Turtle Bay before Bar Rescue
Turtle Bay opened its doors in 2011 and welcomed into its doors the lively residents of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. Its owner Brad Bohannan was previously a co-owner of a nearby bar named Tropical Isle but tension between him and the other owners caused him to leave and open his own establishment.
Bohannan’s Turtle Bay strongly resembled Tropical Isle in terms of color and theme. He also imitated his old bar’s souvenir cup which got him into legal trouble that cost him around $100,000. Bohannan also took Steve Smith from his old bar and turned him into a partner in this new venture. Bohannan’s lack of originality made his bar virtually invisible from the eyes of the hundreds of people flocking in Bourbon Street as they‘d rather drink in the dozen other nearby bars.
With the turtle flipped over its shell Bohannan and Smith made the call for rescue before time ran out.
Turtle Bay on Bar Rescue
Jon Taffer, along with experts bartender Ricky Gomez and chef Ron Duprat, observe Turtle Bay from across the street and immediately notice that tourists bypass the bar. To get a tourist’s perspective Taffer deployed two people from a previous rescue namely Billy and Nathalie who were from The Public Bar and Grill. As the bar wasn’t quite eye-catching Taffer’s spies even had trouble finding the place.
The pair ordered the bar’s signature drink named The Turtle, the green drink in a green bottle that’s not very different from Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade, and Nathalie was quick to describe it as very sour with an aftertaste. The bar’s serving of gumbo, a signature dish in New Orleans, came straight from a pack and microwaved instead of being made fresh. Taffer comes into the bar and confronts the owners about the reality of their situation, but Bohannan was convinced that his product was completely different from the competition. Co-owner Smith was also oblivious to the managing aspects of the business.
The next day Taffer convened the employees of Turtle Bay and here he learned that the bartenders do not follow a set of drinks to make. There was no leadership and the bartenders had no kind of training as Smith expected them to “act like adults and not like babies that need babysitting”. Duprat toured the kitchen area and was met with extremely unsanitary conditions ranging from bacteria-infested surfaces to dead roaches on the floor. At the bar area Gomez and Taffer learned that the bartenders have the habit of putting back the signature drink into the mixer after cleaning the machine, and they only add a new mix along with the old one.
The bar was opened for a stress test to see how the employees fared when pressured by a huge amount of customers. The slow service cost Turtle Bay a handful of patrons which was obviously not a good sign for a bar that’s supposed to serve drinks for takeout. The stress test was an eye-opener for Smith and he learned to perform his managerial duties that night. As orders piled up in the kitchen Duprat’s tasting of an incorrectly-cooked gumbo ended up with him throwing up in the bathroom. Knowing that the same bad gumbo was served to the patrons an irate Taffer stormed into the kitchen and had it shut down immediately.
Taffer talked to the owners the following day and had Bohannan realize that the past was just dragging him down. The talk reignited Bohannan’s drive and his enthusiasm was felt when they returned to the bar as Taffer revealed the concept for the new bar which had a focus on the location’s mysticism. Duprat brought in fresh vegetables to the kitchen and taught the staff how to make authentic gumbo that contained the holy trinity namely bell pepper, celery, and onion. The chef emphasized the importance of temperature when cooking the dish to eliminate the threat of bacteria and throwing up. At the bar Gomez introduced a couple of cocktail mixes that was unique only to Turtle Bay.
Two hours into the relaunch Taffer revealed Spirits on Bourbon, the new incarnation of Turtle Bay. The bar sported blue and purple hues outside that were different from the usual green tint of the other establishments in the area. A red antique barber chair paid homage to Edward DeBoire, a barber who according to legend ran a successful business on the same building as Spirits on Bourbon. The interior was decked with a wider bar area that has enough space for multiple bartenders, new furniture, and cocktails on tap. Strategic placements of lights emphasize the presence of premium liquor bottles behind the counter, and the installation of two more POS systems will easily make serving much faster.
The side of the counter near the entrance was turned into a to-go station so tourists can easily buy a drink and walk out to the streets in a matter of seconds. As for Bohannan’s challenge to Taffer regarding a better souvenir cup than the Turtle, the Bar Rescue host answered with the Resurrection cocktail. The concoction was tinted blue and the skull-shaped cup blinked with colorful lights.
Spirits of Bourbon opened and was flooded with a wave of tourists. The Resurrection cocktail was a hit and the sudden onslaught of orders threatened to overwhelm the bartenders. Smith took control and made sure that his employees did not give in to the pressure. Things were also a lot smoother in the kitchen as they prepare dishes that were loved by the patrons.
Turtle Bay Now in 2018 – The After Bar Rescue Update
Three months after the rescue Spirits of Bourbon reported an increase in sales with the help of the barber chair and the to-go station. According to Bohannan he kept around 80% of Taffer’s changes and within the same year his earnings spiked to a million bucks.
Spirits on Bourbon is still open with somewhat positive reviews although the signature Resurrection cocktail amassed ambivalent reactions. The barber chair was utilized in a way that a patron sat on it and was spun in circles after taking a shot. They also included dueling pianos in the bar as an additional attraction.
In 2015 Duprat revisited Spirits on Bourbon to check how their gumbo fared, and it still met the chef’s standards. The Resurrection cocktail also received praise from the chef. Bohannan revealed that they now have a warehouse stocked with glasses for the Resurrection cocktail along with the remains of the previous barber chairs that had to be put out of service after enduring the butts of a thousand patrons.
Spirits on Bourbon maintains an active Facebook page which you can visit here. You can also check out their official website at www.spiritsonbourbon.com.