Jon Taffer Faces a Texas-sized Family Crisis on Bar Rescue

Images: Paramount Network

For over 30 years, Jon Taffer has traveled the country saving hundreds of bars from failure and ruin. In the latest episode of Paramount Network’s hit show Bar Rescue, Taffer traveled to China Grove, Texas, to try to turn around the China Grove Trading Post. For this rescue attempt, Taffer brought in Chef Tiffany Derry, a native Texan with the skills to elevate any bar’s food program, and bar and hospitality expert Mia Mia.

Raymond and Wendy Jenkins bought the China Grove Trading Post back in 2014. The husband and wife team had worked in the hospitality business for several years and seized the opportunity to become bar owners. As is the case with a good number of bars that are put up for sale, Wendy had been hanging out at the venue for years with her friends and jumped at the chance to buy it.

Wendy estimated that under their ownership, the bar was generating about $5,000 in profit per month…at first. The duo saw the bar as the key to their retirement and something they could one day hand over to their daughter, Maggen. They made her a bartender with an overall plan to teach her how to manage the bar. That, apparently, didn’t happen.

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Maggen, 27 years old, said she’s “a really awesome bartender” and “a really good people person.” However, bartender Cheyenne said that Maggen drinks top-shelf doubles “all night long” and gives away drinks to guests. Wendy said that Maggen was costing her and Raymond more than they could afford. She was put into a kitchen role to keep her from going behind the bar and losing the business money.

China Grove Trading Post sign before rename by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

Raymond had stopped managing China Grove at some point, taking a job in Dallas (about 5 hours away) and leaving Wendy to run the bar. Wendy said that she has left China Grove, her bar, on multiple occasions to stop arguing with Maggen in front of guests. At the beginning of the episode, Maggen said rather boastfully that she had been fired around 7 times but was always able to return.

Familial strife wasn’t the only thing for which China Grove had earned a reputation. The bar was also known for unprofessional behavior from other employees and so-called “creepy” guests. Losing $4,000 per month, in debt $150,000, and one month away from closing China Grove for good, Raymond and Wendy chose to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make the call for help to Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue.
 
China Grove Trading Post exterior before remodel by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

Taffer, Chef Derry and Mia witnessed Maggen wearing flip-flops in the kitchen while she handled and cooked food. Not only is that horrific and dangerous, it’s illegal. The cameras also caught a guest telling Wendy that at least one of their restrooms had fleas. Taffer noticed that bartender Cheyenne didn’t smile much during recon, and Mia didn’t think she seemed “approachable.” Approachability is of critical importance in the hospitality industry, obviously.

San Antonio area journalist Madalyn Mendoza was sent into China Grove by Taffer to conduct recon inside China Grove. In what appears to be a trend on Bar Rescue, the bar didn’t have a cocktail menu. When Mendoza asked if Cheyenne could make her a Paloma—grapefruit soda and tequila—she was told no because the bartender didn’t know that standard tequila cocktail. Cheyenne also said she didn’t have the necessary items to make an Old Fashioned—another incredibly popular drink—and didn’t offer an alternative suggestion. A simple, “I don’t have [insert item] but I do have [insert item] and can make you a [insert drink]” would have been an example of good customer service.

China Grove Trading Post bar and interior remodel by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

Switching to food, the Mendoza’s plus-one ordered street tacos and nachos from Maggen. Taffer and his team watched Maggen remove food items from a steam table and place them in a microwave. As Chef Derry explained, if the food in a steam table isn’t hot then it’s in the danger zone. The food didn’t look, smell or taste good and Mendoza spit it out into her napkin. She wanted to let someone know about the problems with the food but was afraid to complain to Cheyenne who hadn’t made a good impression. Remember: not approachable. Mendoza was able to complain to bartender Susan and have the order refired.

Maggen, however, decided that she didn’t have any work to do and left the kitchen to…put on her makeup. When her mother Wendy confronted her and told her to get back the kitchen, an argument ensued. While that fight was going on, a guest climbed up above the bar and accosted a poor stuffed coyote. Mendoza told a Bar Rescue camera that she wouldn’t return to China Grove.

The coyote incident was apparently quite amusing to Maggen. Oh yeah—she left the kitchen to take shots, offer guests free Lemon Drops, and go behind the bar to make said shots. This led to a loud confrontation with Cheyenne in front of guests, with Maggen throwing a very childlike tantrum for a 27-year-old before walking out of the bar.

That wasn’t the end of recon, however. A possum decided to make a guest appearance, scurrying from behind the bar and into the kitchen. Taffer had seen enough disrespect and dysfunction and headed into China Grove to confront Wendy. He asked Wendy if Maggen had closed out the kitchen. Of course, the answer was no. Taffer then asked why Wendy would allow such disrespectful behavior that clearly endangered the business, to which Wendy replied, “She’s my baby,” and that she feels like she needs to help her daughter. Taffer asked how long Wendy had felt that way and Wendy told him “about four years.” The Bar Rescue host said that everything would change in the morning.

