(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 4 | View All Season 4 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: November 22, 2015
The Bar's Original Name Was: The Arena
The Arena Address: 203 E Washington St Ann Arbor, MI 48104
The Arena was an Ann Arbor, Michigan bar that was featured on Season 4 of Bar Rescue.
Though the Arena Bar Rescue episode aired in November 2015, the actual filming and visit from Jon Taffer took place before that.
It was Season 4 Episode 39 and the episode name was “Unnecessary Toughness”.
In this episode, Jon Taffer visits a bar named The Arena.
The Arena is located in Ann Arbor, MI.
If you’re not familiar with Michigan geography, Ann Arbor is a mid-sized city that’s located just to the west of Detroit.
It’s a pretty big college town, as it’s home to the University of Michigan.
The Wolverines, if you’re a football or basketball fan.
Mike Flore is the owner of the bar and a former restaurant manager.
In 2001 Mike bought the bar and turned it into a sports bar.
That means he’s owned it for well more than a decade at the time of The Arena Bar Rescue episode.
After years of being open, the bar has started to fall into disrepair. Mike is difficult to work with and rude to his staff.
To help rescue the bar, Jon Taffer brings in mixologist Andrew Venjohn and chef Ryan Scott.
The experts are informed that the owner is $1 million in debt, which is a pretty steep hill to climb for any bar, even with Jon Taffer’s help.
Jen, Mike’s wife, bartends with Stephanie, who loves to serve flaming drinks but unsafely.
Vinny is the manager of The Arena, and Jimmy is a cook.
To see how things are functioning, three grad students from the university spy on the bar for Jon.
The furniture is outdated and worn.
The spies ask for a special menu, but there isn’t one, so instead, they order a rum punch, a long island iced tea, and food.
The kitchen doesn’t have the ingredients needed, so they have to change their order.
The food is served, and the spies see that its middle is raw.
Mike confronts the spies over their complaint and scares them.
Customers can make their drinks at the bar as Mike and his staff drink.
Before going inside, Jon Taffer talks with Brittany and Lauren.
They say Mike makes them uncomfortable as well as turns business away.
Jon meets Mike and sits down with Mike, Brittany, and Lauren.
The girls tell Mike their issues, and he becomes very defensive.
The next day the staff meets with Mike, and he eventually agrees with them.
The experts give their feedback and tell the team the flaming drinks are a liability.
Andrew trains the bartenders on drinks that use rum as a base.
While that’s happening, Ryan teaches the kitchen staff a burger using local ingredients.
During the stress test, Jon wants to see positive behavior from Mike.
The bar staff begins making mistakes, and they have to dump drinks.
Mike is so busy he brings drinks to the wrong table.
The bar is falling behind, and Mike breaks a glass and loses a credit card.
Jon ends the stress test and takes Mike to another local bar to show him how it is run.
The next day Jon comes into the bar, and Vinny, the manager, is absent.
Jon meets with Vinny and tries to break down his tough exterior.
Andrew trains the staff on signature drinks while in the kitchen; Ryan shows them a meatball dish.
Jon has finished renovations and made the sign brighter.
However, he didn’t make any changes to the name – it’s still named The Arena.
There is new furniture and a drum set for the university drum team.
The bartenders serve drinks confidently as the relaunch happens.
Jon is pleased with how positive the night is going.
So will the changes last and was the Bar Rescue The Arena episode a long-term success?
Keep reading to learn what happened next and if this Ann Arbor, Michigan bar is still open in 2023.
The Arena Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the Arena Bar Rescue episode and visit, let’s talk about what happened after Jon Taffer and his crew left Ann Arbor, MI.
Things started off well…
In the six weeks after the Bar Rescue episode, The Arena grossed $220,000 in sales, which ain’t too shabby.
Mike seemed to have turned over a new leaf. However, all wasn’t quite what it seemed, as The Arena has a very interesting ending.
Is The Arena from Bar Rescue still open?
The Arena closed for good in July 2016, less than a year after the episode aired on TV.
Why did The Arena close?
Because the owner, Brian Michael Flore, pleaded guilty to keeping over $700,000 in sales tax that he was supposed to pay to the government over the previous ten years.
