Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bar Rescue in Omaha Final Recap -- PART 2

In the now ongoing saga that is/was Bar Rescue in Omaha, we bring you our update on the first Omaha bar in the Taffer shooting gallery.  For those that don't remember, this is the one that got HTD in "hot water" with skinny jeans-wearing PR types in California...but more notably...this is the scene of our first interaction with Guy Incognito.

Since I wasn't at any of the Bar Rescue "events", I will let Guy give you the 411...



Guy Incognito Reporting...

I only kinda followed this bar's rescue, showing up for only the grand reopening. As a fan of the show, I originally just wanted to participate. When I got there, everything was dead quiet, and it felt like I had stumbled upon a homicide crime scene, where no one was talking and everyone was to stay away. It was clear security was in place and there was some sort of production going on, but the only people visible were security folks scattered around the parking lot.

What took place over the next few hours were complete frustration, and I started informing Scuba Steve about what was going on from my location. When Taffer finally appeared in what was an absolutely long and drawn-out process to line up the O'Banion's staff with their backs turned toward the new sign, I witnessed the first murder of my reality TV notions: multiple takes of the reveal!

Then they did two takes of the staff excitedly running up to the door like they were going to rush inside. The first time they did it, though, the owner ran up to the door like he was going to open it with the staff running behind him, but he never did. They all paused at the producers' request and then turned around and regrouped in a spot away from the door to do the approach again, but this time for real. Huh?



The shooting schedule was asinine. A moment that lasts 3 minutes in the show took about an hour to film. And that might be conservative. If this is supposed to uninhibited reality, why should it take that long to capture these moments if you could simply have cameras set up to get this in one fluid shot? You'd think they would want this to look as genuine as possible and capture raw emotions.

This was also my first brush with the incompetent security. Early on, I heard 9:30 would likely be opening time, but I foolishly stuck around thinking maybe that would be accurate. I was so wrong when they didn't admit anyone until around 11 p.m., and they hardly even took anyone from the crowd that had been waiting all night, basically giving these fans the middle finger as their "thank you" for sticking it out.

Does anyone honestly think that O'Banion's will remain Sorties Tavern? Granted, the more I've said/typed it, the more it has grown on me, but it's still not an ideal name from using an obscure military term. I don't doubt Taffer's noble effort will be to lure the local military personnel to this place for drinks, but do they really need a Disneyland vision of the Air Force to bring these people in?

I don't know, maybe it will, but what ever happened to just having a well-managed bar in close proximity to the base? These people don't care if you're just a cookie-cutter Irish dive bar. If you serve beer, they will come.

NOTE:  A full recap of Oasis Hookah Bar tomorrow...leading up to our blow-by-blow reporting of the brawl at the OFace Bar on Friday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bar Rescue in Omaha Final Recap -- PART 1

With Bar Rescue hightailing it out of the Omaha area faster than a hobo grabbing for a ham sandwich, we decided to relive the greatest thing to ever happen to the readership of HitThatDive...and that is the three weeks that their buffoonish production crew spent in and around the Omaha-area.

I will say, in all sincerity, a very special to Jon Taffer for busting the readership of HTD through the ROOF...and just before we launch a new site and start selling ads!  SCORE!

As always, our special four-part recap of the events of Bar Rescue in Omaha are led by HTD Chief Investigative Correspondent "Guy Incognito".  But, just who is Guy Incognito, and why did he dog the production crew of Bar Rescue as heavily as he did?  Well, let's have him give it to you in his own words.  So Guy...by now...you know the drill.  The bar floor is yours...

How To Fool The Bar Rescue Crew Time and Time Again

"With the future of O'Face Bar hanging in the balance and Bar Rescue nowhere in sight, I guess it's time to sit down and digest what transpired over the past three weeks.

For anyone climbing out from under their rock, clean yourself up and come back here when you're done. Then read this for a quick summary of what has happened: O'Banion's Bar & Grill, Oasis Hookah Bar and O'Face Bar -- all local bars that are allegedly struggling to the point of requiring intervention and also happen to start with the letter "O" -- were visited by Jon Taffer and the rest of the folks from the popular SpikeTV show, Bar Rescue. You don't need to watch the show to put together the reason for the visit, as long as you read my last (very long) sentence correctly.

To be honest, it was complete coincidence that I happened to find out about this going on after I plugged "Bar Rescue Omaha" into Google three weeks ago out of morbid curiosity to see if anyone has ever talked about the show visiting Omaha, and lo and behold, I hit an EXCELLENT Facebook page called Hit That Dive that was discussing it back in June. But wait! There were recent posts that picked up momentum in October that it was happening soon! Then came the realization it was happening NOW!
Bar Rescue is Staged?

