The COVID-19 pandemic has spelled disaster for the catering industry. Almost a day doesn’t go by when we don’t hear of yet another restaurant, bar, or cafe closing its doors for good. But not everyone in the food and wine game is feeling the pinch. Or at least, not enough that you’d notice the effect on their bank balance. Take John Taffer as an example. According to celebritynetworth.com, the man behind Bar Rescue is currently sat on a jaw-dropping net worth of $14 million. With a fortune like that, he could probably take a few COVID related knocks and still come out on top. So, how exactly did this 65-year-old entrepreneur get so staggeringly wealthy? Stay tuned, because you’re about to find out.
The Making of a Millionaire
Do entrepreneurs make themselves or are they created? In Taffer’s case, it was a bit of both. Born on November 7, 1954 in Great Neck, New York, Taffer entered the world as another in a long line of Taffer entrepreneurs. His grandfather was Saul Suslock, a man who went into business at the age of 15 after deciding the best use of his birthday printing press was to charge merchants for printing advertising fliers that he’d then slip into the papers at his parent’s newspaper stand. The business eventually caught the attention of a Park Avenue advertising agency, who not only bought the company, but offered the enterprising youngster a job. Saul was subsequently involved in some of the most memorable ad campaigns of the 30s. With that kind of legacy, John had a lot to live up to. “I was surrounded by these overachievers,” he’s explained to magzter.com. “I wanted to be the same”. As it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Taffer may have entered a very different field to his grandfather, but he’s proved no less successful.
After relocating to Los Angles in the early 1970s, Taffer took a job as a bartender at Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood. It didn’t take him long to learn the ropes. Five years later, he landed his first bar management job at the legendary Troubadour night club in West Hollywood; a little over ten years after that, he opened his first bar. From there, the only way was up. Over the next thirty years, Taffer would build a sprawling enterprise that covered everything from businesses to books, patents to TV programs.
From Bar Tips to Big Bucks
In 1989, Taffer developed a revolutionary new devise for playing music. Designed as an easy way of creating a specific musical ambiance in a nightclub or restaurant, it started bringing in the money in a big way when he took out a patent on his creation. More money rolled in when he pioneered the idea of football pay-per-view with the launch of NFL Sunday Ticket in 1994.
But then things went stellar. In 2011, Taffer made his small-screen debut in Bar Rescue, a TV program that follows Taffer as he yells, screams, and waves his arms around at hapless bar owners who couldn’t tell the difference between a Negroni and a Martini if their life depended on it. And it works. Not only has the self-proclaimed ‘bar rescuer’ stopped hundreds of bars from going under, he’s also managed to pull in some awe-inspiring viewing figures… and some serious cash to boot.
With 7 seasons already under its belt, Bar Rescue has spawned several spin-offs, gone international, and taking its star from successful business owner to multi-million-dollar legend. It’s also given him the perfect platform to launch numerous other ventures from, including a consulting company, a podcast entitled Shut It Down, the short-lived Marriage Rescue (a hugely panned TV show that The Ringer described as ‘couples counselling with volume and vulgarity’), a book (Raising the Bar, a guide to making the bar business pay, and Don’tBulls*** Yourself, a self-help guide of a very different kind to the norm), a Mixologist line, and the restaurant franchise, Taffer’s Taver.
Causing a Stink
Taffer hasn’t got to where he is today by playing nice. He’s loud and he’s proud… and sometimes, he says and does things he really shouldn’t. Signs that Taffer could be ‘trouble’ were already there back in the early 1980s. In need of some publicity for his bar, he decided to hold a ten-week long contest called Thanks for the Mammaries in which women were invited to compete for a breast augmentation. How the winner was decided is a little hazy (and it’s probably best for it to stay that way) but according to mashed.com, one of the requirements included handing over before and after bras that were later bronzed and hung over the men’s room urinals. Classy. Speaking about it now, he says “It was a very different political time. I mean, I did midget-tossing in Long Beach, California. We would throw midgets. So, this was a different time.”
But while times may have changed, Taffer most certainly hasn’t. The proof? A 2016 interview with the Huff Post in which his comments about tequila, mezcal, and mescaline being related and having hallucinogenic properties drew the exasperated ire of the bartending community, most of whom have spent countless hours of their lives trying to dispel that exact same myth. His suggestion that tipping be saved to the end of the night and his frankly weird recipe for an Old Fashioned didn’t exactly go down well with the professionals either.
But controversy isn’t always as bad as it seems. Sometimes, it’s downright helpful. The world is full of people who know how to run a business. It’s not exactly short on people who know the right (and wrong) way of mixing an Old Fashioned, either. But there’s only one John Taffer. Less the thinking woman’s Gordon Ramsay than the reality TV addict’s guilty pleasure, John Taffer is a man who’s made a fortune from thinking big, investing wisely, and knowing the value of a well-placed curse. Which may just explain that $14 million fortune.