The Sandbar Bar Rescue Update (Playa Island Bar) – Still Open In 2023?

Is Playa Island Bar still open today?

Status: >> CLOSED <<
(keep reading to learn what happened)

Season: 7 | View All Season 7 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: April 5, 2020
The Bar's Original Name Was: The Sandbar Brewery and Grill
Playa Island Bar Address: 4100 San Mateo Blvd NE Albuquerque, NM 87110

The Sandbar Bar Rescue Update (Playa Island Bar)

Episode Recap

The Sandbar Brewery and Grill, later renamed to Playa Island Bar, was an Albuquerque, New Mexico bar that was featured on Season 7 of Bar Rescue.

Though the Sandbar Bar Rescue episode aired in April 2020, the actual filming and visit from Jon Taffer took place a good bit before that in August 2019 (before the Covid-19 pandemic).

It was Season 7 Episode 6 and the episode name was “Life’s a Beach”.

Note – there was another bar named Sandbar that was featured on Bar Rescue in Season 4. If you’re looking for that update, check out our Sandbar Sports Grill / Hot Rock update.

Sean Cowell owns The Sandbar Brewery and Grill, located in Albuquerque, NM. Or at least that’s what he thinks.

The Sandbar owner Sean

In 2017 Sean and Mike Martinez formed a partnership to open a beach-themed bar with volleyball courts.

That means they’ve only had the bar for a couple of years at the time of the Sandbar Bar Rescue episode.

At first, The Sandbar was successful, but soon they began to struggle.

The Sandbar needed more money to stay afloat, so Sean asked Mike and other investors for more money.

Because of taking on that outside money, Sean’s stake went down to 10% (though Mike disputes even this small ownership).

Now, Mike barely acknowledges Sean’s ownership in The Sandbar, and the two argue a lot which makes staff and customers uncomfortable.

The decor is not beach-themed anymore, and the bar is in severe, mounting debt.

After Sean lost his home, he contacted Bar Rescue and asked for help from Jon Taffer and his crew.

Jon Taffer thinks a beach bar is a great idea, especially in New Mexico. So this one definitely has potential.

To recon the bar, mixologist Amy Koffsky and Chef Jason Santos are with Jon Taffer outside the bar.

The camera footage shows Kenny, the manager, David and Carissa’s bartenders, and server Elizabeth.

Behind the bar, David makes a drink but uses a rotten lime as garnish.

The cook, Victor, is using dirty oil to fry food in the kitchen. 

Amy and Jason go into The Sandbar and tell Sean to meet with Jon outside the SUV.

The Sandbar recon Bar Rescue

The experts order drinks and food at the bar.

The drink tastes too much like the sour mix, and the nachos are cold.

Jon and Sean talk, and Sean tells him that he still owns 10% of the bar.

Mike then meets with Jon Taffer and tells him Sean defaulted on his loan and lost the business entirely. 

Sean brings out paperwork stating he owns 10% of the bar, and even though he has signed it, the other parties have not, making the form invalid.

Jon Taffer enters The Sandbar and tells the employees Sean does not own the bar but has been acting as he does. Awkward!

Jon returns the following day to talk to the staff and learn more about the bar.

The staff confides in Jon that Sean hides in the office all day and only comes out to scold them.

The bar has no theme or identity, among many other issues.

The employees are shown a Partender report which states they will lose a projected $137,000, which is some serious cheddar. 

In the kitchen, Victor, the cook, complains to Chef Jason that he has no control of the kitchen and the menu.

Chef Jason wants the cooks to rediscover their love of cooking, so he teaches them tasty and simple taco dishes.

Amy also trains the bartenders on consistency to prep them for the stress test. 

Amy asks Sean to make a drink, and he refuses, which angers Mike, so Jon takes him outside.

The two men talk, and Mike decides to give Sean another chance during the stress test.

Sean and Kenny are in charge of their own set of servers and bartenders.

At the end of the stress test, they will see which team performed better and who won

Kenny is a great leader and helps his team out at the bar.

On the other side, Sean’s team is falling behind because Sean has disappeared.

Mike has seen enough of Sean’s behavior and fires him.

The Sandbar owner Mike

The two men get into a verbal argument, but Sean finally leaves.

After the stress test, Mike tells the staff Kenny is the new manager, and they are happy. 

Once the stress test is finished, the experts can really get down to work training the staff.

Chef Jason trains the cooks on how to make easy snack dishes.

Kim teaches the bartenders how to upsell drinks at the bar with jello shots.

