Nightlife consultant Jon Taffer has seen some of the worst watering holes have to offer on Spike TV's "Bar Rescue," helping drinking establishments — sometimes through use of force — to improve their business. So he knows warning signs when he sees them. Here are his tips for spotting red flags the next time you're out on the town.
1. "If there's a bottle of vermouth in sight — in other words, not in the refrigerator — then they don't know what they're doing. Every bottle of vermouth once it's open must be refrigerated. It's wine. It will go bad. That's a big problem with bars, they don't know that. If the vermouth isn't in the refrigerator, I wouldn't order anything."
2. "If a back bar is disorganized — just s— is everywhere — that would clearly be a sign."
3. "If you put your hand under the table and it's covered in chewing gum, that might be a good indication. Same with the bar."
4. "Every bar has a cutting board behind it. They typically are white plastic. If it's brown in the middle, I'm not sure I'd be drinking there. Because the brown in the middle is actually a bacteria colony. The fruit wasn't brown when he cut it, and the board wasn't brown when he cut it. What's brown is the bad stuff."
5. "If a menu is sticky or is dirty or has thumbprints on it, obviously that would be a sign."
6. "Music so defines a bar. When you walk into a bar, the music that you hear will tell you all about the people that it wants to have there — or the people that are there. If the music is uncool, then probably the bar isn't going to be cool in your perception."
7. "If you walk into an empty bar and there's a bartender working there, I often scratch my head. Would any great bartender work in a bar that was empty? The answer is no. So if the place is empty, I'm not sure I'd go much farther than that."
Over four seasons of "Bar Rescue," Jon Taffer has rescued hundreds of struggling nightlife spots. But sometimes the task can seem too much even for him. So what's the worst he's ever seen? Hope you have a strong stomach.
"In 'Bar Rescue' we've seen a lot of disgusting stuff, but to me the most disgusting of all is the bugs and the rats," he says. "I've seen bugs in bottles that took a product that's clear and made it milky, there were so many bugs in it. What's floating around in those jars — and a lot of bars have these bugs — is feces, body parts, skeletons, eggs, colonies. It's fricking disgusting."
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