The problem is that I don't believe in destiny or fate, so I am left to simply believe that Jon Taffer must've directly beamed a psychic singing telegram through my TV and into my brain with him tap-dancing and bellowing the Nebraska fight song, while wearing a red sequined tuxedo with a top hat and balancing monkeys on his shoulders that are drinking expertly-mixed martini cocktails out of glassware made by the ThunderGroup while he cautiously dances through a maze of butt funnels. It is honestly my most sound theory as to how I came across this information with such perfect timing.

Okay, so full disclosure: I actually really like Bar Rescue as a television show. I enjoy watching it, I watch it every Sunday and I find it very entertaining. I appreciate a lot of the interesting points Jon Taffer makes in regards to how to run a business better, and the idea of "bar science" that he provides can be pretty insightful, whether it's real economics or total b.s. It is, however, reality television, which means that it's an altered reality.

Or at least it's the reality that the cameras allow you to see, often cutting out a lot of significant parts that might sway the viewers in the direction that the producers don't want us to go. They go to pain-staking efforts to establish this simple premise for the show: Taffer is God, and everyone else are idiots.

Bring me the heads of Guy Incognito and Scuba Steve!

So you're probably asking after reading my write-ups about these events: why all the hate?

I don't consider it hate so much as I do just watching their operation in action and laughing at the absurd reality the production of this show exists in. It wasn't until this experience that I realized I finally had answers to questions that I always had in the back of my mind, but was too afraid to ask, for fear it would ruin the magic. I think anyone reading this who watches the show regularly knows what I'm talking about.

If you don't want to know the answers to these questions, then you probably don't want to read my write-ups about my experiences with the show. Ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to finding out what the reality is behind reality shows. If there are times you thought the timing of something was too good to be true, it most likely was staged or edited to look that way.

So let's go back through Bar Rescue's three local targets."

Coming later today...full recap of O'Banion's/Sorties Tavern...

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Hideout Lounge, Omaha -- REVIEW

Hidden for sure
320 S. 72nd Street
Omaha NE 68114
402 391 2554

A few days ago, Tom Jackson from The Hideout Lounge posted a picture on the HTD Facebook page which ultimately turned out to be "an ass shaft" out of the bar's claw machine duct taped to the top of Stanley Cup replica with the words "Hit That Dive" written in Sharpie on the ass shaft itself (Lord Stanley would be so proud).  ASSuming (get it) that was an invitation to drop by the bar to write down my impressions of the place, I immediately let Tom know I would be there the following day.

As it turns out, I raised the eyebrows of a few regular readers by letting the bar know that I would be stopping by because A) I would stand out like a sore thumb and B) HTD reviews, for the most part, are always done anonymously...and the bar du jour never gets a warning ahead of time.  I have said, through social media a few times, where I would be ahead of time. But, as for the sticking out like a sore thumb part...I (as always) needed to channel my inner Irwin M. Fletcher aka "Fletch" to make sure my presence wasn't detected.

Decor by Mr. Blutarsky
For me, the real test is to see if I can get in and out of a bar without really being noticed.  As far as I can tell, I usually do a decent job of blending in with the regulars even though it never fails that I get the "who the hell are you" look every time I walk into a new bar for the first time.  Oh, I still get that look at bars I've been to before too...wait...or do I not blend in as well as I thought?  Anyway...

PROS:  Reminded of the great Double Down Saloon in Vegas. The prevailing "who gives a shit what people think let's have fun" vibe.

CONS:  A bit hard to find.  Not necessarily the bar for everyone.  

First Impressions:  All I really know about this place is from the well done video by OmahaNightout Guide...so I at least have an idea what to expect when I open the seeming giant wooden doors.  The bar itself is in the corner of a strip mall, but within two seconds you will notice this is NOT a strip mall bar...in the least.  Remember those days of getting drunk at field parties and concocting a plan for you and all of your asshole buddies to buy a bar and live in it?  Chances are, it would look pretty much like this...including the fact that there was not a single non-dude anywhere to be spotted. (FYI: Two cute girls did show up toward the end of my visit)

Looking good to me
The Bar:  In looking at my meager notes from my trip here, I noticed that I wrote it reminded me of the toga party scene from Animal House in the basement of the Delta House. Part bar, part music venue...and all dude...I dug this place from the moment I sat down.  They have five beers on tap, all with cups on top indicating (in most bars) that the keg is empty.  There are more than enough pitchers hanging from above the bar to drown Larry Kroger (Detla Tau Chi name Pinto)...several times over. It's not a huge place, but there is plenty of room to just sit and hang out...play cards...or watch a show (if there was one that night) on the stage in the other room.  Of note...it's impossible to miss the well-lit picture of "The Most Interesting Man in the World" hanging on the one wall.

The Crowd:  At some point I was waiting for "Irish" Micky Ward (played by Marky Mark, of course) to walk through door at any second.  Want to fit in immediately?  Easy. Hat. Hoodie.  Beer in hand...simple as that.  Led by owner (and ringleader) Dave Blackman, the regulars are here to drink, smoke, play cards on the pool table and not give a shit about much else.  This sort of bare-knuckles approach to bar life might not be everyone's cup of tea...but don't let that scare you off either. Dave, in particular, was great to sit and talk with between hands of cards and watching the action on TV during the Husker/Penn State game.