While all of that is happening, Jon Taffer and his crew are hard at work on renovating the bar.

While Jon did like the beach theme, he decided to rename the bar from The Sandbar Brewery to Playa Island Bar.

I gotta be honest – I hate the new name. Spoiler alert – The Sandbar owners also seem to hate it, as you’ll see in a second.

Beyond the new name, they also got a lot of new equipment from the show’s sponsors.

Mirage Vision TV has supplied the bar with TVs, and Rockless Tables have provided new tables. 

Customers come into the bar and are impressed.

They are pleased with the food, decor, and drinks.

The employees do a great job of staying on top of orders and things seem to be looking up for the bar.

So was the Sandbar Brewery Bar Rescue episode a success? Keep reading our update to learn what happened and how the bar is doing in 2024.

Playa Island Bar Update - What Happened Next?

Now that we’ve recapped the Playa Island Bar Bar Rescue episode, let’s talk about what happened after Jon Taffer and his crew left Albuquerque, New Mexico.

First off, it wasn’t named Playa Island Bar for very long.

Shortly after Jon Taffer left, the bar returned to use The Sandbar Brewery name and ditched Playa Island Bar.

Despite that, sales did seem to increase when the Bar Rescue producers checked in with the owners.

However, that would not be enough to save the bar as the bar wasn’t even able to stay open long enough for the Playa Island Bar Rescue episode to air on TV.

Is The Sandbar from Bar Rescue still open?

The Sandbar Brewery closed in November 2019, which was three months after Jon Taffer’s actual visit but five months before the episode aired on TV.

When it closed, the bar was doing business as The Sandbar Brewery and not Playa Island Bar, which shows that they really didn’t keep Jon Taffer’s concept for very long.

Because the bar had such a short run, there aren’t really any reviews or social media posts to look at to get an idea of how it was working.

Overall, The Sandbar had a 2.5 star rating on Yelp, but most of those reviews were written before the visit from Jon Taffer.

Here are a few example reviews that were written after Taffer’s visit (but before the episode actually aired on TV).

4 star Yelp review from September 2019:

Football Sunday is where it’s at here!

I love the vibe and our server Elizabeth was outstanding!

Let’s not forget to mention that the carne asada quesadilla was on point.

And the seating is 10x better than it was before!

And huge shout out to the DJ for keeping us entertained in between commercial breaks.

5 star Yelp review from September 2019:

Always a great place to be.

The food is good and the bloody Mary’s are great.

I have to say, the House DJ is one of the best DJ’s ever.

The DJ never disappoints and always gets the party going.

Enjoy the nights out here as well as the game days.

2 star Yelp review from August 2019:

Terrible, horrible service.

They don’t have any low calorie drinks available, except water.

They don’t even have a diet soda option.

The only reason I didn’t give one star is because it’s a cool concept, having a volleyball court and they did offer salsa lessons.

1 star Yelp review from October 2019:

This place used to be very fun but the new management has made this place full of pretentious workers and expensive games.

For a time, the old The Sandbar Albuquerque, NM location seemed to be vacant.

In a February 2022 image from Google Maps Street View, you can still see the main The Sandbar sign.

If you look below that, you can see a message saying “For Lease, Got Space”.

The Sandbar closed after Bar Rescue

Here’s a Google Maps street view embed for the old Playa Island Bar Albuquerque NM location so that you can see if anything changes.

In the most recent update (January 2023), it seems like the property has been repainted in red, though it still has the “For Lease, Got Space” sign.

With that being said, I do see a new entry for Overtime Sports Bar & Grill on Google.

So it’s possible that Overtime Sports Bar & Grill will soon be taking over the property.

I’m not 100% sure, though, so I will update this post when I know more.

If you live in Albuquerque and know that’s happening with that property, please let me know in the comments.

Overall, the Playa Island Bar Rescue episode wasn’t very satisfying because the bar didn’t keep Jon Taffer’s concept and it closed just a few months after his visit.

Again, if you want to learn about another bar named Sandbar that appeared on Bar Rescue, you can check out our Sandbar Sports Grill / Hot Rock update from Season 3.

And if you want to see another Albuquerque Bar Rescue episode, you can check out our Lucky 66 Bowl / Great 66 Entertainment Center update.

The VFW Post 6216 episode was also shot in Albuquerque, though that’s not a for-profit bar.

Those three episode are the only three Bar Rescue New Mexico episodes so far, but there are plenty of episodes in nearby Texas and Colorado that you can find on the full Bar Rescue updates page.

