Hollywood action struck Hewitt Avenue again.
Last week, camera crews set up shop at Ynot Sports Bar &Grub across from Xfinity Arena. It was a flashback a la Gordon Ramsay 2012, when the “Kitchen Nightmares” celebrity chef came to save the Prohibition Grille-turned-Gastropub about 10 blocks away.
This time it was tell-it-like-it-is tavern makeover man Jon Taffer to the “Bar Rescue” at the Ynot, which now sports a bright red front and a name change.
What’s up with that?
Taffer is the Ramsay of bars and nightclubs, only nicer.
Not a mister nice guy, mind you, but nicer.
In each episode of the Spike TV series, Taffer helps transform struggling bars into cash cows.
The Prohibition had belly dancing. The Ynot had goldfish racing.
Patrons would use squirt bottles to propel goldfish down plastic lanes with black checkered flags at the finish.
Not any more.
“Goldfish racing is something that has been retired,” bar co-owner Jon Ellis said. “They said there are other ways to promote a bar. I am going to hang the goldfish track on the back patio as something for people to look at and laugh at.”
Taffer’s team created a signature menu with items such as green tea vodka with Thai chili syrup, coconut rice balls and Korean barbecue bao balls.
The blue-and-green festooned sports decor mashup is gone. The crew gave it a sleek look: Dark wood tables and chairs. Red lanterns. Red walls. Accent wallpaper.
The centerpiece is the prodigious antique wooden bar. Before, it was a backdrop for swag.
“This whole bar was littered with sports,” Ellis said. “They said it should be showcased.’”
A focal point is an aquarium where fish can swim around without the pressure of racing.
The Ynot was given a new name: The Forbidden Pub.
“This gives us our own identity that this is our place,” said Ellis, who kept the name Ynot after he took over ownership 2½ years ago with his wife, Yvette Otto.
Last year’s closing of the Broadway Bridge hurt business a bit, but there were bigger issues. “I was running the bar with my heart, not my brain,” Otto said.
A 2015 dining review in The Herald noted a few flaws in the grub and service, but praised the beer and multiple TVs.
Otto said they were notified in December that “Bar Rescue” was coming. She’s excited about the pub’s start as more than a sports bar, though it still has TVs everywhere for game viewing.
“Forbidden means you’re coming in not knowing what you’re going to get,” Otto said.
It was worth the whirlwind week of hustle and mystery during the reality TV rescue.
“It was very stressful and very fun,” Ellis said. “They were very good about keeping everything secret. Anytime we got near here we had to wear a thick mask. Red is Yvette’s favorite color. They didn’t know that. When we saw it we were blown away.”
Prohibition owner Rishi Brown took Ramsay’s advice and it saved her place. Ellis plans to follow through with Taffer’s recommendations.
“Whatever he put in place, the things he did and taught us, we are going to practice ourselves because he has a proven track record,” Ellis said.
The Forbidden Pub reopened over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Ellis was gearing up for the evening karaoke crowd while Otto stayed busy waiting on customers new and old.
“Yvette flies around like a human hummingbird,” said Rob Juhasz, as he shared a bottle of wine with his wife, Debbie, at a small table by the brick wall.
The Victoria, B.C., couple stop at the pub every time they are in town. “The food is good and the owners are amazing,” Debbie said.
Kenny McIntyre, a regular from Omak, took his usual seat at the bar and tested the newfangled nachos. “I like the idea of using pulled pork. It’s awesome,” he said.
The decor also got the nod from McIntyre. “It definitely gives credence to the old motto ‘less is more.’ It’s not as cluttered looking. Very clean.”
Jody Barnes, grabbing a smoke on the back patio, recalled the good old days of goldfish racing at her favorite local haunt.
“It’s a blast to try to get the fish down to the end of the tube,” she said. “My husband and I come here all the time. We love the people.”
She had mixed feeling about the facelift. “It looks more like a dungeon, it’s too dark,” she said. “But it’s beautiful.”
As for the rename, well, it’s not for her.
“I liked Ynot. I will not call it The Forbidden. It’s always going to be the Ynot to me,” she said.
“Bar Rescue” episodes air Sundays on Spike.
Spike TV spokeswoman Shana Tepper said the Ynot was selected for various reasons.
“We thought their personal backstory was great, the location has potential and we love Seattle,” she said. “I don’t have an official air date yet but it will run in the fall.”
Can’t wait that long for a glimpse?
“Come down and check us out,” Ellis said.
The pub is at 2015 Hewitt Ave. You can’t miss it.
— Andrea Brown (@reporterbrown) May 17, 2016