Obviously, the government didn’t take too kindly to that, which is why they charged him with tax evasion.
The investigation actually started in 2013, according to this article.
That means that the bar was already under investigation at the time that Jon Taffer visited.
He was actually charged with 120 counts of failure to pay taxes – one count for each month that he didn’t pay over the ten-year period.
As part of his plea agreement, Brian received a two-to-five year prison sentence.
He also owed the government $1.5 million in restitution fines.
Given that Brian was in prison and owed the government over $1 million, it’s pretty easy to see why The Arena closed.
Before that happened, reviews for the bar were actually ok, as it had a 3.5 star rating on its Yelp page.
Here’s a sampling of a few reviews that were written after the visit from Jon Taffer…
5 star review from January 2016:
Great sports bar!
Had Brady as our server tonight and he was amazing!
Great personality, super friendly and helpful with any questions or needs we had.
We ordered the egg rolls, potato skins, and mozz sticks as our app, and had the monte Cristo, and the southwest burgers both in Hamburger and chicken forms and everything was amazing!
Can’t wait for my next visit here!
Keep up the great service Brady!
2 star review from November 2015:
As another Yelper mentioned, Jon Taffer and his show Bar Rescue killed The Arena.
It used to be awesome — if you were looking for a sports bar with traces of dive bar thrown in.
The service was awesome, the drinks were cheap, and the food was pretty good for what you were paying for.
I mean, how fancy do you expect mozzarella sticks to be?
Post Jon Taffer: The whole dang inside is painted blue — removing any of the warm wood tones.
They put some brighter bulbs in and strapped some Michigan pictures on the wall and called it a day.
Thank you for your wisdom Taffer, you made the Arena the lovechild of a T.G.I.Fridays and a Buffalo Wild Wings in Ann Arbor.
We come here regularly for trivia on Thursdays, and as a group of six people, spend two hours knocking back $3 Michigan bottled beer which is a happy hour special.
This is apparently something they’re not doing anymore.
Not only that but there’s almost no Michigan beer left in the establishment.
How do you expect to compete with places like Ashley’s or heck even Buffalo Wild Wings with that kind of beer selection.
3 star review from September 2015;
Went here in a game day after the game to grab beers with some Buddies.
All of us were From out of town and to be honest everyone was very very friendly.
But there were a few things that stood out.
One thing was bartenders taking shots of alcohol with customers.
Now, in Oregon that’s a big no no but not sure the rules in Michigan.
I also have to say that there was a huge issue with over serving.
There we multiple groups around us who were obviously over intoxicated yet the waitresses continued to serve them because they knew they were racking up a large tab at the end of the night.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not the fun police here but it’s something that should be noted.
Overall bathrooms were clean, waitress was nice.
And lots of TV’s including ones at your table.
If I’m ever back I might stop in for a beer but I’d be willing to also look for some other great spots in this little town.
As of 2023, the old The Arena Ann Arbor, MI location is occupied by a new bar called Haymaker Public House.
Reviews for the bar seem good, as it has a 4 star rating on Yelp.
You can learn more about the new bar on its official website.
Here’s what the old The Arena Ann Arbor MI location looks like in the most recent Google Maps street view update:
What happened to Brian Michael Flore after Bar Rescue?
Brian Michael Flore was also released from prison in September 2020.
However, I’m not sure what he’s up to now as he doesn’t really have any online presence.
You can see the release details here.
I hope he’s in a better place in life and doing well (and paying his taxes!).
Final thoughts on The Arena
Overall, while The Arena closed, it’s hard to blame Jon Taffer for the owner committing tax evasion.
Even if Jon Taffer’s changes would’ve created a successful business, having the government come knocking on your door is going to cause problems.
As far as I can remember, The Arena was the only Bar Rescue Ann Arbor episode.
However, if you want to see some other Bar Rescue Michigan episodes, you can check out my updates for Chix on Dix / Power Strip in Detroit, Back Beat Piano Bar / Jazz Katz in Southfield (Detroit), The Hooch / Proving Ground in Dearborn Heights (Detroit).
Thanks for reading!
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Last updated: 2023-03-13 06:20