Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue on Van Halen’s boozy business affairs
“Running a bar is not just a business – it’s a science… nobody knows more about bar science than Jon Taffer.” Three seasons in, that opening voiceover to Spike TV’s Bar Rescue is undoubtedly the most recognizable on the current reality television landscape. Taffer, a bar business veteran, takes on the tired, the angry, the bitter, and the dejected who are desperate to find a savior even if, like doubting Thomas before them, they at first don’t believe. Much more often than not, the boisterous, Svengali-like Taffer is able to take establishments in disrepair and turn them around with a new look, sometimes a new name, and always with an attitude of positivity that few can match.
I know you’ve worked with Sammy Hagar before, but when it comes to Van Halen, are you a Dave guy or a Sammy guy?
[Laughs] Let me tell you a quick, funny story about when Sammy and the guys went down to Mexico and decided to open Cabo Wabo – this is years ago. They had left a titty bar and they watched a local drunk walk into a light pole and knock himself out. Sammy turns to Eddie and says, “That’s the Cabo Wabo!” and they have a big laugh. The next morning they wake up and decide they want to open this nightclub next to their favorite topless bar. They find a local architect [Marco Monroy] and tell them that they want a 12,000-square-foot nightclub. Being rockstars, they leave two days later and go on a 10 month tour.
They come back after the tour and the club is 12,000 square meters, which is 32,000 square feet – so this club is almost three times the size they expected. First year it loses one million dollars and is a huge frustration in the band. Sammy goes ahead and buys out Eddie and his brother and now he owns 100% of it and he gives half of it to the architect, Marco, and his wife, to run in Cabo.
Marco’s wife becomes promoted to the VP of tourism to the port of Cabo. The next morning, there are buses pulling up in front of Cabo Wabo from all the cruise ships to buy t-shirts, and suddenly they’re doing $50,000 to $60,000 a week in t-shirts when the month before the place was losing a million a year.
Sammy’s got the tequila going, he’s got the club going, he’s making all this money and he’s perceived as the coolest guy in Van Halen, and the Van Halen brothers have none of this.Now the Van Halen brothers are out, Sammy owns the place, it becomes successful. Marco comes up with the idea to make a Cabo Wabo tequila, they move 140,000 cases a year in sales and Sammy later sells it for, give or take, $80 million. All this is going on while the band had broken up over, what I believe, Cabo Wabo. Sammy’s got the tequila going, he’s got the club going, he’s making all this money and he’s perceived as the coolest guy in Van Halen, and the Van Halen brothers have none of this.
Eight years later, the band gets back together with Sammy for a summer tour. At this time, I’m working with Sammy on a Cabo Wabo New Orleans. In the contract that Sammy signed to go on tour with Van Halen, it said specifically that he’s not allowed to say Cabo Wabo, wear Cabo Wabo shirts, do anything with Cabo Wabo onstage whatsoever.
He signs the contract.
Next day, Sammy goes out and gets the biggest fucking Cabo Wabo tattoo on his arm he can possibly get. Every promo picture has Cabo Wabo in it. Halfway through a planned world tour they were ready to frickin’ kill each other and they [didn’t go overseas].
The theory is that Sammy hoodwinked the Van Halen brothers, had a plan to buy them out while the club was doing poorly and then turn it around and make all the profit for himself.
Can I be honest with you? I know Sammy Hagar – he’s not that smart. It didn’t happen that way. They opened the place – it failed. They wanted out, Sammy bought them out. The cruise ships started showing up; that’s the side of the story I believe. And Sammy’s not a bad guy – I’m not suggesting he is – Sammy Hagar did not wake up one morning and decide to fuck the Van Halen brothers.
However! That said… I gotta go with Diamond Dave.
I’m right there with ya.
When I used to run the Troubadour, Diamond Dave used to come hang out and I remember a lot of wild Diamond Dave nights that I won’t get into. There were some amazing stories at the Troubadour and he was involved in quite a few of them, actually [laughs].
Read more at http://www.vanyaland.com/2013/08/29/...iness-affairs/