In the name of love?
Service:  Need a beer?  Someone will get it for you. Usually it was Dave, but it seemed like anyone would grab you another round if Dave was doing something else. Actually, using the word "service" almost seems out of place.  If you wanted a beer, you got one in no time flat.  "Service" almost sounds too fancy for The Hideout.

Price:  Normally, I would have been drinking one of the beers on tap, but like I said there were cups on all five handles, so I went with a bottle of domestic beer that set me back $2.75.  Looks like they have decent specials including a happy hour that runs M-F 5:00-7:00. They also do daily shot and beer specials that can get you a $3.00 shot of Polish or a $2.50 Rolling Rock tallboy.  Check the sign on your way in, or just ask someone, I'm pretty sure everyone around you knows what the cheap drink is at any given point of the day.

Food: Come here thirsty...hungry...not so much.

Entertainment:  This is a music venue, so check before you show up, because there may be a touring punk band and there also may be a cover.  Show up on a non-gig night and there's a pool table, dartboard, and the crane game where the ass shaft came from.  There aren't a ton of TVs, but still enough that is wasn't an issue to watch the Huskers sneak out a win in overtime.  For the Chicago sports fans reading this, The Hideout is most definitely a place you will want to be at if and when the Cubs ever make the World Series again in your lifetime.

Better than anticipated
Bartender Chat:  Nothing all that major, from what I recall.  Just sports and that sort of idle bar
chatter.  I'd go back just to shoot the shit with Dave again...other than the fact that he's a Chicago Blackhawks fan...he seemed like a great bartender/owner that was cool to me the entire time a sat in his bar.

Restrooms:  Kind of disappointed on this one.  I was under the impression from several reviews on Yelp that these would really be pretty bad, but as it turns out, they were fine enough in my book. Maybe I've become desensitized to bad crappers in bars over the last few years...but I swear these ones were fine to me.

How Far Far Did My $20 Go?:  This was not my first stop of the day, so I didn't make it through my 20 bucks...BUT...time it right and you're looking at eight tallboys (don't forget to tip) and that is one hell of a deal!


Call
Final Impressions:  Any time I walk into a bar and am immediately reminded of the great Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas...that's a very good thing.  Every city needs at least one bar that has a "punch you in the face mentality" that The Hideout has.  I'm not saying that you WILL get a punch in mouth...I'm saying that a bar that knows what it is, knows what it wants to be to its customers, and probably doesn't give a shit about what you think if you don't like this approach to running a bar.

Oh sure, you can name a bunch of bars with that "vibe" but I bet they can't pull it off in the successful manner that Dave and crew do here.  Like I said, this place isn't for everyone...which is just what I assume they want.  Even though there's a huge PBR sign on the front door...I guarantee you there will NEVER be an onslaught of hipsters walking in here.  In fact, think of a hipster bar and then think the complete opposite... THAT'S the Hideout (just with PBR specials).
HIT THIS DIVE!

DIVE-O-METER: 
7.5


Thanks for the invite!








Friday, November 22, 2013

Haunted Hangover -- RECAP

Hopefully, by now, everyone is fully recovered (and accounted for) after the Sunday Funday that was HitThatDive's Haunted Hangover.  Thank you to everyone that made this one of the most memorable HTD events, that the majority of people had a hard time remembering in the morning.  Which is always my way to say...let's do this again!

Below are just a handful of photos that people shared in the social media contest for the final two bottles of Jim Beam Devil's Cut and Jacob's Ghost.  So, the real question is...who are the winners? Well, that's easy, just scroll through all the pictures and see if your name is there.  And the winners are...





















...Marcia Ponciano Wallace and Raychael Workman...congratulations to both of you!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Behind the Scenes with Bar Rescue in Council Bluffs -- OFace Bar


Guy Incognito was hard to spot last night.
If you still have even the slightest notion that "reality" television is real, please stop reading now.  However, if that's the case I assume that still you believe in the tooth fairy, that www.healthcare.gov is functioning properly and that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a sexy, sexy man.  

Covering the phony-baloney exploits of Bar Rescue is becoming as tiring and boring as the show itself.  HOWEVER, as long as they are in the area we will cover their every move because it has been a HUGE boost in readers to this here blog!  Hey Taffer, where can I send you a fruit basket? Your crews bumbling ways have done more for HitThatDive than a hoard of brawling drunk monkeys could have ever done!

As always, I will hand it off to the incomparable Guy Incognito for his always fantastically entertaining play-by-play of the evening's ringside events.  Guy, the greasy Barbie stripper pole is all yours Kemosabe...

