By Andrew Wroblewski
Huntington has a new bar – but it doesn’t.
Thanks to “Bar Rescue,” a Spike TV reality series hosted by Jon Taffer, longtime food and beverage industry consultant with an expertise in nightclubs and pubs, The Artful Dodger is no more, and the same goes for Radio Nightclub.
Now in its place is P’s & Q’s Auto Body, a speakeasy-esque bar at 30 New St.
“One of the issues with the process was that nobody knew what the bar was,” said Jack Palladino, owner of Christopher’s Courtyard Café, which also saw filming for the episode. “[The bar] was The Artful Dodger, but one night of the week it became Radio.”
This turmoil stemmed from the brains of the bar’s two current owners, Mike Conforti and Brian Gordon – both of whom held different visions for it.
Conforti, the original owner of the bar, envisioned The Artful Dodger as it has stood in Huntington for decades: a dive bar. But, with an outside that looked more like an auto body shop than a bar and an ’80s décor that couldn’t make it stand out from the wealth of other bars and nightclubs in Huntington, business began to slow.
So Conforti recruited Gordon.
The new co-owner brought in a DJ, changed the name to Radio and started hosting a nightclub atmosphere.
Business was good, until it wasn’t.
Soon, according to Spike TV, the two owners could no long see eye to eye, and the bar slipped out of popularity. Conforti stepped in and changed the name back; but Gordon didn’t agree.
Then came Taffer, a native of Great Neck, Long Island.
This month saw the “Bar Rescue” team come to Huntington and completely reimagine the bar’s concept, both inside in out.
Unveiled to the staff on July 23, the new bar, P’s & Q’s Auto Body, still doesn’t look like a bar from the outside – and that’s the point.
Taffer has reimagined the space as a Prohibition-era speakeasy in hopes of drawing curious passersby in and snagging them to stay thanks to an atmosphere that’s not too classy, not too “divey,” but just right.
Last week, the bar opened to the public, and those who tried to get in reported that the place was mobbed. Whether the bar will be a hit, though, remains to be seen.
For the rest of Huntington, the publicity can only help.
As a part of a new segment on “Bar Rescue,” the crew roamed around Huntington on Monday, visiting bars and restaurants to “see what kind of businesses they’re running,” Palladino, 55, said.
“[Huntington’s] restaurant and hospitality industry suffered the worst winter in our history with the weather and everything,” Palladino, who has owned Christopher’s for 32 years, said. “To have something like [‘Bar Rescue’] in town is great. The buzz is nothing but good.”
The Huntington-centered episode of “Bar Rescue” is expected to air in October, members of Spike TV said. Earlier this year the show was renewed for a fourth season, which will begin airing in the fall.