Gipsy Before Bar Rescue
Gipsy was the first gay nightclub in Las Vegas when it opened in 1977. 16 years later Paul San Filipo bought the place and it easily made him more than a hundred grand a month during its heyday. One of its main attractions was a drag show that pulled in a good amount of locals into its fold.
Around the late 90s more gay nightclubs sprouted around Las Vegas during the megaresort boom. Patrons moved to better haunts as Gipsy did not keep up with its competitors, and as the profits went down San Filipo cracked under pressure and developed a habit of irresponsible management that led to problems in the workforce. To make matters worse San Filipo was slapped with a $400 grand penalty for not paying live entertainment taxes, and ultimately his debt climbed up to a staggering $2 million.
With no other options left San Filipo decided to call Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue for help before Gipsy gets dragged to the ground.
Gipsy on Bar Rescue
From the outside Taffer and mixologist Rachel Ford noticed Gipsy’s outdated façade as if it was still stuck in the 70s, not to mention its problems with maintenance and bird droppings on the roof. Taffer then sends in two nightlife experts to perform recon inside the Gipsy, and when they entered the bar they were welcomed by the sight of its emptiness. They were served bland drinks thanks to the bar’s lack of simple necessities, and San Filipo’s screaming voice pierced the silence as he tried to order bartender Brandon to play some Janet Jackson. Later on the heavily inebriated San Filipo became more verbal and inappropriate as he degraded his employees and made them uncomfortable while constantly yelling “BRANDON!”
Taffer entered Gipsy and confronted San Filipo who was quick to point out that his employees “suck” and that they deserved to be mistreated. Despite Taffer’s harsh words San Filipo still insisted on getting a drink and his Janet Jackson on the jukebox, forcing the Bar Rescue host to walk out and postpone the rescue until the owner was sober. San Filipo went home with a glass of booze in hand and with the aspiration of partying with Taffer soon.
The next day Taffer returned to Gipsy in a calmer mood and he was welcomed by the owner who was not drunk. During their conversation San Filipo revealed that his mother recently passed away and that he was drinking away his depression. Taffer then warned San Filipo that the rescue will stop if ever he drinks again while on the job. In the following staff meeting the owner apologized to the employees and some of them wanted to see San Filipo back to his old drive, although Brandon took it with a grain of salt as he believed that the owner was more of a Jekyll and Hyde kind of guy. Ford then toured the bar area and found numerous sanitary problems wrought by management problems.
To remedy the problem experienced by the spies during the recon night Ford taught the bartenders how to properly make martini and how to work as a team by having them mix drinks with arms interlocked. That night Taffer opened Gipsy for a stress test to weed out the bar’s weak links.
The bartenders were divided into pairs as they took turns in managing the bar. Brandon and Justin struggled in the face of pressure while Livio and Jerry easily made it through with speed and skill. The need of a service bar was also evident as the main area was congested during the busy hours. San Filipo mingled with the patrons without taking a sip of booze which was, according to Taffer, a massive improvement. When the drag show began the patrons turned their attention towards the stage and virtually forgot about the bar area, thus cutting off income as the performance commenced and the bartenders stood in the midst of a ghost town.
Two days before the relaunch Taffer welcomed the Gipsy staff outside the bar with the signage being taken down and the act was met with disbelief and a couple of teary eyes. Taffer explained that the past had to make way to the future just like some of the demolished landmarks in Las Vegas that were once legendary.
Taffer then introduces expert choreographer Dominique Kelley to work with his new concept of three stages with shorter performances than a single show of almost an hour. This new plan of Taffer not only involved the use of better stage lighting but also had the entire staff on dance class as they will all be choreographers / bartenders from now on.
The new drink menu was composed of cocktails inspired by the atmosphere of 1950’s South Beach. Before the relaunch Taffer was summoned by San Filipo to a meeting outside the bar where he relayed his concerns about Brandon. During Taffer’s countdown of Gipsy’s new incarnation San Filipo axed Brandon on the spot.
SBLV was the bar’s new name which was an acronym for South Beach Las Vegas with the exterior now brightly lit with green and white thanks to the signs. For the interior the bar was equipped with new furniture, couches, and a service station for faster drink service now that SBLV has 28 seats. Three performance platforms stood on select areas of the bar and the new sound system ensured a crisp auditory experience. The main bar’s plumbing system was fixed plus a new POS system and South Beach inspired uniforms for the bartenders to finally complete the theme. Unfortunately San Filipo was not very happy with the changes made by Taffer and he walked out during the tour of the new bar.
Even without San Filipo around the employees efficiently handled the customers during the launch of SBLV.
Gipsy Now in 2023 – The After Bar Rescue Update
Despite the rebranding efforts and operational improvements, the club faced significant challenges in attracting a consistent customer base after the episode aired. For one thing, Gipsy’s remote location was a significant barrier to attracting regular patrons, and it struggled to compete with the more centrally located establishments.
Not only that but they also faced harsh criticism from long-time patrons who weren’t pleased with the drastic changes made during the Bar Rescue makeover.
Many felt that the new name and modern look stripped away the club’s unique character and charm that had initially drawn them to the establishment. As a result, Gipsy struggled to retain its loyal customers while also failing to attract a new clientele.
To make matters worse, club owner Paul San Filippo found himself in legal troubles, which significantly affected the business. San Filippo was charged with multiple counts of arson and insurance fraud related to a fire at another one of his properties. These charges brought unwanted negative publicity to Gipsy, further damaging its reputation and business.
In the end, Gipsy’s doors were permanently closed in early 2014, less than a year after its appearance on Bar Rescue. While the show provided a brief glimmer of hope for this struggling Las Vegas nightclub, the combination of location challenges, customer dissatisfaction, and legal issues proved too much for it to overcome.
If anything, the tale of Gipsy serves as a reminder that while reality television interventions can provide initial boosts, ultimate success depends on factors far beyond just a makeover.