so the producers try to stir up a little drama.

One of the most famous incidents happened when producers told the owner of a bar to flirt with Jon’s wife, Nicole. They caught it on film, but Taffer also saw it happen.

He attacked the bar owner, sending him to the hospital. The injured bar owner sued the production company since the host hurt him while he was doing what they asked of him.

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Another bar owner said the producers asked her how much money the bar lost each month. That wasn’t the situation she outlined on the application, but she knew what they were going for—drama. She asked what number they wanted her to say, and the episode aired with her falsely claiming the bar lost more than $10,000 monthly.

Some bar owners don’t mind lying to make good TV because they get a chance to improve their business. Others get upset that the final result still doesn’t help them turn a profit, so they end up trying to revamp their establishment as soon as the episode airs.


Are the Bars From Bar Rescue Still Open?

The Bar Rescue show helped 214 bars throughout eight seasons. Only 101 are still open, meaning 113 have closed. That’s a 47% success rate. In a few cases, the bars close for good before their episode even airs.

Jon Taffer works with bar owners to transform their establishments into appealing locations that people want to visit.

Some of the most popular episodes involve drastic transformations, like changing a strip club into a live music venue or a gay nightclub into a bar featuring dance performances. Maintaining this shift in purpose is difficult to maintain.

Taffer also helps them change their menu to ensure they offer food and drinks people love.

Price is also a significant factor since the bar needs to make a profit on each item. However, in some areas, people might not be able to afford the bar’s median prices.

With these factors in mind, Taffer knows it isn’t possible for every bar to succeed, even when he helps the owners as much as he can.

In some cases, it also seems like the bar owner has a bad attitude about the business and seems intent on failing. It can also be difficult to retain quality employees, and a lack of workers will cause any establishment to flounder.


FAQs

After learning the details behind Bar Rescue episodes, you might want more information. The answers to these frequently asked questions will help you understand more about the show.

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Does Bar Rescue actually save bars?

The goal of the Bar Rescue show is to save bars, but the results show that half the bars still fail, even after Jon Taffer’s expert advice. In many cases, the bars were in so much trouble that Taffer’s knowledge wasn’t enough to help them recoup the lost income. Some bars rebrand after appearing on Bar Rescue to try and salvage their livelihood, but that rarely works.

Why was Bar Rescue canceled?

Bar Rescue wasn’t officially canceled. During the pandemic, Jon Taffer focused on bars local to his Las Vegas home. In Spring 2022, the show continued traveling around the country. The eighth season will air its last episodes in March 2023. Paramount hasn’t officially renewed or canceled Bar Rescue, so they still list the ninth season as pending.

Does Jon Taffer get a percentage of the bars he rescues?

No, Jon Taffer doesn’t get any income from the bars he rescues. He works as an independent consultant and makes money according to those rates. The bar owner will pay a certain amount for Taffer’s services, and that’s all. The owner doesn’t pay a percentage of the bar’s income after Taffer helps them reinvigorate their businesses.


Final Thoughts on the Reality of Bar Rescue

Many viewers get invested in the show and wonder, “Is Bar Rescue real?” Since it’s a reality show, you should take the happenings with a grain of salt.

While the bars are real, and Jon Taffer has plenty of experience working in and managing bars, not every aspect of the show is as it seems. The producers will suggest certain scenes or dialogue to ensure there’s plenty of drama.

If Bar Rescue wasn’t slightly scripted, it wouldn’t be a show you wanted to watch. You’d see Jon Taffer sitting at a table with bar owners, giving them an overview of how to improve their bar.

You’d see a montage of the renovations, then watch customers come in to give the bar a try. It wouldn’t be dramatic enough to demand attention, so appreciate the vague reality they present.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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Paul Kushner

Written by Paul Kushner

Founder and CEO of MyBartender. Graduated from Penn State University. He always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. His restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time he turned 17 he was serving tables, and by 19 he was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, Paul opened his first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Follow them on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Google Guide and MuckRack.

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