“Do you want to be a pirate, or do you want to send your daughter to college?” Taffer bottom-lines it for Rebelo.
Taffer has his reasons for using Rebelo’s own flesh and blood against her. At the time of filming in February, Rebelo, her husband, Juciano, and their teenage daughter were living with Tracy’s parents. Neither husband nor wife drew a salary, and they were, according to “Bar Rescue,” $900,000 in debt. To Taffer, Tracy and Juciano were in hard-core denial about the viability of their pirate playground. (While Rebelo doesn’t deny the debt, she insists Piratz’s five-year-plus lifespan proves some kind of viability.)
Piratz’s financial crisis reflects systemic problems, Taffer deduces, which the program details: There are lies (LIES!) on the menu, such as frozen not fresh fish; Juciano, the tavern’s chef, can’t tell shrimp from lobster; the rum-heavy cocktail menu is a diabetic’s nightmare; the staff is more interested in playing out its alcohol-infused pirate fantasies than in generating income to cover payroll.
“When do you say to yourself, ‘This is my enemy’?” Taffer says, confronting Rebelo about her bilge-sucking pirate concept.
“This is not my enemy,” Rebelo shoots back, sounding defeated.
Anyone who has watched “Bar Rescue” knows that Taffer is a force of nature, a veteran restaurant-and-nightlife consultant who never tires of hearing his own opinion. His radical plan for Piratz has been well-documented, here and elsewhere: Taffer performed the equivalent of a sex-change operation on the tavern, transforming the scurvy-dog establishment into the irony-deficient Corporate Bar and Grill.
The moment you see Tracy Rebelo’s dead-eyed stare at the cheap corporate makeover, you know she’s going to force this dumb Dilbertesque concept to walk the plank. It’s as if Taffer is business-savvy but emotionally stunted. He thinks he can stuff a party of pirates into cubicles, and they’re going to accept it without complaint. The Rebelos, as their surname implies, rebel against the corporate concept.
On the phone from Piratz, Tracy Rebelo sounds surprisingly upbeat about the upcoming episode. The tavern is even hosting a watch party Sunday, which seems tantamount to inviting friends over to witness your public flogging. But Tracy, who has watched the episode, is quick to remind me that “reality” TV isn’t so real.