Headhunters Before Bar Rescue
In 2003 engineer Steve Ricci decided to try a new venture by opening the tiki bar Headhunters in Austin, Texas. During its early years Headhunters attracted customers as it was one of the few bars that offered live music.
Competition eventually sprouted all over the location and both the bands and customers preferred these newer and flashier haunts than the outdated Headhunters. Ricci didn’t even bother upgrading or renovating his bar to keep up with the times, and it didn’t take long for both his profits and the establishment’s sanitary conditions to dip into abysmal levels. In an attempt to win back customers Ricci allowed performances straight out of a horror flick but of course this decision backfired. He also tried to save the sinking ship through a huge investment with the help of credit cards and loans but it just did more damage.
With income on negative figures Ricci decided to call for Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue for help before Headhunters closes its doors for good.
Headhunters on Bar Rescue
From the outside people barely noticed Headhunters as its façade made it look unsafe, and this made Taffer accompany his wife Nicole for the recon as he was uncomfortable at the prospect of sending her in alone.
Nicole’s sense of smell was immediately assaulted by a miasma that lingered in the air. Scantily-clad women danced on top of counters and the death metal band currently performing onstage performed a mock miscarriage involving a woman and a baby doll. Taffer learned from the bartender that the smell was from cat urine as the owner owns one and lets it loose in the bar at night to hunt rats. Nicole walked out of Headhunters after discovering dead cockroaches inside some of the liquor bottles and the bartender almost served her roach cocktail.
Taffer called for Ricci and the latter’s excuse for the roach infestation was “there’s bugs all over Austin. There’s bugs all over America!” and that the Austin crowd does not like a clean establishment. The conversation quickly became heated with Ricci calling an irate Taffer “unprofessional” and being “the biggest bug” in the bar. The host then called for his experts namely service expert Jessie Barnes and bartender Joe Brooke to begin the rescue.
Through her inspection of the place Barnes saw mold on the ceiling and the possibility of it falling down on the patrons’ cups. Brooke and Taffer revealed thirty dead cockroaches inside one of the booze bottles in front of a horrified crowd yet Barnes still had the gall to laugh as if it was a comedic act. Taffer had the bar fumigated to finally rid it of vermin.
The next day Taffer showed footage of the exterminators at work inside Headhunters with hundreds of cockroaches forced out of their colonies all over the bar. The roach carcasses littered the interior and the employees including Ricci began cleaning the place. Ricci blamed his staff for the mess and it was then revealed that the employees did not receive any salary and only relied on tips to make money. Ricci defended his ways by saying that the employees themselves refused payroll. Taffer had the employees work on necessary paperwork to legitimize their employment but Ricci was still on his usual BS, forcing Taffer to ask the workers if the bar deserved a rescue as he was on the verge of walking out and they decided to see this through.
After seeing the bartenders and their dire need of training Brooke and Barnes tutored them with the basics of mixing and serving. Taffer sat down with Ricci to discuss the numbers and the latter broke down after reminiscing of his cancer-stricken father who was as strict as the Bar Rescue host. Taffer motivated the owner and reminded him that great teams require an equally-great leadership for the sake of the bar. Ricci vowed to support the staff and to be cooperative with Taffer’s work although the bartenders took his words with much skepticism.
That night Headhunters was subjected in a stress test. The bartenders worked at a snail’s pace and their concoctions were criticized by the patrons. The sudden wave of customers and the large number of orders took the bartenders by surprise as they were not used to having so many people in the bar. Ricci did not perform his duties as a manager and instead just hung around much to the disappointment of Taffer and the experts. The provocative dancers once again danced to the music of a live band that was more of an auditory nightmare thanks to the bar’s improperly-placed speakers and faulty sound equipment, and this drove away some of the customers instead of attracting more.
Brooke trained the bartenders the next day with new drink combinations to spice up the bar’s menu while Barnes taught them the principles of proper serving with enough confidence. As the training was underway, Taffer and his crew demolished Headhunters to pave the way for its new incarnation.
Metal and Lace was the new name of the bar with its façade lit with bright lights and a theme that focused on steampunk and the Victorian era. The bar’s interior was decked with a wider bar area and a sealed countertop to prevent vermin from colonizing inside. Two POS systems were installed to make the serving process more efficient. The walls were decorated with pieces that fit the themes like mechanical apparatuses, clocks, and gears, and the same goes for the new outfit of the bartenders. The sound processing equipment was completely replaced with proper speaker positioning to eliminate feedback.
The grand reopening welcomed customers by the hundreds and some of them were even in costume. Though the bartenders were still not that fast, they moved with such confidence and the drinks they made were of topnotch quality. The countertop dancers were moved to the stage area and they were adorned with less-provocative clothing, and the new sound system worked wonders in providing great auditory quality. Ricci was unfortunately back to his old ways and Taffer instead said farewell to Chloe, a promising bartender, instead of his usual goodbye to the owner.
Headhunters Now in 2023 – The After Bar Rescue Update
Headhunters, a once-popular rock and roll-themed bar in downtown Austin, Texas, became the focus of the popular Spike TV show, “Bar Rescue”, in 2013. The show, hosted by nightlife expert Jon Taffer, aimed to transform struggling bars into profitable businesses, often through a complete overhaul of the bar’s concept, menu, and interior design. But what happened to Headhunters after Bar Rescue turned their world upside down?
The episode featuring Headhunters was one of the most dramatic transformations in Bar Rescue’s history. The bar was initially described as having a “tribal” theme with an untapped potential for success given its prime location on Austin’s Red River Street. However, the bar was plagued by a host of problems including poor hygiene standards, lackluster service, and an unappealing aesthetic that failed to attract patrons.
After appearing on the show, the Headhunters bar was rebranded as “Metal and Lace”, with a steampunk theme aiming to cater to a wider audience. Taffer’s team completely revamped the interior design, introduced new cocktails and food menu, and implemented professional management practices. Initially, the transformation seemed successful, with positive reviews praising the improved ambience and variety of drinks.
However, the success was short-lived for Headhunters after Bar Rescue. Despite the initial buzz created by their TV appearance, they failed to sustain the momentum. The new concept didn’t resonate with the local crowd as much as expected, and the bar struggled to maintain consistent patronage. The issue was further compounded by negative reviews concerning service quality and management issues.
By mid-2013, only months after their episode aired, Metal and Lace closed its doors permanently. The story of Headhunters reveals a harsh reality about bar businesses; even a reality TV makeover can’t guarantee sustained success if deeper operational and management issues aren’t addressed.
As of 2023, the building at its old location remains abandoned.