After 'Bar Rescue'? Major Hangover

Spike TV show Bar Rescue makes over Handlebar Cafe. Owner Elizabeth Mitchell-Cipriano is still recovering.

Harley-Davidson Sportster decorates the bar at Handlebar. Spike TV gave it to bar owner Elizabeth Mitchell-Cipriano. Credit: Ellyn Santiago
Harley-Davidson Sportster decorates the bar at Handlebar. Spike TV gave it to bar owner Elizabeth Mitchell-Cipriano. Credit: Ellyn Santiago

Reported and written by Ellyn Santiago.

The best part of the makeover at Handlebar Café by the Spike TV reality show Bar Rescue, owner Elizabeth Mitchell-Cipriano said, has been the publicity.    

Beyond that the “stress of being left with so many loose ends,” has Mitchell-Cipriano feeling overwhelmed.      

“Someone asked me, 'Where’s the dartboard?' I don’t know. And I can’t find my checkbook to get one,” she said referring to the blessing and curse of reality TV fame.    

“It’s all the stuff you don’t see that’s so crazy. You watch a reality makeover show and say, 'Oh my God, why can’t that be me.' And then when it is, it’s like 'Oh my God,' look at this mess.”    

The ‘mess’ she’s referring to is the “basement packed with all my stuff from 18 years in boxes. I can’t find a thing. It is a jumbled mess down there.”    

Like her ATM machine: “I was looking around and was like, where is it?”    

“Listen, I had the wrong perception. I just thought, like most people that watch (so-called reality shows) it would be so different. They took care of the stuff from the camera angle. If the camera wasn’t there, it was left (undone).”    

Mitchell-Cipriano said that while she is grateful for the facelift, she’s left to deal with some “pretty major (issues), like the signs.”    

The bar is called the Handlebar Café. But the signage done by Bar Rescue calls it the Handlebar & Grill: “How do I begin to figure that one out,” she asked rhetorically.    

And the mural painted on the side of the building has become a potential problem; no zoning application had been made for that signage. This issue, though, First Selectman Edward Haberek said is fixable: “We will investigate a new approach since (Bar Rescue) was to have renovations hidden before the reveal.”    

On the bright side, the interior of the bar is fresh and new, though Mitchell-Cipriano said she’s barely had time to take it all in.    

"I haven't even looked at it. I haven't had a chance to really check it out," she said.    The bar has been done up in black and white giving it a polished vibe. But it's still a biker bar, after all, so there's a a brand new Harley-Davidson Sportster perched atop the bar.  

“I’m trying to figure out what kind of curtains I can put up (to match the theme).  They didn’t do that (meaning window coverings).”    

Mitchell-Cipriano said the show and its host, Jon Taffer, schooled her. She said  she has become more acutely aware of her mistakes as a manager and “that’s been an awakening.”    

Now if she can just find her bills in the basement to pay them, she’ll be all good.              
FJS July 27, 2013 at 07:01 PM
just a caution about that name change thing--the IRS will not look kindly on changing the name since you Taxpayer ID number is issued in the name of the business as is your state tax number. Change it back, since the people who walk in there will know you serve food, and no one is going to go there specifically for the food (which is something the show, inaccurately made a big deal.


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