EVERETT — So, a man walks into a bar and says, “I’m here to give this place a makeover and show your dirty laundry on national TV.”
The punchline is that it happened on Hewitt Avenue. Again.
“Bar Rescue” visited Ynot Sports Pub & Grub, 2015 Hewitt Ave., in May. The episode is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Sunday on Spike TV.
It’s the second joint on Hewitt in less than four years to draw reality-TV crews — and the two bars are only six blocks apart.
What’s up with that? Why is Hewitt such a magnet for Hollywood?
First it was Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” makeover in 2012 of Prohibition Grille, 1414 Hewitt Ave. On the show, the swearing celebrity chef blasted the menu, booted the chef, banned belly dancing and changed the named from Grille to Gastropub. After all, it didn’t have a grill.
Then, last spring, “Bar Rescue” host and tell-it-like-it-is titan Jon Taffer paid a visit to Ynot Sports Pub & Grub, a bar with a mess of problems and goldfish racing.
Taffer’s team de-cluttered the Ynot walls that were plastered with sports swag, gave it a red Asian theme and a new name, The Forbidden Pub. They also nixed the goldfish racetrack where patrons would propel fish down lanes using squirt bottles.
This Sunday’s episode, called “How To Train Your Goldfish,” is described this way by Spike TV: “Nasty nachos and goldfish races are on the menu at this sports pub. But in a ‘Bar Rescue’ first, a staffing crisis hits before the stress test, leaving the owners without any employees. Can Taffer right the ship before it drowns?”
Some things have already changed since the show was filmed. The Forbidden Pub has reverted its name back to Ynot Sports Pub & Grub. Perhaps Southern Cal isn’t that hip on Everett culture.
“I think the name ‘Forbidden’ is awesome, just not for North Everett and my bar,” co-owner Yvette Otto said. “For two months I defended it. I said, ‘Forbidden just means you don’t know what you are going to get. We have some new foods and cocktails.’”
Sure enough, the new drinks and eats drew people at first, in part due to the spotlight cast from the TV visit. Then the curious stopped coming, as did the regulars.
Nobody liked the name. “Not one positive review of it,” Otto said.
There was more at heart than the name Ynot, which came with the place when Otto and her mate Jon Ellis gained ownership three years ago of the bar that sits across from Xfinity Arena.
“We bought a sports bar because we wanted it to be about sports,” she said.
The makeover’s sleek red walls, red lanterns and foil wallpaper accent wasn’t very sporty.
Otto and Ellis brought sports swag back, though much less of it.
“We love the clean look,” Otto said. “We are starting a Seahawks wall. We want to make sure it is nice this time not just one big cluttered mess.”
With the old name and the green-and-blue back, guess what?
“A lot of the regulars are coming back,” Otto said.
Otto is grateful for the “Bar Rescue” intervention, which led to improvements.
“That really motivated us to make changes,” she said. “I wasn’t running it with my head, I was running it with heart and being way too nice.”
The crew set them up with a new payment and inventory system. New black chairs and tabletops replaced the dated maroon and brown theme. Asian fusion appetizers and signature cocktails topped the menu.
“I took their advice and I condensed the menu. It used to be six pages and now it’s only three,” Otto said.
Acoustic music night was added to the venue with karaoke, poker and sports played out on a dozen TVs. Fish swim freely inside a newly installed centerpiece aquarium behind the bar. The goldfish track has been retired to the beer garden patio as wall-art.
Bar regular Aaron Pettett said he likes the old menu and the new TV layout.
“If you have a short attention span like me, you can watch four TVs at one time,” said Pettett, an aerospace worker. “They kept the pulled pork, which is one of my favorite things here. If you haven’t had it you should try it.”
He was in the bar during the karaoke night filming by “Bar Rescue,” but isn’t sure he wants to see himself on the show. “I got a little faded that night,” he said.
Otto is excited yet nervous about the limelight on the show exposing her flaws.
“I just always wanted to have a bar where everybody was happy,” she said.
So in that respect, the stars of this Hollywood show are living happily enough ever after.
New twist on belly dance
There was another happy ending further down Hewitt Avenue after Gordon Ramsay came to town almost four years ago to shoot an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares,” which has since been canceled.
Prohibition owner Rishi Brown credited Ramsay with saving her struggling restaurant. She took his advice and stopped belly dancing during dinner and changed the menu along with her management style. The clip of her trying to explain soup of the day went viral. Ramsay came back to the scene of the culinary crime seven months later for a revisit episode. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson even proclaimed July 31, 2013, as “Prohibition Gastropub Appreciation Day.”
Recently, it went back to being a grill, along with a new owner, Brenton Holland.
Holland bought the place from Brown two months ago and replaced Gastropub with Grille & Saloon.
“I’ve been asking her for over two years to buy it,” he said.
She finally said yes.
“It’s going to be a steak house,” Holland said. “We bought a grill. We are going to focus more on the saloon portion, on the steaks and burgers and whiskeys.”
Prime Rib Night isn’t the only thing he added.
“On Sundays, we have what’s called ‘Drag Me to Lunch.’ We do a drag show,” he said. “It has been remarkably popular and filled the tables. If you want to see a show while you’re eating lunch, this is the place to be.”
The drag brunch is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. For $15 extra, you can enjoy bottomless mimosas or bloody Mary’s.
Holland, who lives in Marysville, also owns Bar Myx Everett, a gay nightclub a couple blocks away on California Street, and he’s a partner in a nearby consignment shop slated to open soon. He has a Thai restaurant in Seattle and two clubs in Spokane.
The Prohibition has mostly new staff.
“A couple of the bartenders are the same from Bar Myx,” he said. “A lot of people don’t recognize them here because over there they wear underwear.”
At the Prohibition, they wear white shirts with bow ties.
Rocky back in the ring
Remember the chef at the Prohibition who appeared to be “fired” on national TV?
That chef, Edward “Rocky” Trabue, opened his own bistro, Ole Soul Southern Creole, at 1105 Hewitt Ave., in 2013. It’s less than three blocks from the Prohibition.
On “Kitchen Nightmares” Ramsay called Trabue’s food “overcooked tasteless mush.” Trabue was a good sport and stayed calm and showed grace under fire during the berating, which was dramatized for TV.
“Being fired on national TV on a reality show has nothing to do with reality,” Trabue told me.
He said he was already in the process of opening his own Southern soul food place when “Kitchen Nightmares” was in Everett. The restaurant has received many good reviews online and in a Herald dining review.
The menu at the bistro run by him and his wife, Sylvia, has ribs, catfish, collard greens, oysters, fried green tomatoes, skillet cornbread and handrafted cocktails.
It has thrived despite — and without the help of — reality TV.
“We are investigating a location for a second or third bistro,” he said.
Hollywood can’t make this stuff up.
Contact Andrea Brown at 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter:@reporterbrown.