Banks, Business, Entertainment

Banks Billiards a finalist to appear on ‘Bar Rescue’ TV series

A 2017 photo of Banks Billiards. Photo: Chas Hundley

BANKS – Producers from the Paramount Network reality television show ‘Bar Rescue’ have narrowed their search for a bar to “rescue” to just a handful of locations. 

Among the finalists is Banks Billiards on Main Street, according to Michelle Berger, who owns the popular bar and restaurant with her husband, Adam Berger. 

The series features host Jon Taffer, a restaurant and food industry consultant who swoops in and offers renovation, expertise, and more to a bar. It’s similar in many ways to other popular reality TV shows that feature a business in need of help, such as Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. 

According to Michelle Berger, a producer in Los Angeles contacted the couple late in 2019 and asked if they would be interested in being on the show. 

The couple were familiar with the show, and readily agreed. 

A phone interview followed, and then the couple brought in their staff for a video chat interview with the show’s producers. 

Originally in the running with 150 bars, the search narrowed to just 11 bars, with Banks Billiards still in the running after the video chat. Another bar, Canby’s Route 99 Roadhouse, is also a finalist.

The watering hole — across from the Banks City Hall near Market and Main Streets— has been in operation under various owners for decades, and was purchased by Banks residents Adam and Michelle Berger, who began operating the bar as a husband-and-wife team in March of 2016.

It’s their first bar that they’ve owned; the couple knew the previous owners and were customers of the bar when an opportunity to purchase the location came up. 

“My husband and I sold our house and used the equity to buy the bar and went all in,” said Berger.

Including the two of them, 11 people are employed at the location. 

Ally Hopson, a bartender at Banks Billiards. Photo: Chas Hundley

Producers have since visited several times, filming staff, talking to the Bergers, measuring the bar’s kitchen and looking at potential repairs. 

While the business is a popular spot for local residents, the building that houses Banks Billiards is old, and in need of repair and an update in many ways. 

“Every time we want to replace something or fix something, something else comes up, so that’s where Bar Rescue is going to be such a Godsend to us,” Berger said. 

The front awning of the building is in poor shape, and the kitchen that serves all the food — including the location’s popular Taco Tuesday special — is a tiny space with broken appliances and a walk-in cooler that has a ceiling that is coming apart. 

They’re hoping to add a pizza oven to increase their current capacity to cook a pizza beyond just one at a time, and get their burger grill fixed as well.

Two of their bartenders have worked at the location for 11 years, and have seen many of the changes the Bergers have made in the years they have owned the spot, including moving video lottery machines to a closed off area to allow minors in with parents during certain hours. 

“There’s always room for improvement. We may think we have a great menu and great drink selection, Jon Taffer may come in and tell us it’s all terrible and change it, and we’re open to that,” Michelle Berger said.

At the end of the day, though, Michelle says that she hopes to keep the bar’s current feel — complete with taxidermied big game animals lining the walls — intact should they be selected to appear on the show. 

The billiard tables at Banks Billiards. Photo: Chas Hundley

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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