Jon Taffer Gets Two Owners Back on Track 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 hit Antioch, Tennessee, to rescue Crossroads Bar & Grile with NYC bartender Derrick Turner, known for elevating cocktail programs, and award-winning chef Michael Ferraro, recognized for putting a gourmet spin on comfort food.

Ashley and Robert Gaddy opened Crossroads in 2015. The bar did very well for the first couple of years. The food, the recipes for which Robert brought with him from Mississippi, resonated with Crossroads’ diverse guest pool.

Unfortunately, Robert became injured and his absence led to a downturn in business. Some of the staff took advantage of the management situation and engaged in unprofessional behavior that Ashley was unable to control. Things only got worse when employees started drinking while they were at work. It should come as no surprise that this behavior impacted service negatively, which has ultimately led to Ashley and Robert winding up over $200,000 in debt.

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Months from closing their doors permanently and with nowhere else to turn, Ashley and Robert chose to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make the call for help to Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue.

Antioch is about 15 minutes south-east from Nashville. With a cost of living slightly under the average in the United States, people who live in Antioch have a bit of disposable income to spend. Noting that the exterior was clean and not unattractive, it was determined that the team working inside had to be the reason the bar was so slow.

That determination was proved correct when server Deonna was observed climbing onto the bar to “dance.” The team was further seen as problematic when they were watched marrying liquor bottles to start their shifts. Of course, that wasn’t the only thing the employees did at the beginning of their shifts: they also enjoyed some drinks.

Jon Taffer conducting recon on Crossroads Bar & Grille with Derrick Turner and Chef Michael Ferraro on Bar Rescue

Taffer, Turner and Ferraro watched Antioch locals Emmanuel and Eric as they performed further recon. Emmanuel was told by bartender Cheeks that there wasn’t a full drink menu available but that she could “make whatever.” The recon duo ordered two Margaritas and two orders of catfish. However, Cheeks made them two green mystery cocktails. The replacement drink was a terrible and bright yellow “Margarita,” so Emmanuel decided to order an Old Fashioned. For this order…nothing happened. No one from behind the bar made Emmanuel’s drink.

Around that time, lead cook Don yelled from the pass-through that there was no catfish. Oh, and he also rang the bell and shouted out his order for three shots to be delivered to the kitchen. And why not? The front-of-house employees were drinking. On the clock. In front of the owners.

Crossroads Bar & Grille bar before the remodel by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

From there, things only got worse. Bunz, clearly intoxicated, attempted to slap a guest and then got into an altercation—behind the bar in front of guests—with coworkers, which Don decided was funny. Bunz then threatened to beat up “any bitch” in the bar who had something say. That was followed up a threat to quit her job at Crossroads. Of course, that didn’t happen. Essentially, recon revealed that A, the exterior was fine, and B, everything else about the operation was terrible.

During his confrontation with the owners and staff, Taffer showed everyone that the bar had rung $3,535.99 but given away $5,705.88 according to Bevinco data. The Crossroads staff had managed to lose—steal, actually—the bar $2,169.89, which they found amusing.

And the reason Emmanuel’s Old Fashioned had never arrived? Nobody knew how to make one, yet they claimed they didn’t have the ingredients to make one. Raised eyebrows and question marks abound… Turning focus to the kitchen, it was a disaster. Chicken at room temperature for 24 hours, unclean surfaces, enough grease to burn down the bar, and excuses from the back-of-house staff and ownership.

Crossroads Bar & Grille interior before remodeling by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

All of this led to Taffer delivering a powerful ultimatum: convene the staff and fire the most egregiously offending employee that evening. If that employee was permitted to return, the bar wouldn’t be remodeled. Of course, Taffer also wanted the back of house to clean the damn kitchen.

To his credit, Don took his dressing down seriously and the back of house cleaned the kitchen. Don also said the kitchen staff would do much better to maintain standards moving forward. However, owner Robert didn’t fire anyone. All he did was declare an end to drinking while at work. Ashley and Bubbles cleaned the bar but Cheeks cleaned only two shelves before taking a seat and not doing any other work.