The next morning, Maggen at least wasn’t wearing flip-flops: she was wearing socks without shoes because, as she told her father Raymond, her feet were swollen. Alrighty then. Taffer asked the staff to clear out so he could explain what had been going on to Raymond, call out Maggen for her disrespectful behavior, and give Wendy the chance to speak up.

Taffer put Maggen on notice that she was ruining China Grove for her parents and that she wouldn’t be disrespecting them or their money as long as he was involved with the bar. Pulling no punches, Taffer told Maggen that he felt that she was a cancer to the business. Before leaving the family to talk, the Bar Rescue host explained to Raymond that he needed to deal with the situation between Wendy or Maggen or lost them both. The conversation didn’t go well. Maggen refused to take any responsibility for her toxic attitude and behavior, stating that she would just leave. She then acted shocked and/or offended when Raymond told her to go…not that she stayed. Maggen walked out and told her parents the bar could “rot in Hell.”

With Maggen gone, Wendy told the staff that her daughter wouldn’t be returning and she’d be enforcing her rules. It was then time for Mia and Chef Derry to start training the team. Mia wanted to see how much the bar staff knew about bartending, guessing that they hadn’t received much training. She first asked them to write down their recipe for a Cosmopolitan. Nobody knew the recipe. Mia asked when it was acceptable to consume alcohol behind the bar. Susan and Lisa answered “never” but Cheyenne was honest and said they all did it.

Chef Derry, meanwhile, was in the kitchen working with Brandon. He’s Raymond and Wendy’s son, and he said he loves cooking. His mother called and told him that his sister Maggen quit, so he came in to replace her. The first thing they tackled was nachos, which Maggen had screwed up the night before. Chef Derry started with chips they had fried, poured melted cheese over them, then added black beans, cumin, pork, pickled onions, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole.
The Tipsy Bull nachos by Chef Tiffany Derry on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

Bartenders Cheyenne and Susan started the stress test off on the wrong foot. The cameras picked them up saying that the night was going to suck. They then proceeded to move “at a glacial pace,” as Mia described it. Food was getting out to guests before any drinks had been served. Taffer said that the bar fell behind pretty much immediately after the doors had opened. Wendy was mostly disengaged, which meant China Grove never caught up: there was no system for the bar to serve guests seated at tables. In the plus column, however, were Wendy’s positive outlook—that there was work to be done but she got to focus entirely on the business for once—and Brandon doing well in the kitchen.

The Tipsy Bull Fun in a Glass cocktail by Mia Mastroianni on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

After the stress test, Mia taught the bar team a drink that would be Instagram-worthy: Fun in a Glass. She placed a rectangle of Collins ice with raspberries frozen inside of it into a Collins glass. Mia then added vodka, fresh grapefruit juice, and a half-ounce of grenadine. She garnished the drink with a paper straw and a dehydrated orange. As the drink was enjoyed, the ice would melt and the raspberry flavor would become more intense. Chef Derry elevated traditional Tex Mex with a dish consisting of fried beef meatballs on doubled-up corn tortillas, housemade slaw and pickled onion, cilantro-crema sauce, red salsa, and cotija cheese.

The Tipsy Bull Tex Mex beef meatballs by Chef Tiffany Derry on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

Taffer sat down with Raymond and Wendy. He explained that they needed to be tough with Maggen if they were to let her come back to work at the bar. Every time they made excuses for her behavior, he said, she was empowered to behave disrespectfully again. Taffer called in Maggen, and she and Wendy talked out their issues a bit. In Taffer’s opinion, Maggen shouldn’t be allowed back at the bar for at least a week after the relaunch. He explained this by saying the place needed stability, Wendy needed to feel comfortable and in control, and rules needed to be placed on Maggen if she were to return.

The Tipsy Bull exterior after rename and remodel by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

Taffer revealed the new name for China Grove: The Tipsy Bull. A sign over the door could be pulled by a rope attached to a cowbell, tipping the bull logo. The idea was to create something that would be shared by guests via social media. In addition to décor and all-new furniture that expressed an overall Texas theme, three Harbortouch POS systems had been installed. Two dual workstations had been placed behind the bar and Bevinco Mobile had put an entire inventory system in place. Taffer had also installed an Arctic Concepts system and provided the team with new uniform tops. A Tipsy Bull sign inside the bar was rigged to release a jet of steam. At midnight, Taffer suggested, the Tipsy Bull sign would go off and everyone would have a shot.

The Tipsy Bull bar and interior after rename and remodel by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

Six weeks after the relaunch, food and beverage sales had gone up 20 percent and Maggen had been allowed back in the kitchen after a week. No fights between Wendy and Maggen had been reported.

Want more content like this? Take a look at the times Taffer saved Eliphino and rescued LIV Restaurant & Bar in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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