"I was coming down off my Moroccan high from last week at the Taza Nightclub, only to reinsert myself into madness tonight at the O'Face Bar. I arrived with full confidence that tonight was the stress test, but I was so wrong.
 
There really wasn't a lot of action when I arrived. Just a couple cameras, security people and a waiver table. Business as usual at the O'Face, I guess.

Upon entering the bar, it was surprising that there was only one camera closer to the back of the bar, and that was it. It was also strange that I was wandering into a stress test where people were sitting right away and there was hardly a crowd. Taffer was also completely absent. Hmm...


I actually enjoyed the atmosphere, as I can appreciate the charms of a good dive bar. A mason jar full of beer is actually not a bad deal for $3.50. Plus, y'know... you're drinking out of a mason jar.


Something felt really odd about the whole thing, though. The service was good and the people were friendly, and it wasn't long until there were actually no cameras anymore. I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Did they already film for the day??? This didn't seem like a Taffer-approved bar at the moment.


I was still stuck on the notion that tonight was the stress test, but there was nothing stressful about it, and there were no Bar Rescue celebrities to guide/yell at the O'Face staff. There were quite a few people there, and it was clear that most of them were not regulars, but they weren't overwhelming the bar in the least. I was wondering if perhaps there was a "surprise" stress test where a whole bus of people were going to unload and grind the operation to a halt. But after awhile, I felt like I had been duped and was really confused as to what happened.

O-dear Face!

Despite my reservations, though, they had the telltale signs that they were filming at that location, and still perhaps going to film there: the houselights were up and the music was off. But my faith was dwindling, and I was ready to bid my fair Council Bluffs friends adieu and be on my way. And that's when things got weird.

First off, the owner would not stop ringing some god forsaken bell at the end of the bar, like Tio Salamanca in Breaking Bad. Apparently that was her signal that she wanted a drink, so it would only make sense that all patrons would have to wait for her to wet her muzzle before the rest of us could order our drinks. It is also apparently impossible for her to walk behind the bar and pour her own.


This ringing seemed to be escalating and people seemed to be getting louder. All of the sudden the owner was on the loud speaker insulting the size of the manager's manhood and then taunting him into taking a shot straight from the Jagermeister machine. Wha-??? People were cheering and hooting and hollering. Seriously, is this business as usual? Because I wouldn't know!


Then the house music came on and I noticed the camera was back in the building. Girls were dancing seductively to the music, with one girl getting up ON the bar and dancing like a stripper -- if only her mother had sprung for ballet lessons like the rest of her friends!


Through all of this, the regulars could be overheard complaining about how awful the bar had become with the poor management. People started getting restless and arguing and getting progressively louder.


Then apparently a fight broke out between one of the bartenders (a female) and some other woman. They went outside to settle things the street-smart way, but woe was them when Jon Taffer showed up out of nowhere to get in their faces and scream at them. Then the owner was called outside to get Taffer'd herself. It was fun to watch how far his eyes could bulge as he got right in her face and screamed at her for what seemed like several minutes.


At this time, we were all held in the bar and told we couldn't leave the building. This was getting ridiculous.




From what I understand, the owner was forced to fire the battle-prone bartender. The sequence of everything is a blur, but I know the owner came back in and was in a shouting match with the manager, and they were now magically wearing microphones. They may have been wearing them all night, but I finally just noticed them at this point. The argument seemed contrived, and they bickered back and forth at each other.

Then the cops showed up (in like 6 cop cars) to remove the emotional trainwreck of a bartender because she wouldn't leave the premises. The cameras mostly stayed on her and the altercation. After all that drama, Taffer had disappeared. I assume somewhere in his shouting match with the owner, he probably said something about how he was disgusted with her and wouldn't come back until tomorrow to resume his work.


So, to recap, I was having a pleasant night at the O'Face before having my senses assaulted by complete drama. It seemed like more than a coincidence that O'Face was happily going about its divey ways before suddenly hitting a mega snafu that would spiral out of control like a Shakespearian tragedy where everyone loses. But hey, at least the cameras happened to be there at the exact right time to capture all of that!


It was fun to be there for recon night, but I wish Taffer would've made it into the building so I could've heard what else he had to say. So I suppose that puts the stress test on pace for Wednesday night and the grand reopening on Saturday night.


My attendance for either is questionable, but don't completely count me out."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Behind the Scenes with Bar Rescue in Omaha -- Taza Nightclub

"Guy" looking very Moroccan last night
HitThatDive informant, "Guy Incognito" was at it again last night to bring you his in-depth recap of the "ins and outs" of the overly staged (again) reveal at the former Oasis Hookah Bar.

As usual, Guy suffers though another one of these "events" so you don't have to.  It's getting to the point that he doesn't want to go to another one either.  Apparently the Stress Test is far more Bar Rescue-fan friendly if you want to attend the final two spots in Omaha.

Guy, as always, the sticky bar floor is yours my friend...whomever you may be.

