Talk about a fireman’s lift. Thanks to the Spike TV show Bar Rescue a well-known Irish bar in Sunnyside, Queens has received a once in a lifetime makeover.
Owned and operated by the three McGowan brothers, John, Jimmy and Brian, Jack’s Ale House (now called Jack’s Fire Dept in memory of their late father) has been a fixture in the strongly Irish Sunnyside neighborhood for years, but in recent times it has seen slow traffic and growth.
Jack’s Fire Dept was selected from a list of 500 applicants in January after Jimmy’s wife Christine sent a letter to the show’s producers.
Irish through and through, Brian and his brothers Jimmy and John are all New York City firefighters, although John has now retired. (Brian received a Man of the Year award last year for saving three children from a burning building in the Bronx).
Last week the camera crews finally arrived to follow the Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer, the tough-talking nightlife expert, as he got to grips with the little Irish bar at 39-46 Skillman Avenue and commenced its transformation.
Standing outside the bar, Taffer demonstrated the two things he’s become famous for -- dressing down the owners on camera and then advising them how to maximize the bar’s growth potential.
A popular reality show, Bar Rescue helps bar owners bring their establishments from zero to hero, but Taffer and his crew are known to be insanely tough, tackling everything from the temperature of the drinks to the height of the stools at the bar.
Brian and his two brothers, Jimmy and John, have deep roots in Sunnyside. Jack’s Fire Dept was formerly known as the Firewater Inn, and their late father had originally opened it in 1986. The McGowans changed the name to honor their dad when they revamped the struggling bar in 2013.
On Friday night hundreds of locals and Bar Rescue fans lined the street in Sunnyside waiting for the dramatic unveiling of the newly revamped bar. Outside the exterior of the bar now suggests a firehouse, and inside firefighting equipment and FDNY designs convey the history of the bar and its ownership.
By 11 p.m. on Friday locals and fans were finally allowed inside to be greeted by the three beaming McGowan brothers and a host of TV cameras. True to form firefighters from FDNY’s Ladder Company 161 had already parked their engine outside to celebrate and add to the sense of occasion.
The question now is, are the three McGowan brothers happy with the dramatic transformation?
“We’re delighted with the work they did,” Brian tells the Irish Voice. “They really turned the look of the place around. Look at the bar, that’s a vintage fire truck design. We’re very happy with the way the outside garden area has been transformed too.”
The show featuring the transformation of the Firewater Inn into Jack’s Fire Dept will reportedly air in November.Here's a trailer from a previous show: