Nightclub King Jon Taffer Sets A High Bar

Play associated audio

Jon Taffer is the king of the bar business. Over the past three decades, he has managed dozens of bars and nightclubs, and is a consultant for bar owners all over the country.

Most recently, he has put his expertise to use as the host of the popular reality show Bar Rescue. Bar and nightclub owners with failing businesses ask Taffer for his help. In return, Taffer brings a team of bartenders, chefs and designers with him to revamp every part of the operation. On the show, as in person, Taffer is a tough, no-nonsense guy.

Bar Rescue is now in its third season, and Taffer has just published a book of bar wisdom called Raise the Bar. He sat down for a drink with NPR host Arun Rath.

Interview Highlights

On making money in the bar business

It's a tough business. People think it's inherently profitable but it's not. You know the alcohol in a drink is only about 20 percent of the price. So for every dollar a drink costs, the cost to the bar is only 20 cents. But that doesn't include labor, insurance, rent. When you're finished, bars are not inherently profitable. You got to work at them to make them profitable.

On the dual nature of running a bar

It's almost like show business, you know, on-stage, off-stage. When you're on-stage, you're expected to perform in the bar business. You shake hands, you smile, you're all positive energy, you add to your environment. When you walk in the door to the back of the house, that's like a stage door. You're off-stage now. You're a business man, you're in the hospitality business and you're focused on costs, managing your employees, and all the other aspects of business. It's a dual existence, really.

On bars in American history

You know, you got to remember what bars are. The second public building ever built in America was a bar. The first was a church. The first distiller in America was George Washington. Made about 10 thousand gallons of bourbon a year. So bars are a part of the fiber of America. And when they work, they make people feel good. People connect to a good bar, very personally.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


'Tis The Season For Coming Attractions: What To Watch For At The Multiplex

NPR film critic Bob Mondello offers a selective preview of the likely blockbusters and Oscar contenders that Hollywood has in store for the end of the year.

Swapping The Street For The Orchard, City Dwellers Take Their Pick Of Fruit

Urban foragers don't just pick their meals from the trash; many eat only the finest, freshest produce — picked from city trees. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees to make jam.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.