Monday, August 8, 2022

The Abbey Pub Update- What Happened After Bar Rescue

The Abbey Pub Before Bar Rescue

The Abbey Pub opened its doors in 1974 as a music venue and Irish pub in Chicago, Illinois. A decade later Tom Looney Sr. purchased the establishment and his son Patrick served as the Abbey Pub’s general manager. The pub gathered praise for being an ideal venue for live music of varying genres, open mike nights, and was a frequent haunt of up-and-coming bands. The Looneys reportedly raked in as much as $50,000 in a week as the pub became renowned as among the best in the area.

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Jon Taffer meets with the Looneys.

That was until Pat decided to chase his dreams of becoming a fireman and handed over the pub to his brother Tom Jr. Being an electrician Tom Jr. didn’t have enough experience in running a pub as its general manager, and soon enough the Abbey Pub lost its momentum with its former 50 grand down to 10, not to mention the rise in maintenance troubles and the frustration of its staff. The only time they became crowded was if there was a concert on its music venue.

With time running out for the pub, and the growing tension between the two brothers, the Looneys decided to seek Bar Rescue for help.

The Abbey Pub on Bar Rescue

Jon Taffer first paid a visit to Chief O’Neill, a successful Irish pub close to the establishment of the Looneys and one of their competitors, to find out how they flourished.  Taffer instructed his wife Nicole to visit the Abbey Pub as a customer to evaluate the place in the perspective of a visitor. Through her evaluation Nicole noticed that the Abbey Pub was messy, had no menu where customers can choose what to order, an overpouring bartender, and Tom Jr. dining like a guest in full view instead of performing his duties. A majority of the customers were in the music venue and the pub failed to attract them to eat dinner before watching the ongoing concert.
On the other hand Chief O’Neill had a well-stocked bar with an award in 2008 for having the best pint of Guinness in town, not to mention having excellent service and a spotless establishment. Taffer then visited the Abbey Pub and confronted the Looneys regarding the state of the once-legendary pub. He also saw first-hand how the brothers Pat and Tom Jr. never saw eye to eye on what to blame for the pub’s failure and on what to do after Taffer gave his instructions.

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Taffer brings in Brian Duffy and Peter O’Connor

Taffer reviewed the Abbey Pub’s financial statements and saw losses instead of profits, particularly in their food sales. He summoned the staff along with the Looneys for a meeting where he discussed the lack of appeal on the pub compared to its neighboring music venue and the problems at the brass. The staff also expressed their frustration at their superior. To help with the tasks at hand Taffey called for the services of Peter O’Connor, the youngest Diageo Master of Whiskey in the country, for the Abbey Pub’s cocktail menu, and Brian Duffy, a renowned Irish chef and restaurateur.

O’Connor went through the bar area and noticed the unhygienic situation on where the drinks are prepared, and a soda cooler that’s out of place in such an establishment. The bartenders were asked about how much they pour in a drink and the girls gave conflicting answers which was a no-no according to O’Connor. Duffy toured the kitchen and saw a fridge that’s still being used despite being out of order with the temperature at 51 degrees which was outside of the optimum range of 36 to 40 degrees. He also found a knife stuck between two counters which could potentially lead to injury. Finally Taffer himself visited the music venue and noticed the clutter and outdated equipment.

The trio then began their work in reviving the Abbey Pub. Duffy tested the culinary skills of the pub’s head chef with an outcome that wasn’t satisfactory. He then helped the head chef in rebuilding the pub’s menu complete with palatable dishes. On the bar side of things O’Connor taught the bartenders about the right pouring of drinks and that the ingredients should be stored together in one place. Taffer talked to the Looneys about their family issues and Pat was quite vocal in the “replacement” of management. Taffer however believed that Tom Jr. was capable of running the place and that he just needed guidance. Tensions flared as Taffer left the family to discuss matters until the patriarch himself settled the issue by saying that Tom Jr. should be given a chance.

Taffer visited the Looneys in their house to get to know them outside the business. He then gave Tom Jr. the list of tasks that must be done before the pub’s reopening night. Tom Jr. obliged and headed straight to the Abbey Pub where he had the music venue revamped, the office cleaned up and organized, and lined up a band for the big night. He learned the ins and outs of the kitchen as O’Connor taught the bartenders unique drinks that could fetch high profit margins. Duffy presented the improved menu with a lot of upgrades on the meals.

A soft opening followed suit which put pressure on the kitchen staff as they were not familiar with the new menu, and they ran out of clean plates to use as orders piled up. The bar managed fairly well until they ran out of glasses thanks to the continuous influx of customers, and this led to a loss in profits as the bartenders had to clean glassware instead of serving drinks. On the flip side of things Tom Jr. earned praise from Taffer and Pat for rolling up his sleeves and working hard with the staff.  The general manager’s mettle was also tested in his dealing with a lying staff.

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The Green Room signage

The venue was renovated with furniture outside the premises for waiting customers, and the bar became a separate entity from the music venue and was named as The Green Room. The inside of the establishment, both in the music venue and the Green Room, had a total makeover with better equipment and décor. In the music venue they now have stickers that will give customers a free appetizer when they order a drink at The Green Room.

The Abbey Pub Now in 2018 – The After Bar Rescue Update

After the show the Abbey Pub reported a 20% increase in sales within a month. Guests praised the pub’s new atmosphere throughout the years. Around 2013 the negative reviews began to surface with people complaining about the food and drinks. Some even stated that the place needed another episode from Bar Rescue as the changes in the show seemingly disappeared as time passed.

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Aftermath of the fire.

In November 2015 the Abbey Pub caught fire on its music venue side which forced a closure for renovations. Repairs were reportedly ongoing and there is still no word yet on when will the pub reopen. The Looneys have yet to make a statement about the current situation and they do not respond to questions regarding the pub. Their website is currently devoid of any updated information and their inactive Facebook page lists the establishment as “permanently closed”.

As of 2017 there is still no news about the pub, although a commenter on Facebook stated that she got in contact with the general manager with a possible reopening this March.

Anthony Coyle
I write about anything and everything that catches my fancy, but mostly I try to provide the answers to the questions our readers ask every day. I'm also the guy who's always glued to an LCD screen of some sort.
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1 COMMENT

  1. So it’s March now and the place is still boarded up.

    I frequently take my kids to the park across the street from the Looney’s house. Whenever I see one of them I ask about it and the answer is always something along the lines of “we’re working on it.”

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