"So I drove by my destination at about 7:30 thinking there would be a swarm of people outside since it was a Friday night, but I hardly saw anybody (reminded me of my stress test visit on Tuesday). I did, however, see a crew uncovering the new sign just enough so I could read it: Taza Nightclub. The sign's font makes it look like TaZa. Is it like "ta-da!"? I don't get it, and I don't think we'll know until the episode airs.

I could tell the sign made it appear to have a Persian theme, with cheap-looking arched window graphics (almost like cellophane) plastered in the front windows to complete the look in case we were too stupid to understand what they're going for. I'm just happy for them that they have a normal sign now!

Parking was a chore, but I realized the main reason was Larry the Cable Guy performing at the Orpheum nearby. The Taza Nightclub didn't seem like their scene anyway, so I knew we probably wouldn't be contending with them anytime tonight.

Once I got parked and walked to the general area, security stopped me and told me stuff probably wouldn't be going down until 9:30 or 10. I took this as my cue to get dinner, then returned about 9:15. Just like I saw at Sorties, they were filming multiple takes of the big reveal, with the staff feigning surprise repeatedly.

I ended up at the corner of 15th & Farnam at the same place where they had set up the table with waivers on Tuesday for the stress test, assuming it would be the same drill. The security guard instead tried telling the few people there that the line would be on the other side of the street -- a spot where another security person had just told me NOT to stand as I was running the risk of being in the background of their reveal shots. WTF?

How long will this place last?

So at this point, I knew I was dealing with the same incompetence that reared its head at Sorties, and so I didn't go where he asked, instead staying at the corner. Of course, I trusted my instincts and ended up being right! However, this wasn't without some waiting.

That security guard gave me a timeframe of 10:30 or 11 for the opening. They didn't set up the waiver station on the corner until about 10 or 10:15. At about this time, there was a line of about 25 people. I was feeling pretty good about being close to the front, though, so I didn't feel like I'd have a repeat of my experience at Sorties.

These warm fuzzy feelings of mine began to fade, though, as people started showing up and getting the preferential treatment. While there were some people that blatantly cut in line and were immediately shunned to the back, there were family and friends showing up that were being ushered straight to the front.

So now my place in line was slipping. But you know what? I'll give it up for family and close friends. That's fine, they deserve to be there for their loved ones during this big change. However, I will not be patient with crew members just cramming seemingly random people in front of me who have more of the young clubber look to them. It looks great for the camera to have these people up front, but is just plain downright rude to give the express treatment to people who are arriving late to the show in front of people who have been patiently waiting out in the cold for 2 hours. So much for respecting fans of the show and the average joes who will ultimately determine the club's fate. However, the BR staff will never give the courtesy of explaining why they're shoving people in front of you. But that's showbiz!

It also didn't help that, as of 11:30, there was still no indication of when anything was going to happen. Just more people being packed to the front of the line. Apparently the Bar Rescue staff constructs lines in reverse of social norms. All of us normal people behind all the "VIPs" were starting to get restless and irritated, and the line was stretching almost to the end of the block. It was about 11:50 p.m.(!) when the manager/owner/important person finally came out, greeted everyone, and invited us in. They let the line enter in small waves so as not to overwhelm the staff, because apparently we only do that on the night of the stress test. I didn't have to wait too long before I was in.

The interior of the club was definitely an improvement over what I saw on Tuesday. I will give credit to Taffer for creating a cohesive theme, rather than the random-colored walls and loose tropical motif. I can't say that a Moroccan nightclub is my thing, but if it is anyone else's, this is the place for you! The nightclub seems like Vegas done cheap. It is also quite clearly a nightclub targeted at women.

There was a lot of Arabian furniture, which includes chairs that I don't really consider chairs -- more like cylindrical pillows you can sit on. I'm sure there's an official name for them, but I don't have that readily available. There were many other chairs and sofas and such with the same general theme. So instead of having a lot of comfortable chairs, Taffer has put in seating that will increase social interaction by giving people seating that isn't closed off, and instead allows a full range of motion. I personally prefer a nice comfortable chair to sit in so I can enjoy my drinks for a couple hours. But maybe that's why I'm not a big nightclub guy.

Never would I order any of these!

Also, to round out the nightclub, they did the obvious task of clearing the way for a dance floor. This was logical, and I had a feeling Taffer was going to do this since they had a perfectly good DJ booth with nowhere to dance before the renovation. This was at the sacrifice of some seating, though, so this club certainly promotes a lot more standing and dancing.

The most notable change: NO MORE HOOKAHS!

I had an inkling Taffer would do away with these, and I'm sure when we see the episode, he will spout off some random statistic or study that shows that hookahs are bad business and out of style and kill innocent puppies and so on. I predict that the episode will highlight strife between him and the owner and staff over this change, but he'll find the middle ground with them by creating this Moroccan paradise that is almost as intoxicating as puffing on a hookah. But in all seriousness, I can't help but think they'll bring back the hookahs after the dust has settled if business goes back to the way it was.

