Handlebar Cafe / Handlebar and Grill - Bar Rescue Update - Open or Closed?

Bar Rescue Handlebar Cafe

In this Bar Rescue episode, Jon Taffer visits Handlebar Cafe in Pawcatuck, Connecticut.

Handlebar Cafe is a biker hangout that was bought by bartender Betsy in 2001.

She has a big personality that made her popular.

That helped her have early success in the bar ownership business.

Betsy hired her sister, Stephanie and son, Dean to help out at the bar.

Her son was happy to have a legacy in the family.

Stephanie fed into Betsy’s need to be the centre of attention.

They frequently go on stage and get into horse play that has been physical at the bar.

The management is suffering from their lack of attention and the kitchen is unused.

Their antics are now driving people away.

Betsy has ignored all the requests from her customers for food service.

With no bar food on offer patrons were forced to go elsewhere and trade has declined.

Betsy is attached to the bar’s outdated and tacky decor and refuses to change it.

She is losing $4000 a month, she has checked out and is 3 months away from closing the bar.

The bar is located on an ideal spot on a busy main road.

The town has a number of motorcycle clubs and sellers but rarely draws in local trade.

Jon recons the bar with chef Brian Duffy and mixologist Russell Davis.

They see the exterior and it looks like a store front with no lights.

There is nothing to attract bikers or cars passing by on the main road.

He fills his experts in on the owners and they see Betsy is drunk already.

Bartender JP and is lifting weights behind the bar while Stephanie is drunk on a pool table.

The carpet is leopard print and the place is empty on a Saturday night.

Jon has arranged 60 bikers to roll in and pack the bar.

Betsy is shocked at the influx and seems inconvenienced.

The bartender is overpouring drinks.

Stephanie starts acting drunk behind the bar and talks with the customers.

She tells them there is no food and offers some old peanut as snacks instead.

Betsy pulls her away as she is too drunk to work.

Betsy is rude to the bikers.

Stephanie gives a group of bikers the finger when they ask for a food menu.

The kitchen is shutdown and looks like it has not been cleaned in months.

The bar staff find cheese puffs and everyone at the bar has to share it.

Betsy and Stephanie get into a squabble behind the bar.

The bikers are offended by the display.

Jon has seen enough and his experts go in strong and confront them with all their issues.

They look around first and Betsy says that she is not drunk enough.

She has lots of excuses for any question asked of her.

Jon has a conversation with drunk Stephanie.

She says she knows her sister is in the hole but does not care.

They see how bad the kitchen is, it is greasy everywhere and is a fire hazard.

Stephanie is given a breathalyser and she is more than double the limit.

They try to remove Betsy from working behind the bar.

Stephanie gets aggressive behind the bar swearing and cursing at Jon and Betsy.

Betsy is charged with getting herself, her sister and her business under control.

The next day, Betsy and Stephanie are sober and eager to apologise to Jon.

They have deep cleaned the bar before he came in.

Jon arrives and they have a staff meeting where Jon tells Stephanie off.

Betsy believes she has to be over the top to get customers but she admits it is not working.

Jon says they need a food program and Stephanie volunteers to undergo the training.

Jon talks with Betsy separately.

She breaks down that she is holding on to pain from the death of her husband.

Stephanie has felt loss also so they have been feeding off each other’s grief.

Jon plans on getting a counsellor in to talk to them and help with their issues.

Brian trains Stephanie on some simple hotdogs and hamburgers.

She feels faint in the middle of the training and leaves to throw up.

Artie is called to replace her in the kitchen and excels at the training.

Russell trains the bar staff on hospitality and teaches them pour counts for making some cocktails.

They struggle to learn as much they can ready for the stress test.

It is soon time for the stress test and the cocktails come out bad and are dumped into a bucket.

Multiple drinks are dumped and almost no one is served.

The workstation is located in one corner.

The other side of the bar is being ignored entirely.

Stephanie is just cooking without looking at her tickets.

Several people have to wait over 20 mins and their food comes incomplete.

Stephanie soon has an extremely smoky kitchen as the equipment cannot handle it all.

Dean is just a helper and could barely do much at the bar, serving or cooking.

Soon the bucket is full and they have wasted more than 6 litres of drinks.

They shutdown as they have lost more drinks than they have sold.

They commend Stephanie for her efforts during the service and they close for the night.

The next day, Betsy and Stephanie see a counsellor.

They are both in denial not wanting to acknowledge the death.

They resolve to focus on moving forward.

Jon shows them a brand-new char griller and greaseless fryer the next day.

Brian is happy to train them on different hotdog recipes and fries.

Russell trains the staff on some simple drinks with tequila and whiskey bases.

Dean is nervous but practices the drinks and he does better.

The bar is renovated and the staff are brought back at night to reveal their new bar.

There is a slight change to the name as they will now be called Handlebar and Grill

With bigger and bolder signs, there is now a giant handlebar on top of the building.

They have also added a big mural and a display side for custom bikes.

Inside the bar, the interior has been made edgier with actual bikes behind the bar.

There are no more leopard print carpets.

The liquors are on display and are the centre of attention so they sell more of them.

There is a new workstation to make a total of two to be able to attend to a busy bar.

They are happy at the changes and they open for the relaunch.

On relaunch night, the customers love the new atmosphere.

The drinks and the food orders come in.

They start slow but find their rhythm both at the bar and in the kitchen.

What Happened Next at Handlebar Cafe?

Six weeks later, the sisters are drinking during service.

The old decor has been returned including the old carpet.

They are no longer servifng the new drinks.

They returned to the previous name of the bar Handlebr Cafe.

Later, they revealed that sales increased 30%.

The town of Stonington issued cease and desist orders for some of the changes.

The mural on the side of the bar and the pair of handlebars above the front entrance were removed as a result.

Handlebar Cafe is open.

Reviews are mostly positive.

The bar is described as fun with praise for the bartenders.

It appears they no longer serve food as no reviews mention food.

This post was last updated in March 2024.

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