Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bar Rescue - The Arena Update

On tonight's episode of Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer and crew are in Ann Arbor, Michigan to try to rescue The Arena.  When the bar was doing well, it had revenues of about $150,000 a month.  As new bars opened nearby, the competition caused The Arena to lose customers.  The bar is now supposedly losing $10,000 a month and is supposedly $1 million in debt.

For this episode of Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer decided to keep the name of The Arena.  Let's take a look at some information, reviews, and updates for The Arena since Bar Rescue came and made all of the changes to the bar (All reviews are post-Bar Rescue):

Positive Reviews:
  • "Service is always good here, food is decent and drinks are good.  After Bar Rescue came in, they made a few cosmetic changes that I noticed but the rest is similar.  Definitely a place we stop in at when bar hopping in A2."
  • "All of us were From out of town and to be honest everyone was very very friendly. But there were a few things that stood out. One thing was bartenders taking shots of alcohol with customers. Now, in Oregon that's a big no no but not sure the rules in Michigan. I also have to say that there was a huge issue with over serving. There we multiple groups around us who were obviously over intoxicated yet the waitresses continued to serve them because they knew they were racking up a large tab at the end of the night...Overall bathrooms were clean, waitress was nice. And lots of TV's including ones at your table"

Negative Reviews:
  • "Bar rescue or not this place has always been a trashy dump with bad food and drunk servers!"
  • "As another Yelper mentioned, Jon Taffer and his show Bar Rescue killed The Arena. It used to be awesome -- if you were looking for a sports bar with traces of dive bar thrown in. The service was awesome, the drinks were cheap, and the food was pretty good for what you were paying for...Post Jon Taffer: The whole dang inside is painted blue -- removing any of the warm wood tones. They put some brighter bulbs in and strapped some Michigan pictures on the wall and called it a day. Thank you for your wisdom Taffer, you made the Arena the lovechild of a T.G.I.Fridays and a Buffalo Wild Wings in Ann Arbor. We come here regularly for trivia on Thursdays, and as a group of six people, spend two hours knocking back $3 Michigan bottled beer which is a happy hour special. This is apparently something they're not doing anymore. Not only that but there's almost no Michigan beer left in the establishment."
  • "Wow! Knowing the pre-"Bar Rescue" Arena and meeting the post-, I am left scratching my head. What did Jon Taffer exactly do?! Last night, status post Lions home game, the bar was deader than I've ever seen it. "Bar Rescue" successfully made the Arena LESS popular! At least when the Arena was its old self, it seemed to embrace its divey-ness. It was sticky and smelly with over-poured drinks and over-served patrons."
  • "Sure, the bar looks a little cooler with lighted stands for the liquor but all it seems they did was put some UM football pics on the wall. It just looked like a cheap job. The kicker for me was that the hallway to the bathrooms REEKED just like it used to before the remodel...Beer: HOW DO THEY HAVE NO MICHIGAN BEERS ON TAP?! Sure, they have like 10 in bottle, but you're in Ann Arbor filled with bars that serve craft beer on tap! Was not a fan of that at all...Hoped for better after the remodel"

Other News and Links:
  • The Bar Rescue makeover happened in September 2015.
  • Here are two preview videos of the episode from the Spike TV website - Video 1, Video 2.
  • Here is The Arena website and here is The Arena Facebook Page.
  • Mike said he was contacted by Bar Rescue saying they were looking for bars for a series of "alumni" shows focusing on campus bars.  He also said he was due for a remodel, so figured it was a good fit. (Link)
  • In the link above, Mike says, "I'm going in with my eyes open.  It's semi-reality TV. People know me. People know this business. If people think I'm a huge asshole; if that's how I'm portrayed in the show, well that will bring people in too. I signed up for it. I've got a thick skin."
  • A local article after the makeover said a lot of the scenes, such as the reveal were shot multiple times.  This is pretty standard, but a lot of the time, it was due to local buses drowning out the sound.   The changes to the bar listed in the article included: "new bar stools, pendant lights and a copper backsplash for the tap handles at the bar, but most of the rest of the changes in the front of the house seemed to center around a new color scheme — maize and blue, of course — and a general decluttering"
  • In another article a month after the makeover, owner Mike said although he was happy with most of the Bar Rescue changes, he isn't keeping them all.  The golf game by the front door was brought back and the sports memorabilia previously on the walls is coming back.  They incorporated some of the kitchen ideas, but pretty much scrapped the drink menu as soon as Bar Rescue left because it didn't fit with the clientele.  Mike said he is glad Bar Rescue came, and traffic has increased due to word of mouth about the makeover.
  • In this video interview about the show, Mike said one of his managers walked off the show during the stress test. 
  • In the articles, it seemed like the success of local sports bars in Ann Arbor depended on Michigan's football team being competitive, which they haven't been for the past few years.  This could explain some of the decline of sales. 


The reviews after the Bar Rescue makeover are more negative than positive with people complaining about not much changing besides the paint, and there being no local Michigan beer on tap.   There were also a few comments about the bad smell in the bar still being present even after the Bar Rescue makeover.

Judging from the comments from owner Mike, it seems like he decided to do Bar Rescue for a free makeover.  Mike has brought back some things such as the sports memorabilia, the golf game at the front door, and he has pretty much scrapped the cocktail menu installed by Bar Rescue.

UPDATE - In an article after watching the episode, Mike was interviewed and a few things were revealed:
  • The sequence of his reaction shots were out of order and Mike said this was the reason why he had to wear the same shirt 3 days in a row.  The show makes people wear the same shirts for pretty much all Bar Rescue episodes, so this is common.
  • Bar Rescue got to their "million dollar debt" by asking Mike how much he still owed on cars, houses, vacation houses, the bar building, etc.  He is not behind on any payments and nothing is in jeopardy.
  • Mike said he knows what happens on the show and isn't mad about anything.
  • The first time customers who sent back food repeatedly were actually regulars and were told to send food back by Bar Rescue.
  • Vinny, the manager that walked out during the stress test is back at the bar.
UPDATE 7/2016 - Owner Mike was sentenced to two to four years in prison and ordered to pay $1.5 million due to failure to pay taxes for about 10 years - More info

UPDATE 8/2016 - The bar went up for auction at the end of July and it is now closed.

*To see how all of the bars from Bar Rescue are doing, go to the Bar Rescue Update page, and also Like us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter to stay up to date with all things involving Bar Rescue.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't been to this bar, but from what I saw on the show the rehab inside did look as some of the customers above reviewed it -- rather cheap. Same for last week's show, in my opinion, so I hope it's not a trend. Maybe the show's budget has been reduced leaving less money for it? I don't know, of course. With regards to drinks, I wondered at the show's beginning if some of the cocktails would work for a college-town bar. I know my friends and I in college (both male and female) were looking for the best deal rather than paying a little extra for a special drink. But maybe times have changed. I also would question (as the customers did in the above review) why Michigan beers were removed from the draft selection. I am a fan of Bell's, myself, and I have no affiliation to the area. College-age and recent grads are proud of their school and the area, so I would think they'd support a local brewery's products.