When he’s not chewing out a sluggish manager or screaming at an incompetent bartender, fiery nightlife expert Jon Taffer stresses the importance of building experiences.
On his hit television show “Bar Rescue,” Taffer explains over and over to floundering bar staffs that ultimately, through good service and well-mixed drinks, they are stringing together reactions positive enough to give patrons — especially women, who men will follow — a reason to return.
Hundreds of bars and clubs that Taffer has fixed, opened, managed or owned over the last three decades follow his mantras.
But before Taffer ever owned his consulting business, hosted a makeover show or tended bar, there were Jersey experiences that kept the Long Island kid coming back year after year.
“I’ve been crossing the river for a lot of years,” Taffer said. “Growing up, I used to spend my summers in Ocean Grove. I love New Jersey — how do you not?”
Now in his 50s, Taffer is still intrigued by the Jersey nightlife.
“What’s interesting about New Jersey is its connection to New York and the tri-state area, Taffer said. “New York has a sophistication about it that rubs off on New Jersey. It’s a pretty sophisticated nightlife here for a place that calls itself the Garden State!”
These days, the state’s Shore-area bars have caught Taffer’s eye. He said the first New Jersey “Bar Rescue” will be shot next season, focusing on “another beach concept, which Jersey’s perfect for.”
As far as Shore spots that are doing it right, Taffer doesn’t stray far from the places he knows best.
“Asbury Park is really neat. I love that it’s coming back,” he said. “It’s hip again. I can picture the boardwalk. It’s classic New Jersey. There’s nothing like that anywhere else in the world.”
And Taffer has been all over the world, working in and with bars in 30 countries. But lately, he says, he’s been “overwhelmed” by his TV show, on the road shooting 46 weeks a year rebuilding hideous bars and retraining defeated employees with his team of experts.
But not all “rescues” are meant for failing businesses. An Oct. 28 episode centered on a Rockaway, N.Y., establishment that wasn’t losing money. The bar was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
“It was one of the most emotional ‘Bar Rescues’ I’ve had,” Taffer said. “The storm robbed these guys of their business. It’s really touching and the biggest remodel we’ve ever done.
In between dozens of food and drink face lifts at some of America’s worst watering holes, Taffer found time to write a book on his craft.
“Raise the Bar,” released Oct. 8, details what Taffer says makes him and his bars successful.
“In the book, I’m letting people know why ‘Bar Rescue’ works. What’s in me that makes it work. I share a lot of stories and try to inspire people.”
Taffer held a question-and-answer session and book signing Thursday at Bookends in Ridgewood, a spot seeming a little too small for the new celebrity.
But Taffer’s a mom-and-pop shop kind of guy.
“This is a locally owned, terrific business,” he said. “This is the epitome of great small business. I want to meet these people.”

Written by: Bobby Oliver, The Star-Ledger