‘Grey’s Anatomy’: The Real Backstory About Where Joe the Bartender Mysteriously Went

ABC’s long-running medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy, has seen many characters come and go over its 16 seasons. Almost all of them get a farewell, whether through a tragic death or leaving to move onto something better. However, the writers never explained what happened to the beloved owner and bartender, Joe (Steven Bailey).

'Grey's Anatomy' Joe the bartender portrayed by Steven Bailey
‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Joe the Bartender portrayed by Steven Bailey | Scott Garfield/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

When was Joe the bartender’s last episode on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’? 

Joe, the owner of Emerald City Bar — which was later renamed Joe’s Bar — last appeared in season 7, episode 9, “Slow Night, So Long.” Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) finally secured the grant he needed for his clinical trial, so the other attendings took him out for drinks at Joe’s. 

When they arrived at the bar, they saw that Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) was bartending, since she quit the hospital two episodes ago. She tries to give her friends shots on the house, but Joe intervenes, telling her that every drink can’t be on the house. 

Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Joe the Bartender (Steven Bailey)
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ stars Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang) and Steven Bailey (Joe the Bartender) | Adam Taylor/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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Joe also is the one who makes sure no one leaves his bar to drink and drive. He takes anyone’s keys, which he feels has drunk too much alcohol. In this episode, Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) is trying to sober up to get her keys back. 

Later on, Joe ends up firing Cristina because she’s a terrible bartender. This is the last time we see the bar owner. In subsequent episodes, there is a new bartender, but we are under the assumption that Joe still owns the bar since they refer to it as “Joe’s Bar.”

Why did Joe the bar owner leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

In reality, the reason that Joe left Grey’s Anatomy was that the writers and showrunners did not wish to give the character more screen time. 

“They didn’t find enough value in my character to continue,” Bailey told TV Guide. “It was amicable. It was just one of those things that, after I did that many episodes, I kind of hoped for a little bit more, and they didn’t want to do that, and there you go. That’s Hollywood.”

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Fans will remember that Joe was in a relationship with his on-again-off-again significant other, Walter. The two men adopted twin baby boys in season 3, episode 24, “Testing 1-2-3.”

“Maybe they moved to Montana or something,” Bailey likes to think about Joe, Walter, and the boys. “They’ve got a whole bed and breakfast thing going now. Who knows? But I like to think he’s still out there somewhere.”

Will Joe the bartender ever return to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Bailey would be happy to return to Grey’s Anatomy as Joe if the producers want him back. He suggested a cameo for the series finale. However, he also adds that he wouldn’t mind a spinoff. 

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“Someday I’ll be the star of my own show,” Bailey jokes. “Joe’s Bar. It’ll explain all this back story of where I went.”

Fans would love either of the two scenarios. Hopefully, they will get their much deserved resolution about what really happened to Joe on Grey’s Anatomy.