The Abbey Pub’s office manager, Leslie Galambos, spotted the casting call on Craigslist and thought, Why not? The next thing she knew, film crews and producers from the new Spike TV show Bar Rescue (brought to you by the makers of The Biggest Loser and hosted by the bar and restaurant consultant Jon Taffer) had descended on the ripe-for-revamping pub and live-music venue in Old Irving Park.
The show also swooped in to update the year-old Blue Frog 22, now called Blue Frog’s The Local 22, in River North (22 E. Hubbard St.; 312-527-1200). “We chose the bars based on location, personalities of owners and staff, and their need for help,” says Tim Duffy, Spike TV’s senior vice president of original series. “Our Chicago bars are owned by amazing people who really needed us. We restored the Chicago landmark The Abbey to its former glory by tapping into local talent, insight and expertise, and we transformed another bar into what we hope will become a new Chicago landmark.”
Viewers will see the results when the Chicago episodes air in July, but local drinkers can check out the changes now.
“Because The Abbey had been struggling in a few areas and had been around for 40 years, we thought we could benefit from any makeover or remodeling suggestions they could give us,” says Galambos. Bar staffers were asked for input ahead of time, although ultimately, “It was the show’s call regarding what actually got remodeled.”
Still, Galambos says, the Looney family, which has owned The Abbey since 1989, is happy with the results. Additions include guitars autographed by the likes of Van Halen (all for sale) hanging on the walls, new patio furniture, a mural, and new carpet to give the place a warmer feel. To differentiate the bar’s pub side from the adjoining intimate concert hall, the Bar Rescue folks renamed the former The Green Room @ The Abbey and added new specialty cocktails and dishes including sticky chicken wings with a Guinness glaze ($7.95) and the Pretzel Jenga with dipping sauces ($6.95).
Galambos’s favorite new item? A large drum-set-turned-chandelier, the brainchild of The Abbey’s general manager, Tom Looney Jr. But have all of the changes made a significant difference where it counts—at the bank? “We’ve noticed a slight pickup in business so far, but we expect to really gain momentum in July, when the show airs,” Galambos says. Tune in.