It may as well have been the night of the stress test, because I didn't get a drink in my hand until about 12:30. For those keeping score, that's a wait time of nearly 40 minutes from when I walked in the door. My max wait time on the night of the stress test on Tuesday was 12 and a half minutes. So, compare that to 40 minutes on opening night... Taffer's "my work here is done" speech doesn't seem so conclusive this time.

I will say that the new cocktails were very well-crafted, but they aren't enough of a draw for me to come back to this place. I tried all four (yes four total -- not including the shot). None of these cocktails were the ones being featured during the stress test. The only drink that I feel like I'd consistently order would be a minty tea-flavored concoction that was quite delicious. The rest were interesting, but not something I'd order again for $8.25. They also offer all cocktails in a 2-serving bowl or 4-serving bowl to be shared amongst friends, but it's not worth it since they pack so much ice into it that you are hardly getting a better deal than a single-serving that comes with no ice.

So what's a nightclub without a little dancing? No, seriously, where's the dancing? Just like with the stress test, the house lights were up and music was off. There was some new lighting installed over the dance floor for dazzling purposes, but it mainly just looked neat without any music. It wasn't until about a half hour after everyone had gotten settled into the place that they got a DJ behind the booth to play about 15 minutes worth of music and stop. 

 It was enough time for people to temporarily hit the dance floor and the cameras to capture the magic of this former hookah bar's new identity as the greatest dance club to exist next door to a wig shop. As I've learned, the filming process is a very carefully orchestrated art of setting the stage and capturing it in a controlled environment. Since dance music renders camera interviews useless, they had to basically schedule a chunk of time to highlight the dance floor and then shut the music off and continue filming.

Aside from the initial pandemonium of people swamping both of the bars, everything was fairly relaxed. The wait on the drinks was frustrating, but I heard that apparently they were short a staff member -- and it sounds like you can expect some sort of drama with that.

Also, I mentioned earlier that this was clearly a nightclub now aimed at women, and this was further solidified by the fact that the cameras were mainly focused on them, getting their perspective, and showing them have fun. They got drinks in their hands right away, in addition to free shots that the staff brought out on trays.

As for Taffer? I honestly didn't see much of him the whole night. He must've been there for about an hour after the bar opened and split. He moved back and forth from the front of the house to the back, but I saw no yelling tonight. Since I was closer to the back, it's very possible something happened up front, but I would've never known. Typically on the night of the reopening in episodes, Taffer gives his vocal cords a rest and takes a back seat to letting the business operate. This definitely seemed to be the case here, and I never saw his departure, so he must've slipped quietly into the night like the show always suggests.

My assumption as to when he left is around the time that cameras, producers and crew members began to disappear. And at about this time (about 1:15) the DJ started playing music again, the lights went down and patrons started leaving. Huh? Wow, old habits die hard. I made my exit at this time too.

Will I be at the O'Face bar next week? Probably not. If anything, maybe I'll sit in on the stress test again since that was an entertaining thing to witness. But I think it's safe to say that Taza will be the last bar reopening I will ever attend. I've learned that I prefer this show from afar!"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Behind the Scenes with Bar Rescue in Omaha -- Oasis Hookah Bar

Well, it looks like our Barstool Telegraph was at it again last night.  As usual, there were several sources reporting in on the happenings during the taping of last night's Bar Rescue.

Led by Deepthroat-esque informant Guy Incognito (no relation to Richie Husker fans)...and assorted others...here is a play-by-play of the evening's events.  Apparently the "highlight" of the evening was a forced, staged and now predictable Taffer rant about some stains on a couch.  Good lord...hope he never comes to my house!  In any case...enjoy the latest recap of events.
HTD informant Guy Incognito
 "Just like everyone else in the city, I didn't know this bar existed until the days leading up to its triumphant rescue. I didn't expect much from this place, and I wasn't disappointed.

I was really hesitant to even come out tonight after the failure to breach the front door at O'Ban-- er, I mean, Sorties last Friday night. Plus, the cold temperatures made me want to stay in my warm quarters for the evening and laugh at the lemmings lining up along Farnam for several hours into the night. Apparently that ended up being the thought process for most people, because this experience was completely different.

Upon my first drive-by around 7:30, no one was standing outside the door at all (aside from the bouncer), but I did see a small gathering of people on the corner of 15th & Farnam. Didn't take long for me to circle back around and secure a parking spot. When I got back to that intersection, the BR staff was starting to get people lined up outside the door.

This was quite the well-oiled machine! Didn't take long to go through the process and be handed a red card that was supposed to be used at a moment's notice at any time during the night when Jon would ask for everyone without a drink to hold it up. That moment never happened, but hey, free souvenir!

That's a bar?

