Why Bar Rescue Saved Kid Chilleen's and Helped Close Rocky Point Cantina
Chilleen's on 17 -- way up 17, in Black Canyon City -- is still open, which is the first thing you'll notice about it if your previous experience with Bar Rescue was Tempe's Rocky Point Cantina closing almost immediately after being transformed into Havana Cabana. The second thing you'll notice is that it looks like a Bar Rescue success story -- it's awash in theme and wood, and everything goes together, and the people who come to meet me are much, much more telegenic than I am.
Chilleen's on 17
Donna and Aleah Chilleen tell me it mostly was like that before. And after watching Rocky Point Cantina try and fail to turn into a completely different bar over the course of a long weekend, it seems clear that that's why Chilleen's on 17 -- previously Kid Chilleen's Badass Barbecue -- still exists.
We Aggressively Approached Them
"We aggressively approached them," Donna tells me. That meant putting a professional submission video together, with videos and photos and a rough draft of the episode's story built in.
"We had to just keep telling the same story over and over again," Aleah says, "because they wanted to see if we really needed rescued, and if we really needed help or not.
"They wanted to see if we would be good television or not, since that's what the show's about . . . Luckily, we're a very drama-filled place as it is, so we didn't really have to do much acting."
The drama the show homed in on was the older Chilleens' alcoholism, which on Bar Rescue gets so out of hand that Jon Taffer deploys a breathalyzer; the heroine of the episode is their daughter Aleah, an industrious, smiling whirlwind who cleans up after them while she attends ASU. That part seems about right; she's the one who got in touch with us after Rocky Point Cantina closed, who set up the meeting, who has internalized all the lessons they learned on the episode and the reasons they're different from Arizona's other episode. If she hasn't considered a career in PR, it might be worth her while.
But Donna hardly looks like a problem drinker when we meet. "I haven't had a drink in my bar since Jon Taffer left," she says, by way of an explanation. "I've lost 20 pounds just by not drinking."
We Had a Month's Notice, But We Still Don't KnowOne of the surprising concessions the show makes to actual reality is that it's constantly working to convince the bar it's rescuing that it might not actually appear on TV. The list of bars that might appear on TV is just constantly winnowed down until there's just the bar that actually will be rescued, which is still left to wonder just how much will happen until the moment Jon Taffer emerges from his SUV command center.
Of course, the hope is that this will create more reality TV drama, not less. "What happens is they tell you you're one in five bars that are gonna be chosen," Aleah says. "There's a producer and a guy with a camera following around. So it starts off with that, and then if you get chosen. At the back of your mind you're like, 'Okay, we've been chosen . . .' but at the same time, who knows how much money they have? They really could have five different crews."
Whether there were four more cameras filming around Phoenix or not, the Chilleens eventually advanced to the next round, where producers (ostensibly) peppered two finalist bars with hidden cameras. "They even left some of their things there," Donna tells me, pointing to a discolored corner of the ceiling.
"So you still don't know," Aleah says, "because what's hidden cameras in two bars?" She says Kid Chilleen's could be certain it'd been selected until the moment she saw Jon Taffer's SUV idle into their parking lot.