*Update: Listen to our chat with Garrison Tavern owner Jon Nicholls!*So, if you haven't been living under a rock for the past few months here in Colorado Springs, you'd know that Jon Taffer and his "dream team of industry experts" behind the Spike TV show Bar Rescue were in town. Thanks to Josh's connections, we got a fair bit of heads up about the Brickhouse's experience, but today after we recorded a radio show with Bryce Crawford and Dionne Roberts of Rocky Mountain Food Report, we decided to stop in and see first hand the changes that were made.
What is Bar Rescue?
For those without cable television, myself included, Bar Rescue is a Spike TV production where Jon Taffer, a former University of Denver Poly-sci major, helps local bars fix their problems and become profitable enterprises. But, you must realize, Spike TV pays for this to be a reality television show, so there has to be drama. And in Colorado Springs' case, lots of it.
I stopped in at the Brickhouse, recently renamed Garrison Tavern, after recording a show at the Tim Gill Center. Yes there was new sign out front, but as a graphic designer myself, it looked hastily fashioned. Walking into the Garrison Tavern looked similar with things looking pretty much like they were, albeit with a new coat of paint and new barstools. Oddly enough, they went with a military themed name and a fishing decor...industry experts? Strike one in my book. Not only did they not use Colorado locales for the newly covered lakes and fishing spots depicted on the walls, it doesn't fit with the military theme they tried to go with from the onset. Really?Really, Spike TV? In any case, they did fix some things, while leaving other things untouched. The basement and back billiards areas are still untouched, while the kitchen could use a few new appliances, but this is a show about the bar, so why worry about that stuff, right? Overall, things are pretty good at the Brickhouse, er-Garrison tavern.While the new additions were good—a new glycol system, new 8 tap system, point of sale and new furniture—it didn't seem up to snuff with other "rescues" they've done. We've heard estimates that each episode costs them $200K or more...but that doesn't seem in the same ballpark with changes they made with the Brickhouse.I was surprised to see Smiling Toad on tap there. With Jon Taffer's recent outcry about craft beer, you'd expect him sticking to macro beer for draught taps. Color me happy about this. Win.
Then, we went to Triple Nickel and I realized everything they did good at Brickhouse was just for show. If you've been to the Nickel, you know the charm, the lore, the stickers on the door. Bar Rescue sterilized the place. They went with a "garage theme" because the building used to be a garage. Ok, that's fine, but don't Rhino-line the bar top, close up the cooler vents and put crappy IKEA stools everywhere. I felt uneasy sitting on one.Every town needs a great dive bar that can suit any type of late night drinker. If you're in Durango, you end up at the Ranch, if you're in Salida, you end up at the Vic, in Colorado Springs, the Nickel is that place. Jon Taffer, your team done goofed when it comes to the Triple Nickel.This is where Spike TV should use the term "industry experts" very, very loosely. Who, in their right mind, puts Rhino Lining on a bar top? Why? What were you thinking? Not only did you cover up a beautifully, hand-crafted bar top, but you made their servers jobs harder because now you can't sign a receipt on the thing. It's horrible. Whoever suggested that, and we'll see in the show when it airs, should be canned.So why would a place try to be on Bar Rescue? Well, it turns out, the show solicits businesses in their target area for the show. We've heard that Brewers Republic said no, but Brickhouse, Triple Nickel and Cleats said yes. Only the first two made the producers cut...So, should you believe everything you see on TV? No. Shows that pretend to be all about helping unknowing bars serve their customers better are more about ratings than actually figuring out how to make a place succeed. I'm glad I got to see the damage before and after, and I can't wait for the shows to air because if it's anything like the Triple Nickel guys are describing, the WWE will have competition on that night.In the meantime, check out the Garrison Tavern to try their newly concocted cocktails, or go see how you can't see the beers you want to buy at the Nickel, but please don't let a TV show change your opinion of a couple watering holes here in Colorado Springs. The whole thing is staged and faked for the cameras. The shows will be fun to watch, not for the result, but the comedic value.When locals get featured on cooking shows like Brother Luck and Mark Henry, it's awesome, but please, next time Bar Rescue calls Colorado Springs, let's all just hang up.