Everyone had their ID checked at least twice while outside. For some people, they were checked a third time while in line with a camera on them, I guess to capture the bouncer doing his job or something.

Walking through the door was very surreal, as I was now in Bar Rescue territory. What I noticed right away was how quiet and well-lit it was. There was absolutely no house music playing, and no one manning the DJ booth either, so this already felt fairly unnatural. Made sense, though, as the music would probably get picked up by the microphones and be nightmarish to edit around.

They were able to comfortably fill the inside of the joint, but they definitely didn't pack the place. This wasn't so much a stress test as it was just testing how the staff can handle a casual Friday night crowd that would be normal for a bar that does decent business. I couldn't tell if the Oasis staff was legitimately stressed by the crowd size, or by Taffer himself, who weaved through the crowd with cameras in tow behind him, ready to strike at the slightest abnormality.

I felt legitimately bad for the Oasis staff at times, because he definitely seemed to sometimes dig into them for small gaps in service that naturally happen in any busy place, blowing certain things out of proportions. His gripes were legitimate, however, so I won't take away from that. The staff did indeed seem inexperienced and likely haven't had to deal with large crowds before.

Fortunately, I never really got the feeling that anything was being staged inside the bar. They may have actually benefited from it in this case, as it seemed like the drinks were getting poured, hookahs were being distributed, and everything was going mostly okay. It wasn't A+ service, but it wasn't horrible. I'm sure the final cut of the episode will make it look like a huge disaster, but to me, it seemed rather uneventful compared to what you see in a given episode of Bar Rescue.

Taffer's final big blow-up occurred before 10 p.m. when he noticed some unsanitary spots on the seating, which seemed to signal the end of the night, as everyone cleared out at that point. Many times during episodes of the show, Taffer shuts places down during the stress test when drinks aren't getting to the customers. But since the crowd really wasn't large enough to back up the orders, this didn't become a problem. I think he needed to find another deal-breaker of an issue at the Oasis to end the stress test, and this was it.


I will say that, unlike O'Banion's, I feel like this place probably needs the help more. It's perfectly forgivable for me to have never heard of O'Banion's before Bar Rescue's visit, as it's just a dive bar in Bellevue that has no reason to have any significant level of notoriety for most Omahans. But for me to have never heard of Oasis, a bar in downtown Omaha, is pretty sinful. Sticking a hookah bar next to a wig shop on a city block that is largely passed over when barhopping is a risky business move, and I can't imagine it has been paying off well, especially when it's hard to find when you're specifically looking for it. I didn't hear any chatter about the real situation with the owner(s), but maybe you know more about that end.
Inside scoop!

This place probably has nowhere to go but up, and I doubt there will be a huge host of people who will be up in arms if he makes some changes. It will be interesting to see if he sticks with the hookah bar format, as I'm pretty sure he's never rescued a hookah bar before on the show. If he nixes the hookah concept altogether, then I can imagine it will probably upset a few people who go there for their fix.

Overall, the experience was actually fun compared to the mess at Sorties. Granted, the environment felt odd, but nothing about my personal experience there felt artificial. The low turnout was a bit of a bummer, especially for the show's producers, I'm sure. But editing room magic will certainly make it seem exponentially worse and chaotic. I might try to return for the reopening since I now have a little more of a vested interest in this particular place, but we'll see.

Something I almost forgot: They were serving a limited drink menu that had 3 drinks on it. They all were very tropical themed in their flavors. There was one with amaretto that I really liked. The other cocktail was supposed to have a cream soda flavor, but I thought it was pretty bland. The third drink was a shot. It was blue and fruity, and was par for the course in the way of fruity shots.

All drinks were being served in plastic cups. I'm not sure if it's because they don't have any proper glassware (this has been a problem in past episodes), or if they were used for practical reasons by being one less thing for them to worry about while trying to just get drink orders out to customers."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Haunted Hangover 2013 -- DETAILS

Let's drink some Beam!
First off, thank you to everyone that is going on this first-ever haunted bar adventure. The idea started blandly enough in July when I posted a simple question on Facebook which basically asked, "Does anyone know of any supposed haunted bars in Omaha?"  To say I was overwhelmed with the response is an understatement. But then, as usual, I pondered "How do I turn this new-found information into a way to have a few beers on a Sunday afternoon?"

I've got it!  Let's have a bar tour of some of the well-known, and not so well-known, "haunted" bars in town.  And suddenly the idea of the "Haunted Hangover" was born. How neat is that?

What Do You Need To Know:

From the moment you sign in, anytime beginning after 12:00 at O'Connor's in the Old Market, you will be walking into the site of a live paranormal investigation conducted by Brian Kent and a few people from his great team of investigators at Paracon.  Brian will be presenting any evidence that he collects that day, and will also speak about his paranormal experiences, his new book, and his approach to dealing with spirits in a respectful and appropriate manner.  This is always pretty fascinating...so don't be late!
Team from Paracon

Now, this is still a bar crawl (and a reason to party) so O'Connor's will be rocking thanks to the talents of Omaha's greatest DJ duo...Technical Hype.  The Jack and G-Man will make sure to help you shake off any remnants of a hangover from the night before with their HitThatDive approved brand of entertaining.

