Bar Rescue - The Arena - CLOSED

The Arena Bar Rescue

In this Bar Rescue episode, Jon Taffer visits The Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Arena is owned by Mike Flore who is a restaurant manager.

He purchased the failing restaurant to convert it into a sports bar in 2001.

The bar was successful bringing in crowds and was earning $150,000 a month.

After nine years of business there is now much more competition, with new bars popping up in the area all the time.

Mike stopped keeping up with the times, the place is in disrepair and the menu is dated.

Mike has also become frustrated and is abusive to his staff making a difficult working environment.

They are losing $10,000 a month.

Jon recons the bar with expert mixologist Andrew Venjohn and expert chef Ryan Scott.

They notice it is a big student town and there is a market for the bar.

All the bars around The Arena are busy but the bar looks dead and there is a mistake in the signage.

Jon fills the experts in on his situation and that Mike is $1m in debt.

Mike’s wife Jen is a bartender along with Brittany, who serves flaming drinks without much control of the situation.

Jon has three grad students from University of Michigan come to test out the service at the bar.

They sit at a table and notice how worn the furnishing looks.

They try to order specials but there are none on offer.

They order some food, a long island and rum punch.

They are told the ingredients are not available so they change their order.

They google the cocktail recipe and see they do not have the ingredients and go back to them to change the drink again.

Vinny is a manager and Jimmy is a cook.

Mike does not look approachable and Jimmy is making some dated looking dishes.

The food is not great and the spies see the dish is raw in the middle.

Mike gets their complaint and his behavior scares them.

Mike goes to the kitchen to deliver the food rudely.

But he is called back again by the spies to complain the new steak bites are worse.

He replies rudely to them and once again takes the food away.

Mike is frustrated and it shows.

He allows a customer to make his own drink at the bar and use a lighter to light the drink.

Mike and his staff take shots at the bar.

Jon decides to speak with Brittany and Lauren before speaking with Mike.

They say Mike creates a hostile environment that drives business away and that he makes employees uncomfortable.

They think he needs a wake-up call/

Jon meets with Mike and asks him to talk to his staff.

When Mike sits with Brittany and Lauren, they both are nervous.

They eventually vocalise their complaints and he gets defensive.

The next day, the staff are gathered for a staff meeting with Jon.

They try their best to get through to Mike and he eventually gets lost for words and agrees with Jon.

Jon introduces his experts and they give their feedback.

They say that flaming drinks are a liability and are disappointed about the steak dish that they got wrong so many times.

Andrew trains the bartenders on well known drinks with twists using rum as the base.

Ryan trains the staff on a burger that uses the ingredients and flavours of Michigan.

For the stress test they are looking for positive energy from Mike.

The bartenders are given name tags so they customers can identify them.

The bartenders make mistakes and drinks are dumped.

In the kitchen there is no bell to call runners so they have to do it vocally.

Customers are left waiting and Mike is pulled in so many directions that he delivers wrong drinks to a table.

The kitchen is doing five minutes ticket times which is great.

The bar is failing with drinks that are too strong.

Mike loses a credit card and glass gets broken.

Jon sits with the last table to be served.

They are locals who say the bar is one of the worst they have been to and they have been to most bars around.

Jon takes Mike to one of the bars close by to show him how a bar runs well.

Mike returns to his own bar to see Vinny has disappeared and left his mic behind.

Jon meets with the staff the next day and they notice Vinny is still absent.

Andrew trains them on some signature drinks that will pull crowds.

Ryan in the kitchen trains them on a signature meatball dish.

Jon sits with Vinny to get through his tough demeanour.

Vinny says he is motivated by providing for his kids and he cares about his business and his staff but it does not show.

Jon finishes the renovations within twenty-four hours.

He gathers the staff at night to unveil the new bar that can cater to both students and alumni.

The name has not been changed but the logo is new and brighter with a new inviting exterior.

Inside it is more like a sports bar with highlights of blue and yellow.

There is a game station, several TVs and pictures depicting the history of Michigan and a beer claw machine.

The new chairs and tables are from East Coast Chair and Barstool.

Mike’s children get to see the bar first before they open for the relaunch.

There is a drum set from the university drum team.

On relaunch, the bartenders are more confident as they serve drinks.

In the kitchen they are on top of the tickets.

The customers love the ambience, the food, the drinks and the beer claw game.

Jon is happy with how positive the environment is.


What Happened Next at The Arena?

Six weeks later it is revealed they grossed over $220,000 in sales.

Mike remains changed and the environment is no longer hostile.

Vinny returned back to work at the bar.

The Areana closed in July 2016.

The bar closed after owner Mike was sentenced for up to 5 years in prison for failing to pay over $700,000 of sales tax to the state over a 10 year period.


Click for more Bar Rescues

Previous episode - The Hooch

Next episode - Jazz Katz / Back Beat Piano Bar

This post was last updated in August 2021.

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