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September 22, 2017

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‘Bar Rescue’ host Jon Taffer fights for the underdog and aims to change lives


Jon Taffer.

'Bar Rescue' Transforms Gipsy

An after shot of Gipsy on Paradise Road, now SBLV (South Beach Las Vegas), after a makeover courtesy of Spike TV's Launch slideshow »

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach is in London before his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — plus, the Amalfi Coast this year — many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue with “Bar Rescue” host Jon Taffer, who not only films regularly and hosts his Bar & Nightclub Convention here, but also is starting his first Las Vegas party extravaganza this weekend.

Bars have roots that run deep in American tradition. Did you know that the second public building built in America was a “public house,” known today as a pub? Bars are places where everything from business deals to marriage and children are discussed. They’re a place to relax, unwind and enjoy company.

As a hospitality professional, it’s your job to make sure that guests have positive emotional reactions from the second they step into your venue to the moment they exit. This is true in every industry; you cannot have a great business without creating one positive reaction after another. We live and die by the reactions we create.

For more than 30 years, my career has focused on the reactions created through entertainment and hospitality. It’s been my life’s work to open, run and fix bars, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels. I pride myself on that fact that, over the years, I have been able to change people’s lives and businesses.

The notion that I am making an impact on others by teaching reaction management is what drives me to continue in this treacherous industry. When speaking at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show that’s held every March in Las Vegas, I realized years ago the passion I’d gained from the industry prompted me to help people succeed.

At the time, the young guns in the industry, who now own the most successful multimillion-dollar nightclubs in Las Vegas and New York, would come up to me after a speech and tell me that I changed the way they think and what they do when it comes to their businesses.

Click to enlarge photo

Jon Taffer of Spike TV's “Bar Rescue.”

Click to enlarge photo

Jon Taffer of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue.”

It’s amazing to have a substantial impact on someone. As a founding member of NCB, now in its 29th year, the event has become more than a business opportunity. I have an emotional connection to it; it’s one of my babies. To this day, I continue to speak at NCB for this reason.

In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to expand my reach and change people’s lives in many ways. One project that I am really excited about is On the Rocks Las Vegas, a one-of-a-kind three-day event at 20-plus of the hottest nightclubs in Las Vegas and eight-plus pool parties from Friday through Sunday that includes all-star DJ lineups.

There is no other city in the world quite like Las Vegas. It’s the only one that was built specifically for entertainment; therefore, it’s the best place to host this event. It’s a way for me to connect with fans in an event like no other. I’ll be hosting an exclusive, VIP Bar Rescue Party on Friday and happy hours every day at Social at the Palms.

Speaking of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” it’s been a huge opportunity to profoundly change lives, and I fought hard to make sure that the show is authentic and faithful to what really happens. We find owners who have big personalities; after that, what you see is what you get. It’s not staged, and there are no actors. Day One is really Day One, and we really remodel the bar in 36 hours. All of the owners are real people with real issues.

Take Donna from Chilleen’s, better known as the “A Horse Walked Into the Bar” episode, for example. When I showed up, there were some serious business and personal problems putting the bar on the brink of foreclosure. Since then, Donna and Scott have taken the tools I gave them, quit drinking, focused on the bar and pulled themselves out of bankruptcy. It is instances like this that make what I do exciting and worthwhile.

Each season, we continue to raise the bar with “Bar Rescue” to show all aspects of the industry and stretch my skills. In addition to “Bar Rescue,” there are a few other projects I’m working on that will make an impact, the first being the opportunity to write a book. It’s wonderful to be able to share the experiences I’ve had through “Raise the Bar,” which is available for preorder on Amazon and out Oct. 8. I get to tell a lot of great stories about things that have changed my career.

Finally, there are some interesting things in the works for new shows that further challenge my skills and the reactions I create. I shot a pilot for “Hungry Investors,” a Spike TV show where we seek out “diamonds in the rough” for financial investment. Two restaurants will compete in head-to-head, challenge-based competitions, and the one enterprise that shows the most promise of turning things around earns a significant cash investment.

Additionally, I shot a pilot for a talk show that’s every exciting. This would allow me to fight for the underdog when they have no other place to turn. I’m not sure what will happen with it, but we’ll see.

This past year has been a whirlwind of projects of blood, sweat and tears. But, at the end of the day, I always remind the people I work with to rely on the reactions they create, as they become the most defining moments in their business and life.

Check out our other guest columns today from The Mirage headliner Terry Fator and his wife Taylor Makakoa and Aria wedding director Colleen Kestel-Raidme.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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