Bellevue’s Sorties Tavern hits television screens Sunday night during the season premiere of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue.”
The show visits bars that may be struggling and overhauls them in hopes of saving them. The “Bar Rescue” crew came to the Omaha area late last year and transformed O’Banion’s Sports Bar into Sorties. Two other area bars will also be featured on the show.
We talked to host Jon Taffer about Sunday’s episode and also his time in Omaha. Catch the episode at 8 p.m.
Q: How do you link up with these bars?
A: Typically, the owner will contact us probably 80 percent of the time. (With O’Banion’s), two of the three owners contacted us, one of them was aware of it but wasn’t as proactive as the other two. Every once in awhile an employee will contact us, and you’ll see one of those this season where the owner knew we were coming, of course, but the employees
actually initiated the conversation.
In the episode, there’s this big dramatic moment where you come in to the bar and (owner and manager) Jerry is freaking out. Do you let the owners know that you’re there?
They believe that there is a good chance that I’m coming, but typically they think that if I am coming, I’m coming the next day or the day after. So we try to mix it up. Sometimes we come a little earlier than they think. We put our cameras and our crews there in advance. The question is, do I arrive the next day, do I arrive two days later, do I arrive at all? … And again, we don’t want them to be set up for us; that would be ridiculous. We want to see the bar and the situation as it truly is, so that first night is really, really important. We don’t let the market know where we’re coming, that we’re coming. We don’t want any “Bar Rescue” fans there. We try to keep it as real as we can.
How many hours a day do you spend with these people?

Twelve to 14 hours a day. What people typically don’t really understand about “Bar Rescue” is honestly how real it is. A, not one word is scripted. Separate of that, during the five days that we’re there, we create the logo, the signage, the exterior design, the interior design, the food recipes (and) the beverage recipes. We program the POS (point-of-sale) cash register systems, we train the staff.
Can you talk about the most outrageous thing you saw while you were here?
Actually, one of the most outrageous things I saw at a bar, I saw downtown. And it’s an episode that’s coming up this season where I found a dead rat underneath a couch about 10 inches from where a customer was sitting. … It was the worst moment, the worst single offense that I saw within the four walls of the bar. Let’s just say this: My trip to Omaha and the three bars that I did brought me some of the biggest challenges I’ve had in “Bar Rescue,” some large professional challenges but also provided me, in one case in particular, with one of the most personally rewarding experiences I’ve had.
I know that when you were here, you spent a lot of time at bars that you liked. You were at Berry & Rye and Wilson & Washburn. Were there any Omaha bars that you thought were doing it really well?

I thought (the Old Market) was one of the best downtown destination areas I’ve seen in America. It’s special. It’s really good to see that there’s great mixology bars, really fun restaurants coming in there, we had some great dinners down there. … It’s very special, and few cities have an area like that that’s as special. We really enjoyed being there. Honestly, Omaha has a far more sophisticated mixology and restaurant marketplace than many people think, and I thought it was terrific.
Written by Andrew Kszystyniak for The Omaha World-Herald.