Bar Rescue - The Wheelhouse / Derby's Bar and Grill - OPEN

The Wheelhouse Bar Rescue

In this Bar Rescue episode, Jon Taffer visits The Wheelhouse in Hemet, California.

The Wheelhouse is owned by Jesse Vivanco after he took over the bar in 1998.

It is a skating rink and bar and Jesse grew up and worked behind the scenes until he took over.

He has strong ties to the community and many of its employees were former patrons and they see him as a father.

With the profits from the rink he opened the bar in 2004.

They had a steady increase in growth and success for over a decade.

The staff see themselves as family and are unruly at work, going against everything he says.

Jesse now has more competition from bigger corporations with more income in the town.

He is now in $165,000 debt and Jesse’s retirement fund is in danger.

Jon recons the bar with expert mixologist Sean Ford and expert chef Michael Ferraro.

They quickly notice the other big chains in the area and decide that the wheelhouse needs to stand out.

The rink is set back from the main road but has a nice sign and entrance.

The bar entrance has no sign or indication it was a separate entrance.

Inside, the decor of the bar is dated and tired.

Jon fills his experts in about the owner.

They see a bartender giving attitude to guests then partake in shots behind the bar.

Jesse is close by and does nothing.

TV personality Kevin Undergaro is Jon’s spy in the bar and he is to suss out their marketing strategies.

He orders a pizza and they see the bartender walk a distance through the deserted roller rink to the kitchen.

This is not good, as any food coming would get cold before it gets to the bar.

There is no POS so all of the orders are taken on paper.

The bartenders make the pizza in the conveyor oven that is not moving.

It takes more than 25 minutes so it got burnt and the bartender is angry at having to do the job of a cook.

Kevin talks to the bartender about the business of the bar.

He finds out people do not come because the bar is dated and there is no structure to the staff.

Someone orders a trashcan cocktail and they see the bartender throw almost every drink in the bar into it.

The customer makes a disgusted face at the first sip.

Kevin is told to ask for another pizza since he did not get the first one and he is told the kitchen is closed.

It is noticed people with alcohol are allowed on the rink.

Kevin moves around till he sees Jesse and gets some numbers from him on the customer numbers.

Jesse admits that business is not good and they are eight months from closing.

A lady on the roller rink that had alcohol crashes and falls over.

This is the last straw and Jon comes in to talk to Jesse.

Jon informs him that he needs the bar to operate independently.

He also points out that the staff are rude behind his back.

Jesse on hearing this does not get angry and Jon wonders if he is ready to treat his business like a business.

Jon leaves and Jesse shuts down the bar for a team meeting.

Ashley the bartender who was cooking and disrespectful to Jesse is let go.

Jon comes in the next day for a staff meeting.

The staff are not happy with the decision Jesse made but he is losing his business.

Jon introduces his experts and Michael asks for a cook which Jesse makes phone calls to find.

Sean trains the bartenders on the use of glass sizes for alcohol serving.

He makes them a new cocktail to replace the trashcan that tastes better.

Michael trains a former cook Jesse has called back on simple handheld food.

The food will be served in foil so the items will stay hot for longer.

Jon closes the skating rink so the community can focus on the bar.

Customers are let in for the stress test and immediately the drinks made at the bar are bad and have to be dumped.

Jesse has the tough job of taking food orders on paper and walking to the kitchen.

The confusion quickly starts as not enough info is on the order slips.

Kevin Undergarro is back for some more market research and he can see that Jesse is well liked.

Jesse is helped by his security team to run food while the drink buckets are full of dumped drinks.

Only one drink has successfully been served so the bar is shut down.

Jesse calls for a team meeting and apologises to them for the shortfalls and promises to make things better.

The next day Jon meets with the staff and gives them feedback on the market research and they are told that they dumped almost fifty drinks.

Sean trains the staff on simple cocktails.

Jon meets with Jesse and highlights how different he is from other bar owners he rescues.

He wants to help separate his businesses so they can both thrive independently.

Twenty four hours later, the bar has been renovated and it looks like the whole town has shown up to support Jesse.

The new bar is unveiled and it has been renamed to Derby’s Bar and Grill.

The exterior is more visible and lit up bright enough to be seen from the street.

The inside now has a theme with some historic skating pictures on the walls and a penalty box themed private area.

There are two 2touch POS systems in place and a printer in the kitchen.

There are new bar tools from Thunder group and Orange door Entertainment System have provided music and karaoke.

They also have a lifetime subscription to TVT for training.

Nothing in the bar is over $5 so they can cater to the community.

Terra Saunders of Waitressville Uniforms designed their derby themed uniforms.

On relaunch, customers are let in for the relaunch.

The bartenders are doing great making good counts and no drinks are dumped.

Food is ordered and the printer in the kitchen eliminates the long walk across.

The bartenders are doing better than they were on the stress test night.

Kevin is back and the customers see the place is like night and day and they are happy with the changes.

Jesse is doing great and is happy to see that the customers are happy.


What Happened Next at The Wheelhouse?

Six weeks later, it is revealed drinks sales are up 60% and food sales are up 75%.

Jesse enforces the rules.

The bartenders no longer drink on the job.

Increased sales has helped keep the roller rink open.

Jesse continued to make renovations at the bar after the rescue.

The Wheelhouse / Derby's Bar and Grill is open.

Reviews are mostly positive with some negative comments on atmosphere.

Click for more Bar Rescues

Previous episode - Champagne's Cafe

Next episode - City Bar / The Bradley

This post was last updated in August 2021.

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