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‘Bar Rescue’ Host Jon Taffer Talks the Show’s Biggest Successes, Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Secrets (Exclusive)

Bar Rescue has captivated audiences for nine seasons — and it’s safe to say a big reason for the loyal viewership is fan favorite host Jon Taffer.

In an exclusive interview with Us Weekly to promote the series’ 250th episode, Taffer, 69, dished on what he thinks has made the show a must-watch.

“The audience is learning at the same time I am,” the TV personality said, noting he knows nothing about the business and the owners before filming begins. “I’m never ahead of them, so that provides a certain authenticity I’m not sure all these [other] shows have. My audience is really smart and I don’t try to fool them, ever.”

The Taffer’s Tavern owner is proud of everything the show has accomplished during its time on the air, which includes saving countless businesses. “When we left Spirits on Bourbon, their revenues went up about two to $3 million a year for 10 years,” Taffer shared of the former New Orleans hotspot, which he considers to be one of his greatest success stories. “The owners literally just sold the business for millions of dollars.”

Most importantly, Taffer — who has more than 30+ years of experience in the bar and nightclub industry — is proud of helping real families whose struggling businesses have impacted their personal relationships. “One that’s very near and dear to me was Moon Runners in North Carolina, run by The Alexander family,” he recalled. “Their son ran it, their daughter worked there and the daughter cried all day long. There was a serious family dynamic that was heartbreaking.”

Jon Taffer Reveals Bar Rescue Secrets
Courtesy of Jon Taffer

“When I got there, I fixed that family dynamic and fixed the business, and they’re opening two new locations this year,” Taffer added. “That’s about as cool as it gets — when I can actually improve a marriage or a relationship between a father and son, and change a family dynamic for the better.”

Scroll down to check out the Bar Rescue secrets Taffer shared with Us:

Jon’s Initial Pitch Failed

Taffer was inspired to create a series on the bar industry after he was approached by someone in Las Vegas who told him he should be on television. After coming up with a premise and title (at the time, he planned to call the show On The Rocks) Taffer sought the advice of his friends at a network he consulted for — but his idea was quickly shot down.

“I pitched my idea [and] they said to me, ‘Jon, you’ll never be on TV. You’re too old, you’re not good-looking enough, forget it,’ so I left the studio thinking the show would never happen,” he recalled. However, he didn’t let that stop him. “I said, ‘Only I can say no to me,’” he continued. “I shot my own sizzle reel, sent it to four production companies and got four out of four offers.”

Less than a year later, Taffer shot a pilot for Bar Rescue, and he was surprised when it gained momentum after being told it was unlikely the show would be picked up.

“We got picked up for the first season — which was incredible — [but] we didn’t know if we would be picked up for a second,” he shared. Now, 13 years later, he said, “I know I’m going to make it to the next season.”

Blink-And-Miss-It Moments

Jon Taffer Reveals Bar Rescue Secrets
Courtesy of Paramount Network

There is a lot that goes into each hour-long episode of Bar Rescue that viewers are unaware of. First, the TV personality is on property for just four days, and each day follows a strict schedule. Day one includes getting briefed on the property he is visiting, learning the backstory with the owners, meeting the staff and eventually, doing recon.

That same day, “We take the employees and owners, put them in vans in the parking lot, and I go in and design the bar that night,” Taffer explained. He begins to strategize, which involves meeting with his carpenters and crew, and looking at the area’s key demographic information and competitors. “I have about a half hour to come up with a concept.”

Day 2, which includes “the stress test, training and staff meetings,” is shown on television, Taffer explains, but behind the scenes, the crew is working on the design of the renovation, which is where some clever editing comes into play.

“If you look at an episode of Bar Rescue carefully, you’ll notice that after the remodel, very often the bar stools don’t match. That’s because we have to get everything in 24 hours,” Taffer told Us. “I can’t get 60 of the same stools in 24 hours, but I can get 20 of this style, 10 of that style, five of this style.”

Everything needs to be done by the end of day 2 — which is no easy feat, considering that also involves ordering new signs and equipment, and crafting new recipes and menus. “It’s a pressure cooker after the stress test,” Taffer says. At night, the remodel begins, with crews working throughout the next two nights to get the property ready for the relaunch.

All in all, the bar is revamped in 36 hours.

His Arrival Is Kept a Surprise

Jon Taffer Reveals Bar Rescue Secrets
Courtesy of Jon Taffer

If you’re a loyal viewer like Us, it’s likely you’ve wondered why the business owners and their staff aren’t always on their best behavior knowing Taffer — and the cameras — are around. The answer is simple, the entrepreneur says: They don’t know for sure that he’ll show up and that their business will be chosen to be filmed.

“The cameras go in about a day and a half before I get there. [The staff] are told that I’m coming to a bar in that city, and that it’s either them or another bar,” Taffer explained. “Sometimes I show up a day before, just to catch them with their pants down, so to speak.”

Other times, Taffer and his crew are a bit more slick. “I’ve had the team install some extra lights, [go] into the bar and say, ‘Oh, Jon’s not coming, he’s going someplace else,’ and they start to take a light or two down,” he told Us. “Suddenly, [the staff] let their hair down, the liquor bottles come out, they start taking shots and being themselves. Then I walk in.”

“If they know when I’m coming, their aunts are there, their uncles are there, they call every friend and the reality goes up in smoke,” Taffer added. “I have to be sneaky to keep it real.”

A Tell-Tale Sign of Success

Jon Taffer Reveals Bar Rescue Secrets
Courtesy of Jon Taffer

Taffer can sense when the properties he rescues will thrive — or sink — after he leaves.

“I know when I walk out the door because when I’m successful, you can see it,” he told Us. “[The staff’s] posture changes a little. They have more confidence. Their facial expressions are more serious. They’re bouncing around.”

“You can see the ones that really went through a transformation just as easily as you can see the ones that didn’t. The ones that didn’t have no bounce in their walk, no motivation and no energy,” Taffer explained. “Most of the time, the ones that I think are going to fail do — and most of the time they’re the ones that you as the viewer would think are going to fail, too.”

Of course, not all of the bars that go out of business are because of their own wrongdoings. In fact, there have been a few instances where landlords have taken advantage of a freshly remodeled property.

“What happens is, the owner cuts a deal with the landlord [telling them] Bar Rescue is coming and the landlord says, ‘I’ll give you extra time then since they’re coming,’ so they don’t pay the rent, but the tenant doesn’t get a [legal] document from the landlord,” Taffer explained. After Taffer and Co. overhaul the bar, the landlord hits the business owner with a default judgment, evicts them and rents it out for more money.

“That’s happened three times, and it’s distressing,” Taffer admitted.

The Payoff

Jon Taffer Reveals Bar Rescue Secrets
Courtesy of Paramount Network

Taffer admits there have been times when he’s lost his cool while filming, recalling, “One episode that comes to mind [was] where my wife was insulted in the early days when she would do recon.” Most times, however, his heated exchanges are inspired by his passion to change someone’s life for the better.

“When [the business owners, staff and I] hug at the end of the episode, the microphones are on our chests, so you don’t hear what’s said because we’re covering the mics,” Taffer said. “The things they say to me during those hugs are unbelievable: ‘You fixed my marriage, you’re the father I never had, I’m talking to my son again, my wife and I slept in the same bed last night for the first time in nine years.’”

“The ones that fight me the most, hug me the tightest,” Taffer shared. “When I get that hug, I realize the screaming and yelling was worth it because it accomplished something — it moved them forward.”

“So, I scream even louder the next week,” he added.

The 250th episode of Bar Rescue airs June 30 on Paramount Network.

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