Bar Rescue - Underground Wonder Bar - CLOSED

Underground Wonder Bar Bar Rescue

In this episode of Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer visits the Underground Wonder Bar in the River North District of Chicago.

Underground Wonder Bar is owned by Lonie Walker decided to open up a music venue of her own.

She opened the bar in 1989 after over a decade of performing in various bars/venues all over Chicago.

The bar was the go to place for live music in the city.

Lonie says that her favorite part is being able to play live music four nights a week.

Lonie ran the bar successfully in this location for 21 years.

In 2011, she was forced to move out when the building was sold for a city development project.

After borrowing over $360,000 from family and friends, Lonie was able to move her bar to the higher-rent district of River North Chicago.

Lonie says they are doing the same amount of business but her overhead costs are astronomically higher.

She says they are losing $2,000 every month.

Lonie continues to perform with her band four nights a week but soon became out of tune with the younger River North clientele.

Bartender Ruby says that Lonie is very stubborn and that she insists on being a performer and running the bar.

Lonie’s son Jordon says that she has a huge influence with making the menu all vegan foods.

Due to not adapting to the new clientele, Lonie is left with underutilized space, unmotivated staff and over half a million in piling debt.

Since his mom is so stubborn, Jordon makes a call for help to bar rescue.

Jon brings in former bartender of the year, Russel Davis and expert chef Chef Pink.

The Underground Wonder bar is a two-level 3,300 square-foot space.

Jon brings in John and Mimi from The Local to do recon tonight.

Jon says that Lonie can’t sing.

Lonie’s rent at the old space was $2,000 a month, while the rent at her current space is $18,000 a month.

John says that Lonie doing her thing with her music is odd.

Jon says her delusion ends right now and he walks into the bar.

He asks what the crayons have to do with this bar.

Jon asks her if she wants to doodle or if she wants help.

She then goes on to ask if he dyes his hair.

Jon says, “So you’re going to attack me personally because I’m attacking your business? Is that where you’re at?”

Jon tells her to pick her dream or pick money because she can’t have both.

She tells Jon that she doesn’t trust him and says that he’s not here to feed her ego.

He tells Jordon to talk to his mom.

Jon meets with the staff to discuss what happened.

Jordon tells his mom that she has to step down for a little bit.

Jon brings in his experts and introduces them to the staff.

Russel shows the staff the proper way to make an Old Fashioned.

Chef Pink shows them a proper Chicago pizza, not frozen.

Lonie is talking down on the pizza because it’s not something she would eat herself.

Lonie is rejecting the help of Jon and his experts.

Jon says that he’s never seen a bar so mismatched with the marketplace than this bar.

Jon says that he’s changing everything about this bar including the name.

He tells the staff to paint the outside of the bar white and that it’s a fresh beginning.

Jon makes them sign an agreement that they won’t change the name of the new bar for a year.

Jon says that for tonight’s stress test and there will be no music.

He wants to focus on operations.

Jon says he wants to see Lonie own this bar.

Lonie says she is not happy because Underground isn’t itself without music.

Underground Wonder Bar opens for stress test.

Ruby has a bad attitude and she’s slow with making drinks.

Jon says that Jordon shows true promise to this bar.

He thinks that if Lonie steps back and lets Jordon manage the bar then it could be really successful.

Customers are waiting a long time for their drinks.

The kitchen is getting backed up and Lonie isn’t helping at all.

Lonie isn’t answering when her name is called multiple times.

Jon tells Jordon to close the bar down.

The next morning, Jon meets with Lonie and Jordon.

Lonie says that she is sorry for what appeared to be resistance to change but she’s ready to change now.

Jon brings back the documents about not changing the name of the bar.

Lonie signs them and Jordon will be taking over as general manager.

Russel shows them new drinks that they will be adding to the menu, such as the Clear Collins and the Art and Money Mule.

Chef Pink shows them recipes that will be added to the new menu.

Jon tells them to get out of here and to not come back for 36 hours.

He begins the construction for the bar’s remodel.

Jon brings the staff back to the bar to show them the remodel.

Jon says that Lonie is the most difficult owner he’s ever worked with.

Lonie doesn’t look impressed with the new bar.

Underground has been renamed and is now called Clear Bar.

Jordon says that this new bar looks awesome.

Jon tells the staff to go inside to see all the changes.

The rest of the staff all think the bar looks amazing.

Lonie is slowly warming up to the bar and she said she loves what she’s seen and felt.

Lonie did a dance of joy and Jon hugged Lonie.

Jon also gives them Partender for six months.

He installed a damping system for the sound.

Lonie is excited for this new bar.

The Clear Bar opens for the first time since remodel.

On relaunch, everyone is so excited to be in this bar.

Jordon is doing an amazing job as general manager.

He’s staying very involved and Jon said he can lead this bar to success.

Live music begins playing, and the customers love it.

Jon said he never thought Lonie would turn around but she did.

Jon hugs Jordon and Lonie and says that his work is done.

Lonie now trusts Jon.


What Happened Next at Underground Wonder Bar?

Six weeks later, food and drinks sales are up 30%.

Lonie took the Clear Bar sign down days after Jon left.

Lonie claims that Wonder will live on forever.

They quickly reverted back to their old name and returned the crayons.

Lonie said she wasn't in as much debt as the show made out.

Underground Wonder Bar closed in September 2017.

The building was listed for sale in January 2017.


Click for more Bar Rescues

Previous episode - Second Base Bar and Grill / Extremes

Next episode - Toucans Oceanside Bar and Grill / Bonny and Read’s

This post was last updated in September 2021.

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