The Hopleaf Bar's Michael Roper is very proud of his nearly 25-year-old Andersonville bar and restaurant. Customers laud the vast beer selection, food and that it's a rare haven without televisions blaring sports. So imagine his disbelief on Friday when the folks from Spike TV's "Bar Rescue" came calling, asking if Roper wanted the Hopleaf on the TV show to help business. The caller supposedly told Roper he would get some "free remodeling out of it."
"I don't know that we are in need of such, of being saved," Roper said he told the caller.
The show's premise is to remodel struggling bars to make them more successful. The New York Times Magazine ran an interview with host Jon Taffer earlier in February that mentioned a "70 percent success rate," which apparently measures how Taffer's changes have helped bars that have appeared on the show. Taffer called that the highest rate in "transformation television" —apparently a niche term for reality TV.
Roper said he really doesn't want to take advice from the host, as the same article references promotions Taffer used at his bars — they gave away breast-augmentation surgery and offered "midget" tossing. Roper also isn't a fan of sports bars, and said many bars which participate lose their edge when transformed into generic joints. The TV show's sponsorships also bother Roper.
"There are bars that do those kind of things," Roper said. "Wrigleyville is full of them, but it's so not me," Roper said.
Roper and his staff found the request humorous, and he doesn't appear to harbor any ill will, but it's strange to imagine the Hopleaf as an ideal candidate for renovations. Back in 2012, they expanded next door by adding a second bar and 112 seats while quadrupling the size of the kitchen, and it's routinely busy.
Roper says "Bar Rescue" called him to appear on the show before, in 2011, and he says he also declined a chance to be a consultant for the show, as that would require him to stay on set for eight-hour days without compensation. "They said I'd get exposure," Roper laughed.
The Abbey Pub, Blue Frog 22 on Hubbard and Underground Wonder Bar have represented Chicago while appearing on the show. One of Roper's friends noted via Facebook that "Bar Rescue" once asked Lettuce Entertain Your Enterprise's tiki titan Three Dots and a Dash if they wanted to be on the show. A request asking "Bar Rescue" reps if they planned a Chicago visit soon and what criteria they use to book bars wasn't returned.