Bar Over Troubled Water
Welcome back to Bar Rescue! This week’s rescue takes a serious turn. On Aug 12, 2016, southwestern Louisiana was flooded. There was no time to build an ark and the city of Denham Springs was wiped out. Mike O’Neal and his wife Jocelyn lost their bar Big Mike’s as well as their home. Life is now viewed with before the flood vs after the flood lenses. Before the flood Big Mike’s was a thriving bar. After the flood, Mike and Jocelyn are living in a RV and unable to finish the rebuild due to lack of funds. Bartender Emily gave the SOS call to Jon Taffer at Bar Rescue. Jon heard the call to action. He came, conquered and kicked ass.
Jon arrives in town and can still see the devastation. He says it typically takes a town two years to recover from such destruction. To make matters worse, Big Mike’s family has been separated because they don’t all fit in the trailer. But friends have stepped up to help shelter his daughters. Jon says life is knowing when to give and when to take – and now it’s Big Mike’s turn to take since he’s given so much to the community. Jon vows to get Big Mike’s up and running in days, not months like Big Mike would need if on his own.
They go to the bar and look at the work Big Mike and his family have been able to reconstruct. The bar and restaurant is over 10,000 sq, the kitchen alone is 2500 sf. This will be the biggest project Jon and his team have ever undertaken. Can Jon pull it off? When they step outside, the crew of local contractors and volunteers have been assembled of at least 75 people. Plus, Crown Royal is providing help so that means the place will be classy. Woo-hoo lets do a shot!
Jon meets the staff and listens to their stories. There’s Mookie, who missed her son’s wedding because of the flood, Paige and Nick who are a couple and miss working together, Meghan, Heather, Alicia, and Emily who can’t wait to get back to work at Big Mike’s because they consider it family. Jon brings in his experts to help train the rusty crew. Mixologist Rob Floyd and Chef Aaron McCargo. Jon can’t do his traditional stress test so instead he sets up an efficiency exercise. Let’s go!
The bartenders have 15 seconds to make each drink, but the goal is 25 seconds for now. Rob keeps dumping the drinks because they are made incorrectly. The 25 seconds is more like a minute in a half. Jon says he might have to change the name to Slow Mike’s. But the kitchen staff is doing well, if only they could get the order tickets. At the end of training, Jon has upgraded the bar to Better Mike’s.
Next we get a history lesson on Crown Royal. Crown Royal began in 1939 and is now the number one selling Canadian whiskey. And now they are introducing Crown Royal Vanilla. Yum-yum! The two specialty drinks are Big Mike’s Whiskey and the Denham Deluxe. The second drink is more like a milky dessert drink, but the first one will sell anytime.
Jon goes to check on the crew who are having difficulty getting the supplies needed because all the nearby stores are closed. Jon brings in extra help to find supplies. Due to the excessive size of the rescue and the number of volunteers and contractors, people are stepping on each other and details are getting missed. These are some Herculean efforts, y’all, but the clock is running out.
Instead of a second stress test, Jon holds a friends and family night and instead of standing back and criticizing like they typically do, they will assist. The bartenders are doing better, but need to smile and get better organized. The kitchen is doing okay, but having difficulty getting their groove on. Jon concludes the soft opening was a success, but recognizes the team had a major case of the jitters.
Meanwhile, the team building the bar also can’t their grove on. Some of the appliances haven’t arrived yet, but when they do, it’s go time. Bring in New Orleans Saints player, and friend of Crown Royal, Deuce McAllister to sign autographs and paint walls. Don’t quit your day job Deuce!
It’s time for the unveiling. Good news, it’s still called Big Mike’s! but the sign is brighter now. Jon sends in the staff to check it out first. The bar is stunning and the staff is excited to come back to work. Everyone is teary-eyed as they check out the place. There’s a Saints room and a Crown Royal room. Big Mike can’t believe how classy his bar is and is now grateful for the flood – just kidding! We know Big Mike would give anything to go back to before the flood status.
Jon plays a video of another Bar Rescue participant from of Bungalow. The brothers’ bar was destroyed after Hurricane Sandy. They donate $10K to Big Mike and Jocelyn so that they can buy another trailer and have their daughters back living with them. Crow Royal also writes a $10K check to help out other families. And of course all those Louisianian politicians show up to bask in Jon Taffer’s ray of hope. Jon gives bartender Emily a special pat on the back for being the smart one to reach out to Bar Rescue.
Jon’s work is done. He gives Big Mike a Jocelyn a big hug before he leaves. Six weeks later sales for the month are up 50% from before the flood. Big Mike and Jocelyn’s daughters are back living with them while their house is still being worked on. And they are planning a fundraiser to support other flood victims.
So what are they doing today? Sales are up 30% and Mike and Jocelyn are enjoying their best year ever. Congrats! It couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.
Missed last week’s Bar Rescue? Check it out here.