Big Mike’s in Denham Springs aiming to reopen late next week; restaurant will be featured on ‘Bar Rescue’

    One of Livingston Parish’s most beloved restaurants is coming back to life—and a popular bar-saving TV show is giving it a big assist.

    Big Mike’s, the popular Denham Springs restaurant and bar just off Range Avenue that was ravaged by the mid-August flooding, is aiming to reopen late next week, owner Mike O’Neal tells Daily Report.

    But when patrons step back inside the establishment, they may not recognize it. That’s because Bar Rescue, the Spike TV program that helps rebrand and revamp struggling bars, is at Big Mike’s this week to give it a fresh look after floodwaters engulfed it some two months ago.

    For O’Neal, the TV show will punctuate what has been an arduous journey for his restaurant, his employees and the Livingston Parish residents who frequent his business.

    “I can’t even really describe (the feeling),” says O’Neal, who spoke to Daily Report in between filming sessions today for the show. “I’m on cloud nine.”

    O’Neal, who is a fan of the show, says one of his employees reached out to Bar Rescue to have the restaurant featured.

    Contractors had already been working to renovate the restaurant, but they ramped up their efforts once the TV show’s crews agreed to come to Denham Springs so the building would be ready for filming, O’Neal says.

    Those contractors were responsible for the building’s structure, like its flooring and walls. O’Neal and his wife, meanwhile, had to give the show 100% control over the bar’s design, color and decor.

    In other words, there’s a very good chance Big Mike’s won’t look the same. Not that O’Neal minds.

    “I’m a fan of the show, so I’ve seen their work,” he says. “I really have no doubt in my mind that what they’ll do is going to be new and unique.”

    The Bar Rescue crews began filming at Big Mike’s on Sunday, and they will show off their finished product in a special reveal Sunday at 9 p.m. The public is invited to attend that filming session, as well as a “kickoff” event this afternoon at 5 p.m. at the restaurant, located at 123 Aspen Square.

    After the Sunday reveal, O’Neal and his staff will go in on Monday and Tuesday of next week to see what else they need—or what new things they might need to learn—before they can officially reopen to the public.

    For example, the TV show’s stars might come up with new drinks or menu items that the Big Mike’s crew will need to learn, O’Neal says. The restaurant is also set to inherit a new computer system.

    “We might walk in there and have a new system,” O’Neal says. “We really don’t know.”

    Because of the uncertainty he and his crew face when Bar Rescue leaves next Monday, O’Neal doesn’t have an exact date yet for a total reopening. He’s aiming for the end of next week.

    However, O’Neal says he and his staff are amped for the big days ahead. In fact, some former employees who had taken other jobs to meet ends meet have already quit those jobs to rejoin his force. O’Neal estimates about 95% of his 35-person staff is likely to return once the restaurant reopens.

    “They’re rejuvenated. They’re biting at the bit,” he says. “They’re so excited just to know that everything is going to be new.”

    O’Neal says he’s also thankful for the exposure that Livingston Parish—which was hit particularly hard by the flood—will get from his restaurant being featured on the nationwide show.

    “It’s going to bring attention to the whole community and let people know what we went through,” he says, noting that outsiders might see the devastation and look for ways to help.

    In the meantime, O’Neal says his phone won’t stop ringing now that Big Mike’s is officially coming back.

    “There’s not a morning I don’t wake up with at least 10 messages,” he says.

    —Robert Stewart

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