Jon Taffer to the rescue, once again! Bar Rescue is gearing up for its special 200th episode, and this particular business intervention is shaping up to be an emotional one.
The long-running reality series, which is currently in its 8th season, is taking on the challenge of La Casona Bar and Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada. In this exclusive clip from the milestone episode, we meet the owners of the struggling restaurant — Victor and Claudia, and their daughter, Phoebe.
Victor and Claudia sold their car dealership and set their sights on following their dreams of owning and running a bar — shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit. They came across an incredible opportunity in the form of a Mexican restaurant with a 40-year history, but they needed help from their adult daughter, who had to leave her dorm at Stanford University amid the pandemic.
To capitalize on her good credit, the restaurant was bought under Phoebe’s name. However, due to the mounting pressures of the business and the financial crunch caused by the pandemic, the family was soon evicted from their home and forced to live above the restaurant, which itself is in serious financial trouble.
Can Taffer — the entrepreneur who has been turning floundering businesses around for years — help this family in their time of ultimate crisis? It looks like this milestone episode of Bar Rescue is going to be an especially emotional undertaking.
ET spoke with Taffer on Tuesday, and the host opened up about the special 200th episode — as well as the challenges the coronavirus has presented to restaurants across the country, even as businesses begin to open back up.
Reflecting on the family featured in the upcoming episode, Taffer recalled, “Three days before I arrived, this family lost their home. And they lost it in a way where they couldn’t even leave with their bedding or their pillows.”
“They had four boys under 10 years old sleeping on a wooden floor above the restaurant,” he continued. “When I heard this story I started crying. It really shows what this pandemic has done to the people that run and own these restaurants.”
According to Taffer, for the specific difficulties of running a bar during a pandemic, and the subsequent rebuilding period, the game plan had to change.
“We were setting them up to be profitable at 50 percent capacity, and most importantly setting them up for the end of the pandemic,” he explained. “Now we’re struggling with, ‘What do we do with full restaurants and full bars when we can’t get our employees back?'”
While the customers maybe be returning — especially in Sin City where the relaxed safety protocols have meant a massive influx of visitors and patrons — the overhead costs have skyrocketed.
“You know those little ketchup packets you get in restaurants? Before the pandemic, those were 7 cents. Then, they went up to 11 cents, then they went up to 17 cents. Then they went up to 30 cents. Right now, as I speak, a ketchup packet is 40 cents,” Taffer explained. “Lobster went from $9 a pound to $21 a pound. The price of meat has almost doubled.”
This means that the end of the pandemic may be a double-edged sword for a lot of bars and restaurants.
“Finally, the pandemic is over! You can fill your place to 100 percent. This is your chance to get out. But now you can’t get your employees back, and every meal you sell, you’re going to lose money on,” Taffer said, explaining the stark reality for so many eateries. “So even though your local restaurant might be full, that doesn’t mean they’re making money.”
This season of Bar Rescue is also specifically focused on locations around Las Vegas, where Taffer himself calls home, because of how bad the pandemic hit the city, where the economy is based almost exclusively on tourism and travelers.
“I remember a few months back when the buildings in Las Vegas were boarded up, because we don’t even have locks on the doors… I [remember] driving down the strip with no cars, no people, every parking lot empty… and how emotional that was,” Taffer recalled. “I cried when I saw that.”
“Now we’re trying to reopen, and it seems to me that, based upon the damage done to Las Vegas during the pandemic, and the fact that it’s my home town, it made a lot of sense to be here during this season,” he said, adding that focusing on Las Vegas businesses made these episodes “heavy duty personal to me.”
This special episode of Bar Rescue airs June 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the Paramount Network.
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