Thanks for reading!

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Last updated: 2023-02-07 07:10

32 thoughts on “The Sandbar Bar Rescue Update (Playa Island Bar) – Still Open In 2023?”

All comments are the sole opinion of the commenter and are not endorsed by RealityTVUpdates.

  1. So Sean ran it successfully for a while till the volleyball concept wasnt the hot new thing and when it went downhill his investors screwed him out of owning his bar and then his lawyer screwed him out of his last 10% by not sending a copy of the signed paperwork to the investors. Then because he wasnt a bartender or a waiter or a manager (since he had people to do that for him) he gets fired by the new owner who’s a former investor… then it immediately shuts down after Taffer leaves. So it seems that an investor isnt a manager, or a bar tender, or a waiter, or an owner either… maybe Mike should have stayed TF out of the bar business and stayed in his “investor” lane.

  2. The owner blaming his manager for his failure is ridiculous…he (the owner)was willing to put more money into the bar so it is actually his fault by not questioning the manager while he kept paying the bills.
    The owner is in denial and a total ass. I’d never work for him.

  3. Ironically the owner is totally to blame.
    I ran a business with a partner for 10 years, worked for the company for 39 years.
    Stress and mental abuse made me leave the business, 2 years later the business closed.
    Not the same type of business as a bar but same ownership can kill a business no matter what it is!

  4. I just watched this episode and I am convinced Sean was 100% setup, by the show and by Jon, heck Jon even admitted it in the office that he didn’t like him and that he wanted him out… BUT there is one very important thing everyone seems to have forgotten, Sean found the investors, Sean squeezed more funding out of them, and most importantly Sean is the reason BR even came to that bar.

    Watching this show for a long time, if a manager spent SO MUCH time in one area and neglects the rest, their butts would handed to them. During stress test Sean and Kenny had their own side of the bar to manage, Sean was hustling around taking orders had credit cards in hand and was getting thins moving, meanwhile Kenny was functioning solely as a bartender or bar-back, on any other episode that would have been frowned upon. It is NOT a managers job to make drinks, thats what the bartender is for, and watching the bartender struggle on Seans side, makes me think they directed him to do that so they could highlight Sean behind the bar even more.
    Sean was portrayed and edited in as a bumbling fool the entire episode, but listen to his confidence and articulation in the office, Sean is a smart guy (he got Mike and other investors to spend their $$) but for some reason they wanted to make him look like he was solely at fault, and with that NO ONE looked at Mike who looked like he was going to stroke out at any minute, definitely not a happy face you should see in hospitality.
    I love this show but this episode really let anyone with their eyes open, see the incredible level of manipulation and scripting of the production team.
    In my opinion, in the big picture Mike brought nothing to the table and wasn’t called out for it, while Sean made it all possible and got ramrodded right out the door!

    By the way what was that disgusting messy street corn BS the chef pushed on them, he said “its perfect for a snack when playing volleyball” dude it was gross and would get everywhere.
    And the mixologist lady, wow she was cute and fun, they need to bring her back on the show over and over!

  5. This ep really stood out among the couple I’ve seen so far. The dynamic between Jon, Sean, & Mike was extremely odd. It felt scripted. I feel like instead of letting Sean go from the very beginning, they kept him on just to give the audience a taste of what he’s really like. I still can’t wrap my head how literally no one liked Sean. If you remember the scene when the mixologist was training Sean to make a simple drink, she gave Sean so much SH*T too!! LOL. There may have been behind the scenes stuff where he was just a completely asshole. But the end of the day, a failing bar falls on management 🤷🏻‍♂️ it was Sean’s time to leave.

    Anyway… Kenny was hella hot.

  6. Saw on their Google page the owner said the bar was closed because of Bar Rescue. Sean seemed incompetent of course, but ultimately, things boil down to the dynamic between Mike and Sean. If you’re the owner, the buck stops with you, not your manager. If you’re the owner, and you’re there, you manage your manager.

    Now, to the “we closed because of Bar Rescue”, a show can’t come help you in one week after you dug a whole for over a year. An expert can give you systems, train you, give you a makeover, but if you fail to stick to them once they leave, they wasted their own time.

  7. Sean was very unlikable, but more so is Mike.

    See how making Sean his scapegoat helped Mike?

    Mike is a lousy owner. Sean was a lousy manager.

  8. My curiosity is how much did the bar make over costs in the few months it was opened?

    Therein lies the key, the rest of the lost you can write it off as a business, especially if you are an investor.

