The NY Daily News recently posted their recap of Taffer’s latest “discussion” with bar owner, Ami Benari, who appeared in the latest episode, aptly titled “Empty Pockets.”
“Bar Rescue” host and nightlife expert Jon Taffer and a bar owner in Denver had to be physically restrained after getting into a shoving match on this week’s episode of the popular Spike TV reality series.
Taffer and Ami Benari were separated so the ugly wrestling match didn’t escalate into a knock-down, drag-out fist fight.
“This is the first physical altercation I’ve ever been in,” says Taffer, who got in Benari’s face after the bar owner insulted Brian Duffy, “Bar Rescue’s” consulting chef for the episode. “I’ve never been hit, or hit anyone in my life. Brian Duffy is a dear friend of mine, and one the nicest people ever. And Ami attacked him in such a personally degrading way, that’s what created the altercation. I can’t stand in a room when people are degraded that way.”
Taffer is used to stressing owners and staff to a breaking point and then drawing out the fight in an owner. As he sees it, that aggression is all about passion for the business and its survival, and it’s his job to turn it from anger into the will to change.
“The intensity of confrontation — people don’t like it,” he says. “But the reason they don’t like it? Their mind got woken up; you’ve got to crack open that mind to get anywhere.”
Usually, the confrontation factor is all part of Taffer’s method.
“Psychologists will tell you that it takes 21 cycles to change human behavior,” he says. “I have to teach an employee a new way to do things over the course of 21 shifts. But for the show, I don’t have 21 days — I have five. Five days to reverse hundreds of bad decisions and that’s my challenge in a nutshell. That’s why I’m so aggressive, if I wasn’t, four days later we wouldn’t be anywhere.”
But at Zanzibar, Benari’s billiards bar in Denver, that approach proved too combustible even for Taffer.
“Ami was one of the cockiest, most difficult owners ever,” says Taffer. “But you could see that he had good heart, there’s something very likable about him despite his curt, direct style of speaking to people, which could come off in an incredibly disrespectful way.”
It was that in-your-face attitude that started the tussle between Benari and Taffer, after which they took a break from filming to cool off. “I wasn’t sure Ami was going to show up next day,” Taffer says. Benari did eventually show, but with bad-itude still in tow. Taffer said that behind the scenes it took more than a few minutes to arrange a sit-down to talk it through. Once they did, the two men actually found some common ground.
Benari had immigrated to Denver after serving time in the Israeli Army, and had his life savings sunk in a failing business. “This was one of the greatest episodes we’ve ever done,” says Taffer. “The immigrant story and the American dream really got me. He came here with nothing, and he’s someone with two kids, he’s a family guy, it was inspiring to me to be honest.”
Once Benari put his pride aside and came around to realize that Taffer was there to help, he was far more open to new ways of running his bar.
Zanzibar’s distinguishing features were cheap drinks and drunk, disheveled customers. The bar had 10 pool tables, which were free, and no cocktail servers making sure that pool players were well watered, and spending money.
It did however, have a great location in downtown Denver, near several colleges and universities, and along a heavily used bus line.
The “Bar Rescue” crew transformed the space with new lighting that made it impossible to miss when riding by on the bus or walking down the street, recovered the pool tables with a cool, young, two-tone pattern, and created an unbeatable special: four beers, two appetizers and an hour of pool for $19.95. They also added a dance floor and installed a killer sound system to create a unique spot. “This is one of my favorite concepts,” says Taffer. “A dance floor billiards bar.” They even gave it an American dream theme, linking it back to Ami.
In the end, Benari called Taffer “an angel, sent from heaven” and Taffer had nothing but kinds words from the most challenging bar owner he had ever worked with. “He was actually a pussy cat with a big mouth. He had a big bark, but really didn’t bite – you just had get past that big mouth.”
By NY Daily News