The Jack and the G-Man!
And also, lately, I have been somewhat adopted into the Omaha blogger scene (who saw that one coming?) so we are happy to welcome along Trish Eklund from the "Her View From Omaha" blog to document everything that happens throughout the day (that I usually forget about after the third bar)...for obvious reasons.

Finally, thanks to Phil Bauersachs from RNDC, Falcon Division, for his support in helping to get this off the ground and for coordinating the presence of Jim Beam Jacob's Ghost and Devil's Cut whiskeys than may very will haunt most of you on Monday morning...but only in the best possible way of course!
Giving a few of these away

Wait...since it seems like I am throwing out shameless plugs faster than I can type...I also need to send out a special thanks to "Kickin'"Kevin Tworek from Mr. Butts and Mrs. Butts Underground Cigar Company, and Barry Hofmaster owner of the Brass Monkey for being (other than myself) the only people to never miss a HitThatDive bar tour.  If not for their help and support, I doubt I would have even done more than one of these events...so thanks to both of you for your efforts over the last few years...it is always extremely appreciated!

A Few Notes: 
  • No Ouija boards. Brian can explain why on Sunday
  • No puking on the buses.  They will charge you a $250 "Clean up" fee.  For reals!
  • Be prepared to share Facebook pictures and Tweet about the event often on Sunday.  Prizes will be given out for the best social media posts that mention HitThatDive.
  • Learn more about the tour from my appearance on The Pat&JT "After Hours" Halloween special from two weeks ago. 
  • Have fun.  This will be a great afternoon of fun, friends, bars and the paranormal.  If you have any questions at all prior to Sunday, send me an email to hitthatdive@gmail.com.  Or ping me on Facebook or Twitter...as some of you know...I am usually pretty quick to respond.

Schedule:    

Sunday "Funday" November 17, 2013.  12:00-6:00 PM
Starts and ends at O'Connor's 1217 Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68102

*Keep in mind, that even if you weren't able to get a spot on one of the buses, you're always more than welcome to have a designated diver tote your ass around to all the locations with us...the more the merrier.*

O'Connor's: 12-1:15 -- Sign in, have a drink or two and take some time to check out Omaha's most haunted bar.  Owner Katie O'Connor has graciously opened her place (which is normally closed on Sundays) for the Haunted Hangover.  Have Katie, Brian or even me show you some of the more known haunted spots in the bar...and make it a point to say "Hi" to Leo...especially if you're in the ladies room!

Promptly at 1:15 we hop on the buses and make our way to the first stop...The Village Bar.

The Village Bar: 1:40-2:40 -- The former Ralston mortuary in the early 1900's, this is a place where I actually had a paranormal experience earlier this year.  Owner Brock can give you the history of the building, pour you a shot of Jim Beam, and show you the exact spot of where full body appreciations have been spotted.  Scared yet?  No?  Well then...hopefully
nicely buzzed.

Back on the buses at 2:40 (we do leave stragglers behind) and we're off to The White House...no not that one...the one on Cass by Big Red Keno.

The White House Bar: 2:55 -3:40 -- You know, I don't really know a lot about this bar.  But, let's have some of the regulars...a few of which are on the tour with us...tell us about the place and the "regulars" that still hang here long after they have passed on.  And, when you think about, would you rather be a spirit at Jiffy Lube or a bar?  That isn't really that tough of a decision...is it?

At 3:30, it's time to head to the second most haunted spot in Omaha...Benson.

The Sydney: 3:50-4:40 --  When I asked the question of what is the most haunted bar in Omaha, this came in second place only to O'Connor's. Feel like Take a break from all of your paranormal "investigating"? Well, you're in luck...take advantage of free pool that they have here all day on Sundays.

It's now 4:40 and we are back on the buses for a two-second trip down the street to Louis Bar.  I would say we could walk, but that intersection just before the place was NOT designed for those that have had a few drinks earlier in the day.

Louis Grill and Bar 4:45-5:40 --  A Benson institution since 1934, this a place where that the old-time regulars are convinced is haunted.  Sunday Funday bartender Lauren might not agree with them, but grab a drink and take a walk around to all the corners of the bar.  Do YOU get a creepy feeling in here? Or, is that just several hours of drinking talking?

One last trip on the buses will bring us back to O'Connor's no later than 6:00 PM.  Feel free to hang out a bit longer here if you can, or have cab or designated driver ready to pick you up...and take you home...or to another bar. There will still be plenty of hours left in the evening to keep the party rolling...that's for sure!

Thanks to everyone that signed up...this will be a great time!


See You on Sunday!