The following day, Ashley married liquor bottles—a violation of the law, as all operators should know—as Taffer arrived. Every employee was also in attendance, in violation of Taffer’s ultimatum. In response to the latter offence, Taffer said he was walking out. Robert could either finally step up and fire someone or the Bar Rescue host wouldn’t return to save the bar. Taffer also pointed out that there was no reason for the staff to respect ownership if they broke the law by marrying bottles. Referring to the previous night’s revelation that the bar had lost money, Taffer asked what Robert would do if Ashley were not his wife but only his GM. Robert said he would fire her. But at least the bar and kitchen were clean.

The perpetually smirking Cheeks finally got the axe. Ever so humbled upon her exit, Cheeks said Crossroads would “look stupid” without a bartender and that she was mistaken in her belief that ownership (and presumably the staff) were her family. With that attitude, how could her next employer not be the luckiest on Earth?

Bunz arrived after the staff meeting and Cheeks’ firing, telling the camera that she didn’t think it was an issue that she had gotten so drunk at work the previous night. When confronted by Ashley and Robert, the owners told Bunz they believed she had a problem and perhaps needed time away from Crossroads. Bunz seemed to accept what ownership said and told the camera maybe she needed to finally figure out what was driving her to drink so much. We hope that’s what she did and that she’s doing better.

Gaddy Shack Southern Bar & Grill gourmet catfish dish on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

Since ownership had finally taken on the responsibility of management, Taffer revealed his strategy for driving more traffic to Crossroads. Learning that industry was located to the west of the bars and restaurants in Antioch, and that residencies were located to the east, people would need a good reason to visit Crossroads. Taffer decided that reason would be delicious southern cooking centered around catfish. Chef Ferraro introduced a number of elevated catfish dishes, one of which was a sandwich.

Gaddy Shack Southern Bar & Grill catfish sandwich on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

For the bar, Turner introduced the bar team to moonshine-based cocktails. One of these was the Bootlegger, the recipe for which is below. Turner took the staff to Short Mountain Distillery for bar training. To teach and reinforce the importance of communication, the front of house was blindfolded and the back of house directed their movements. The team’s objective was to navigate the space they were in without bumping into anything.

Gaddy Shack Southern Bar & Grill Bootlegger moonshine cocktail on Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer

The exercise didn’t go well, and Ashley and Robert observed that the front of house and back of house didn’t come together. The owners were quick to cut off any finger pointing and tell their employees they needed to stop blaming one another and work as a team instead.

Back at Crossroads, Ashley implored the front of house (to which new hires Mariah and Michela had been added) and back of house (with Robert back in the kitchen) to work as a cohesive unit and take the stress test seriously. They would need to because for this particular stress test, Taffer had thrown down a challenge: serve the entire room—drinks and food—in 20 minutes. Taffer offered front and back of house $100 if they met the challenge, respectively. The front of house met the challenge with minutes to spare. Back of house stumbled on one order but met the challenge just as time ran out. No order to “Shut it down!” was ever delivered by Taffer because ownership, front of house and back of house stepped up and came together.

Gaddy Shack Southern Bar & Grill exterior after remodeling by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

After Taffer told the Crossroads staff that they had performed one of the best stress tests after one of the worst recons, he revealed the renovation. Crossroads was no more. Instead, it had been transformed into Gaddy Shack Southern Bar & Grill. Taffer had Turbo Tap and Sculpture Hospitality’s BevChek flowmeters installed for Gaddy Shack’s draft beer system. He also got them a Manitowoc ice machine, an Orange Door entertainment system, and a lifetime subscription to Taffer Virtual Teaching.

Gaddy Shack Southern Bar & Grill bar after remodel by Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue

Six weeks after the renovation, Gaddy Shack was back on track. Ashley and Robert became hands-on owners, Deonna became a bartender-in-training, and Bunz wasn’t working in a bar but was figuring out her next steps.

Want more content like this? Jon Taffer delivered an inspiring keynote at the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 26. Check it out here!

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