Jon Taffer Reveals the One Surprising Thing He Always Brings When Visiting the Bars He's Making Over (Exclusive)

Jon Taffer has just about seen it all — a dead raccoon in a drawer, a rat-filled kitchen and a cockroach infestation

Published Time: 05.07.2024 - 03:31:09 Modified Time: 05.07.2024 - 03:31:09

Jon Taffer has just about seen it all — a dead raccoon in a drawer, a rat-filled kitchen and a cockroach infestation. But the Bar Rescue host has developed some tricks for facing the worst of the worst.

"We've witnessed some remarkable things," Taffer, 69, tells PEOPLE with a chuckle. The entrepreneur and hospitality expert is reflecting on his hit series, which has officially run for 250 episodes — crossing that milestone with the June 30th installment.

Bar Rescue's premise is that Taffer can use his industry expertise, along with a team of other food and beverage professionals, to help failing bars turn things around. Sometimes what he encounters at the start of the episode — pre-rehabilitation — is unimaginable, though.

Some highlights — really, highlights not lowlights, as Taffer feels that "the greatest episodes are the hardest ones to do" — include the "class-5 cockroach infestation" at an Austin, Texas, bar back in 2013.

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"It was disgusting," says Taffer. "We've had some powerful experiences, mostly sanitation-type experiences. I remember opening up a kitchen drawer and it was a dead raccoon in it. I remember standing in the kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with my chef and the rats were running into our sneakers as we were wearing them."

Those experiences have led Taffer to develop a "little secret": "I've never said this to any press before, ever. I take powdered garlic and I pour it on my tongue inside some of these kitchens because they smell so bad."

Once the garlic is in place, Taffer breathes through his mouth. The trick only works "for a minute or so," but it's helped him through many gag-inducing restaurants an -

d bars.

Taffer isn't reticent about sharing another behind-the-scenes scoop: His show's establishment makeovers, done impressively fast, don't leave time for matching furniture.

"When we put the design together, it's after recon. So when recon ends and the cameras stop, we go in and design the bar that night. So now I have a design," he says. "The next day we gotta find bar stools and tables. Well, we can never find 60 bar stools of the same type overnight. But we can find eight of these, 12 of those ... Look at the Bar Rescue remodels. You'll notice — rarely do all the bar stools match."

While the seating options may be miss-matched, Taffer's purpose is consistent and clear — even as he takes a backseat to some guest hosts in season 9.

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"Bar Rescue is about people not bars," he tells PEOPLE. "And it's about the struggles. . . . The bars tend to be more of a backdrop."

Working with people whose livelihoods — and often much more — are on the line has "changed my empathy," he says. "I understand that my success comes from other people. I'm more humble today as a result of being on TV, believe it or not."

"I find something to fight for, not something to fight against," Taffer says of his method. "Once I find out what I'm fighting for — the house, the wife, the husband, the kids, getting their debt paid off — then I can go to war and stop at nothing to achieve it, including insulting them, calling them out, being obscenely direct. Because now I'm on a mission, and I know what that mission is. And it's a very powerful experience to go through it as a host."

Bar Rescue airs Sundays on Paramount Network and is available to stream on Paramount Plus.

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