Underground Wonder Bar Before Bar Rescue
In 1989 musician Lonie Walker opened the Underground Wonder Bar in the city of Chicago, and the live music joint enjoyed success for almost 22 years. Lonie’s momentum was ground to a halt in 2011 when the bar’s building was sold to pave way for a development project and she was forced to borrow around $360 grand from family and friends so she could reopen Underground in the River North district.
Lonie’s expenses were astronomically higher due to the district’s high rent. The kind of live music she played with her band failed to click with the district’s younger clientele and she also aligned Underground’s menu towards her vegan ways. She was too stubborn to make much-needed changes which not only repelled the patrons but also sapped what little motivation her employees had left.
With debts climbing up to almost half-a-million bucks and income bleeding red, Lonie’s son Jordan decided to call Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue for help.
Underground Wonder Bar on Bar Rescue
From the outside Underground Wonder Bar’s colorful and juvenile façade made it look like a pizza place for kids than a watering hole for adults, while the interior lacked any kind of sophistication. Lonie’s vocal talents were snooze-inducing and in the downstairs performance area Jordan’s spoken word was drowned out by his mother’s singing. Things became a lot weirder when Lonie and her bandmates whipped out small instruments and played around the bar. The archaic form of entertainment failed to excite anyone inside the bar other than Lonie and the other musicians.
Taffer entered the bar and noticed the presence of crayons and how disconnected Lonie was from reality. She pushed Taffer away as she wasn’t willing to let go of her dream for the sake of profit but Jordan chased the Bar Rescue host and showed willingness towards whatever changes Underground needed. The next day expert bartender Russell Davis taught the employees how to mix drinks with creative artistic expressionism by starting out with the Old Fashioned cocktail. Culinary connoisseur Crystal “Chef Pink” DeLongpre introduced a Chicago-style flatbread with strong cultural influences which Lonnie immediately met with hostility, claiming that it was laden with preservatives. Her claim was ironic considering how Underground served frozen pizza which was decked with the very same stuff she hated.
Taffer then had the staff paint Underground Wonder Bar’s exterior with white to signify a fresh beginning. During the stress test Taffer prohibited Lonnie from playing music and instead assigned her to managerial duties which she did with zero enthusiasm, contrary to Jordan’s hardworking nature. One of the bartenders named Ruby mixed drinks at an atrociously slow pace and even cussed at thirsty patrons who wondered when their drink will be served. The bar’s downstairs was severely underutilized with barely any customer paying a visit. Later on Lonnie kept herself busy by talking to friends and diverting her much-needed attention away from the bar’s problems.
After the test Lonnie was still her stubborn self which earned her another walkout from the Bar Rescue team, much to the frustration of Jordan who only had Underground’s best interests in mind. Taffer returned for one last try and Lonnie appeared to be willing to embrace change, and she and Jordan were made to sign a contract that prohibited them from changing the bar’s name for a year after the rescue. Jordan was then given the mantle of general manager which Lonnie accepted without resistance.
For the bar’s new concept Davis introduced the Clear Collins and the Art & Money Mule cocktails, both of which appeared very clear and pure on the glasses. The new food item was a non-cured bacon dish with a sprinkling of peanut brittle, maple syrup, and bullet bourbon.
After 36 hours Underground Wonder Bar was torn down and rebuilt to Clear Bar with a clean white façade and windows that provided a view of the interior. The inside now screamed sophistication with brand new furniture, sound system, and an eye-catching ice block behind the counter as the area’s theme focused on the ice industry. The downstairs bar was now called The Count Room, a 30’s and 40’s era inspired area, and its previous dungeon-like feel was now breathed with new life thanks to the warm lighting on the walls and the simple yet catchy décor. Lonnie was at first ambivalent towards the changes but eventually she warmed up to Taffer and loved the new face of her bar.
Underground Wonder Bar Now in 2023 – The After Bar Rescue Update
Prior to their appearance on “Bar Rescue,” the Underground Wonder Bar was recognized for its rich history and vibrant live music scene. Despite its cultural significance, however, the bar was struggling financially. Because of this, the management team decided to enlist the help of Jon Taffer and his Bar Rescue team in an effort to turn things around.
The show’s intervention led to several notable changes, including an extensive renovation of the bar’s interior, a revamped menu, and retraining of staff.
However, the changes implemented by Taffer and his team were not universally well-received. Many patrons felt that the bar had lost its unique charm and character following the makeover. The new menu items and cocktail offerings were also met with mixed reviews. Furthermore, some employees expressed dissatisfaction with the training they received during the course of the show’s filming.
In the months following their Bar Rescue appearance, the Underground Wonder Bar faced further struggles. Despite efforts to adapt to the changes, the bar reportedly continued to experience financial difficulties and declining patronage. The bar eventually closed its doors in 2015, less than two years after their appearance on “Bar Rescue.”
As of 2023, there is a new nightclub called Angels and Kings at their old Chicago location.
The story of the Underground Wonder Bar serves as a cautionary tale about the unforeseen ramifications of reality television interventions. While shows like “Bar Rescue” may offer a temporary boost in visibility and patronage, they can also inadvertently alienate longstanding patrons and disrupt established business practices.