We all know that restaurants and bars are among those that have been hit the hardest this past year, so it’s thrilling to see Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer back on his crusade in helping struggling owners salvage their businesses. After 51 weeks, Taffer and his crew of over 50 are finally back to work on Season 8 of Paramount Network’s Bar Rescue (Sundays at 10/9c beginning May 2). This season is beyond personal for Taffer, as he lends his expertise in his hometown of Las Vegas and will celebrate the series’ 200th episode. “This year has been very emotional for us. I’ve seen so many friends lose their businesses. … Unemployment got to 35% here,” Taffer says. “This is a hospitality hub, so we’re focused on trying to restart Las Vegas this year through Bar Rescue.” Here he shares some more insights on the season and some personal favorites.
Did you have to change the format at all with the show?
Oh, yes. This is the first year that we are allowing people to see how we produce the show. We’re going to show them what we’re doing. We have three COVID officers on set [monitoring safety protocols and staff]. We’re now in our fifth episode, and we’re doing great. It’s working.
I imagine it’s more emotional than ever when you show up?
We’ve done the hurricane episodes and the flood episodes where these aren’t owners who caused their own failure — these are owners who were doing well and Mother Nature took the business away. This season is very much like that. These are operators who were successful before COVID. So I can’t look at them and say, “You’re a failure.” I’ve got to look at them and say, you know, “I’ve got to help you get out of this.” So it’s very different. It’s very emotional for me, quite candidly.
So are you softening up a little bit now?
Yeah. You know, it’s when people are irresponsible, I get angry at them. These operators are not irresponsible, they’ve really tried. Some of them have put their savings on the line and kept their employees working at their own demise. These are good people who really got hurt this year. So it’s a different kind of show. It’s not as tense, but it’s far more emotional.
What are your three favorite drinks of choice?
My first favorite drink of choice would be a Godfather. The Godfather is in a rocks glass. It’s scotch and amaretto. Probably my second favorite drink would be a, I’m going to be very boring here for a moment, probably a Salty Dog, which is vodka, grapefruit juice with a little salt on the rim. My third favorite cocktail in the world, that I’ve ever had in my life, happens to be one that we created, which is the Resurrection, which is at Spirits on Bourbon, a cocktail made out of coconut water and a number of other ingredients. It’s blue, and it’s a very famous cocktail. We put it on Bourbon Street, and they sell about 20,000 a month of them. And I’m not saying it because it’s mine; it happens to be one of my favorite cocktails.
What three Jeopardy! categories would you absolutely dominate?
Obviously, bar and beverage I think I would own. I think travel/geography would be a very strong category for me. And American history. I’m a bit of a history buff. I love the history of our nation.
When flipping through your channel lineup, what‘s a movie you’ll always stop to rewatch?
Rocky is one of them. I love the movie, Rocky. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is another one that I love. The Godfather.