Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Hooch Update – What Happened After Bar Rescue

The Hooch Before Bar Rescue

In 2003, husband and wife Ron and Chandra Phillips opened The Hooch. It was always Chandra’s dream to own a bar, so the second she saw the advertisement in the newspaper, she knew that the two of them were going to buy it. The crowd started cool and everyone knew each other; for the first 5 years, business was rolling in the fastlane with over $20,000 revenue each month. Around 2008 or 2009, the economy started getting bad and people started leaving the neighborhood, causing the bar to quickly decline in quality. Chandra was left scrambling and borrowing money to make ends meet, and the bar is around $350,000 in debt. Ron had to take on a second job signing up with an iron working union, and about 75% of his paycheck goes back into the bar. Ron is reaching his breaking point.

In a video shown, Chandra is asking Ron for money, and Ron explains that his paycheck is only around $1,000. With Chandra running out of options, her drive to turn the business around is burning out; employees are saying that Chandra just does not care anymore. To make matters worse, Chandra calls her employees every nasty name in the book, but she insists that it’s a form of endearment. The more that she does it, the less it should irritate her staff when someone else does that. As Chandra’s obnoxious behavior got worse, the staff’s attitude also got worse towards their jobs. The people they looked up to stopped caring, so it makes it hard for the staff to care. Jon Taffer has been called in to try and rescue The Hooch from declining behavior, and declining profits. To make matters worse, a video is shown of the fryers overloading with oil and the grill catching on fire, which is an absolute trainwreck and caused the bar to be evacuated and shut down.

The Hooch on Bar Rescue

The sign mentioned by Jon and his two experts

In Dearborn Heights, Michigan, Jon Taffer pulls up with two experts in his car to The Hooch. The first thing Jon points out is the opportunity that they have with a nice sign on the bar, but unfortunately, there is a big, tacky sign. Chef Keith Breedlove, agrees with Jon and says that it looks tacky. There are two doors in the bar, and mixologist Lisamarie Joyce says that she does not know which door to enter in – “none,” she replies. Jon explains that Ron and Chandra have owned the bar for 13 years and are losing around $4,500 a month. Chandra’s long history of working behind the bar means nothing, as Jon is forced to support Chandra running the bar.

Inside the bar, Chandra washes her mouth out with mouthwash and tells a patron that her mouth is nice and clean, and “it’s time for the d**k to go in there.” Amanda, the manager, is seen walking around in just a long tanktop and booty shorts – Jon points out that there is no uniform code. Some of the bartenders wear a low-cut top, and others wear more conservative clothing. Jon is disgusted by the way Chandra degradingly speaks to her staff and bartenders, and the words she uses are very foul. The entire car full of experts is taken aback. The barback, named “Roach,” is seen standing around with Chandra, doing little work.

Their social media image prior to being renamed

Again, Chandra is seen using foul language, and Lisamarie looks distressed. Her mouth is unbelievable, Jon says, and he does not know who would work for her. One of the bartenders announces “topless cleanup,” and takes her top off and begins to clean up the bar. Lisamarie thinks that what she is seeing is so sad, but the problem is that Chandra is not treating her people with dignity because she has none herself. The bar is in disrepair with every piece of furniture being worn and dingy, and it looks very outdated.

Jon sends in his recon of two women – Brenna Houck, editor of Eater Detroit, and Serena Daniels, the dining editor of Detroit Metro Times. The two have huge social media reach and Jon is dying to hear their feedback. The two women enter the 2,000 square foot space with 2 bartender wells, 1 service station, and a kitchen located directly behind the bar. The two women enter and are seated, and the experts sit back and watch from the car. Serena says that she is really hungry and Chandra insists that they have great burgers – they each order a burger and “The Hooch” drink. Lisamarie says that the bar tools are laughable, and they are using a novelty shaker – there is no cap to the shaker, so bartender Amanda has to put her hand over the top to keep the liquid in.

The house specialty drink is simply vodka and juice, and both women are repulsed – nothing is fresh, and the drink is nasty. There is no defined cook, which means every item will be prepared differently. The burgers are gray when they pull the burgers out, and there is no steam, meaning there is no moisture. Amanda leaves her gloves on while she grabs cheese, which means cross contamination. Raw meat germs are dispersed throughout the bar. The two women receive their food, and the food is disgusting – it’s hard and flavorless. Jon has seen enough and storms into the bar with Lisamarie and Keith.

The Hooch Now in 2018- The After ‘Bar Rescue’ Update

One of Chef Roach’s burgers

One of the first things that Jon does as he storms into the bar is demands that Chandra sit down and apologize to her staff for the way she speaks to them. Once Chandra does this, Jon also demands that she takes sensitivity classes while Keith trains Roach as the new chef and Lisamarie catches up the staff on how to make proper cocktails. The staff is visibly relieved as Chandra leaves the restaurant, and Jon treats them with infinitely more dignity and respect. The menu is refined to have more pub options like burgers, sandwiches, and chicken wings.

Lisamarie actually takes her staff to a new location to train as the bar is being renovated, and the drinks are made to match the new concept. The drink menu includes new items like “The Cool Down” and the “Prove It.” The women are much more confident in their roles as bartenders and waitresses for the bar. The bar has also been completely renovated, and the name “The Hooch” has been dropped.

The bar has been renamed to “Proving Ground Bar and Grill,” with a classical car theme. In the front of the restaurant for the unveiling, soft opening and hard opening are numerous classic cars. The colors of the building have been completely changed, as well as a brand new “Entrance” sign to designate the proper door to enter. The inside of the bar has also been rejuvenated with auto-themed decor and fixutres (thanks to Detroit being the Motor City), and the bar is now much more appropriate for men and women alike. There are numerous interactive fixtures, such as a wall where a patron can pour their own shot, and various televisions that show various videos of automotives, like crash tests.

In a stroke of controversy, the bar was cited as deleting numerous negative comments from their Facebook and lying. Owner Chandra admitted to going to Yelp and Facebook, finding one-star reviews, finding where the writers of said reviews worked, then leaving one star reviews. Unsurprisingly, owner Chandra Phillips has caused the bar to close as of June 2016.

Steven Kahn
King of the Bears, Shark Tank enthusiast, failed network engineer, sour cream enthusiast, Nanchaku instructor, Techman, Mega Man X fan, vaporizing know-how


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