Reality Show Aims to Rescue Royal Oaks

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The rusted, decaying sign hanging outside The Royal Oaks, a fixture seemingly unattended for decades, belied the activity Tuesday at the East Side bar.

Passing motorists honked their horns as members of the production crew for the Spike TV series “Bar Rescue” scurried in, out and around the establishment, located at 924 Oak St., the site of the realty television show’s latest project.

The show, which is hosted by Jon Taffer, a food and beverage industry consultant who specializes in bars and restaurants, goes into establishments to analyze what they are doing wrong and make recommendations.

Fred D’Amico, executive director of the Greater Youngstown Film Commission Bar, said his office was initially contacted by Bar Rescue personnel about a month ago and called again two weeks ago to say, “They were actually going to be boots on the ground.”

Production crews arrived Sunday and filming began Monday, he said.

D’Amico, a Youngstown native who has worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, helped the production crew to help set up logistics such as catering for the crew and lodging. “We’ve been working very closely with the city of Youngstown to make sure everything goes really good for them,” he said.

“Bars from all over the country submit applications to be on the show,” said a Spike TV spokesman in Los Angeles. Show staff vets the submissions to eliminate establishments that have “clear underlying issues” such as tax liens or fundamental structural damage” that are beyond Taffer’s areas of expertise “and then choose the ones that seem the most compelling or in need,” he added.

Members of the production crew at the Royal Oaks were unable to talk to the press Tuesday and no photographs were permitted inside the Royal Oaks.

Once a bar’s owners agree to be part of the show, the Bar Rescue crew “actually have the right to change the names of the bars, rip out the whole interior of the bars, put in a whole new look to the place and give you a whole new menu if they want to,” D’Amico said.

Crew from the show initially analyzes the bar and does undercover filming.

“They notice what the bar is doing wrong,” D’Amico explained.

“Sometimes you’ll have bartenders drinking with the customers, you’ll have the owners sitting there drinking, sometimes there’s food that’s left out for too long that they catch on cameras. So then they do a review of what they’ve seen for the first couple of days inside this bar,” he continues. At that point, Tapper points out the issues and “rips them apart, basically saying this is why you are asking us to rescue you.”

The Royal Oaks was to go under what is called a “stress test” last night, during which Bar Rescue staff would get to see how it performs with a large crowd.

“They can handle a large crowd, but the question is will Bar Rescue think they’re handling it properly? And now they’re going to show the owners where they’re slipping through the cracks and how they can tighten,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico is enthusiastic when discussing the economic impact of the production, which is expected to be in town for two weeks, from rental cars hotel rooms for the 45 members of the crew to providing daily catering. He has created a Crew Pass for visiting film and television production crews, which can be shown at participating area establishments for discounts and amenities such as free appetizers. Six students from Youngstown State University and Trumbull Career and Technical Center are working as production assistants, he noted.

D’Amico is even more excited when discussing the potential impact of future productions. He points to economic impact studies of the gains realized by cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which in recent years have hosted production crews for big-budget blockbusters such as the Batman movie The Dark Knight, Marvel’s The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. These type of productions require hundreds of extras, for example, providing more employment opportunities.

“There’s been rumors and talk about other reality shows coming, movies trying to come into our area,” D’Amico said. “I’ve had phone calls for over $30 million worth of movies.” Because the Bar Rescue crew will be here for another week, another local makeover is rumored, although nothing has been confirmed, he said.

Following last night’s stress test, the public will be invited to return later this week, once the Bar Rescue crew is done with the makeover, D’Amico said. Hopefully the community will accept the remade Royal Oaks, he said.

“Of course, the community’s concerned because this is The Royal Oaks. It’s been around for 100 years,” he remarked.

“There’s rumors that the Royal Oaks is actually haunted,” D’Amico said. “Whether or not that ghost is going to stick around for the new place or not, who knows?”

That sounds like an opportunity for a visit by another reality show. Does anyone have the number for Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures or The Dead Files?

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.