This year over 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, O’Kelley’s at the Ballpark in St. Louis, Missouri will become just another statistic. In 2011, Italian restaurant owner Andrea Ervin decided to expand by opening a sports bar in downtown St. Louis. The bar is located 2 blocks from Busch Stadium. Ten months later, O’Kelley’s opened its doors and Andrea began reaping the rewards of owning a second business. Loyal guests of the Italian restaurant (Mama's on The Hill, also known as Mama Campisi's) flocked to the new bar, and O’Kelley’s generated upwards of $75,000 some months. As business flourished Andrea’s manager at her restaurant abruptly quit, forcing her to devote her full attention away from O’Kelley’s, leaving longtime employee Kim as manager and nephew Cameron as head bartender. Kim has no management experience and Cameron refuses to listen to or respect her, choosing instead to “put on a show.” Disrespect for management continued and tensions began to escalate between Kim and Cameron. As arguments continued to disrupt the bar, O’Kelley’s struggled to keep its customers. Now, losing $6,500 a month, Andrea’s left with a failing bar, disorderly staff, and a $700,000 debt. Desperate to keep both her businesses from going under, Andrea has agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make a call for help to Bar Rescue.
For recon, Jon Taffer chose to meet with Andrea outside of O’Kelley’s to watch what goes on when she isn’t there. Dan Katz of Barstool Sports and Chris Long, formerly a St. Louis Ram and currently a New England Patriot, served as Jon’s spies. They entered O’Kelley’s, a 3,500 square-foot bar averaging $3 per square foot in sales, $147 less than the required break-even point of $150 per square foot. Dan and Chris ordered beers were which were poured and served badly. As far as food, Chris’ burger and Dan’s nachos were prepared and cooked improperly. Andrea and Jon watched as Cameron misbehaved and disrespected Kim to the point that she was in tears, and saw that Kim had no idea how to run the bar or deal with Cameron. However, Jon, Andrea and Dan saw that bartender Tina was a hard worker. Jon sent Andrea into her bar to take control of the situation. When she confronted Cameron he refused to take responsibility, and when she confronted Kim she instructed her to tell her nephew to go home.
For the bar, Jon brought in veteran mixologist and trainer Shawn Ford. His 20 years of experience in the bar business and extensive knowledge of beer and cocktail histories can generate a successful future for any bar. For the kitchen, Jon brought in executive chef Mike Ferraro. Mike’s unique knowledge of regional cuisine and understanding of local tastes can turn any neglected establishment into a community favorite. Shawn found that O’Kelley’s was using golf tees in their liquor bottles as stop-gaps for fruit flies. The tees were porous and, because they were painted, toxic. He also found mold underneath the bar and a full-on fly in a bottle. In the kitchen, Mike found food in the temperature danger zone, unknown filth, and meat in containers that contained blood. When asked about all of the problems, Kim said that she had no bar management experience and Cameron said he failed to notice issues because he was drinking. However, when Jon asked if anyone else on the staff had management experience, Tina raised her hand. Later in the episode two Anheuser-Busch vice presidents – Rick and Josh – visited during the stress test. Their first orders were served in glasses that were not beer clean, nor were their beers poured correctly.
- The temperature danger zone for food is 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything in the middle of that range runs the risk being riddled with bacteria and will make people sick.
- Meat contains a high percentage of water which when frozen forms ice crystals that expand inside, rupturing its fibers. When defrosted these ice crystals melt and some of the water is lost through the ruptured fibers. Meat should never be refrozen because doing so will cause excess water loss and further dry out the meat, compromising its taste and texture. Defrost meat as soon as possible and then cool or cook the meat to avoid building up bacteria.
- Pouring beer properly is a science. First, start with a beer-clean glass to allow the beer to develop a one-inch head. Start from the bottom of the tap handle, not the top. Hold the glass at a 30-degree angle, avoid touching it to the nozzle, and slowly straighten the glass as the beer fills it. Allow the head to settle, enhancing aromatics and protecting your profit since the head is approximately 25% beer.
Jon transformed O’Kelley’s into Pastimes on 4th. Ten weeks after the relaunch, Pastimes has only generated $15,376 in food and beverage sales. According to Bar Rescue, Andrea blames the poor sales on the opening of other sports bars in the area. Cameron no longer works at the bar and Pastimes on 4th only opens for special events.