    Lots of unnecessary drama in my book.

  9. I think it is pretty bad when it was Sean who called Bar Rescue and he ends up losing his job and the bar he loved gets remodeled into what he’d wanted all along.

    I also think he was set up to fail in the stress test 100%. You could tell the bartender assigned to him wasn’t going to do well on purpose. Kenny never once did anything but makes drinks. Why didn’t he run the food out or check on customers? Why didn’t Jon call him out on that?
    I will say, Sean should have gotten each order to the kitchen as he took it, that mistake was on him but, I’ve seen other managers on the show do far worse, get drunk and still kept their job. Him getting fired was just wrong!

    I think Mike took advantage of Sean. Though Sean should have just sign those 10% owner documents, even though it was a bad deal (and he felt it) or he should have re-negotiated it, not ignore it.

    I’ve only been watching Bar Rescue for about a month and this is the only one that I thought was done underhandedly. Shame on Jon for his part in it.
    In the end, I’m happy it closed!!!
    Mike deserved that!

    • Your comment is spot on. I believe Sean was set up to fail on purpose but he is to blame for not having those documents notarized and sent back. The bar eventually failed because of terrible ownership, not Sean.

  10. Sean was the”Fall Guy” from the start. Mike, as owner, should have been on top of all facets of his ownership duties.
    Sean, not the brightest bulb in the drawer, wasn’t aware of his legal obligations and with his incompetent “Public Defender” failed on who signs what.
    All along he was in over his head and taken advantage of to the point of losing his home.
    Sean, best of luck to you in your future endeavors. Be aware of wolves in sheep clothing.

  11. This whole episode was a mess. Sucks that Sean called Bar Rescue and they pushed him out but both Mike and Sean had room for improvement and didn’t know what they were doing.

    Side note, not a huge fan of the bartender expert they had on the show. She was cute sure but was I the only one to notice that they’ve hammered it into our brains every other episode that you’re never supposed to shake with the glass towards the customer and that is exactly was Sean does and she doesn’t call him on it? In fact she tells him good job. Either that or it was bad editing but come on! Continuity please!!

  12. It’s surprising people don’t see through the scumbaggery employed in creating villains and good guys more often. Sean wasn’t a good manager, granted. Having years of professional experience in the area, I can promise you, reality tv production companies are the lowest life form on earth. How so many are so fooled is pretty bizarre. The % that think Jon is this great guy, wow.

  13. Playa club? LOL A 75 yo Gringo names a place
    Playa club and thinks it’s totally badass, it was seriously LOL. Sure to attract all fresh young hippity hoppers haha

  14. Yep Ot sports bar and grill did take ot over and opens next month. Bar rescue didn’t much on the way the place looked. It was Snealers, then the sandbar then Playa island or whatever. It always looks the same other than a coat of paint. I have no hope OT sports bar will be any better but I live around the corner so ill check it out…

    • Yeah that overtime bar will never open. The real reason why sandbar failed was that the owners were pervs and just wanted to hire girls they can harass and power trip on. I went in an interview and they passed me up without one question about bartending even though I have worked at the most sought out places here an Vegas.

      Fast forward to ot, went in for an interview, same response, we want a place between ojos and hooters amd we open on september 23, didn’t tell them my background in bartending, how’s that opening business concept doing,….oh nevermind it’s Oct 2nd and your not….EPIC FAIL TWICE….LMAO

  15. Any Kofsky’s comment about Sean being called from the bar by Mike: “Good Riddance”. Really? Granted, he was useless, but her snarky bitch comments were rude; she does not have the chops to insult ANYONE. She’s a friggin bartender with only 10 yeats’ experience, that’s all.

  16. It’s shocking how many accounts Sean has made to pretend that he was not the sole problem here; all the other people in this episode hated him… no matter how much reality TV is edited. Kenny was the lovely, and Sean should be put into a mental hospital because of how delusional he is.

    • It isn’t beyond the rhelm of belief that someone portrayed badly, on a reality show, would make fake accounts in a comment section of an article reviewing the episode.

      However, it seemed like Sean was villianized out the gate in this show. That owner Mike had full ownership for a year and allowed all of this to happen.

      I hope Sean learned from the experience and I hope Mike keeps squandering his money on bad investments.

  17. Sean may have been lousy and definitely not real sharp not having sent over the legal documents but he wasn’t the worst here. Mike wasn’t much better. The bartender sent to Sean’s side during the evaluation was a joke. And Jon was flat out the worst. At least in this episode a total asshole.


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