“There were a lot of sad pirates here the other night,” she said. “And there was a lot of drinking, too.”
Piratz Tavern in Silver Spring headed to Davy Jones’s locker, as they say, this week after the Spike TV reality show “Bar Rescue” chose the bar for one of its Season Two episodes.
The show is hosted by nightlife expert Jon Taffer. He and his team of experts — including mixologists, a chef and a restaurateur — work to change struggling bars from failing business ventures to successful moneymakers.
Taffer transformed the bar from a pirate treasure island into a corporate lunch hot spot in 36 hours.
The bar reopened the night of Feb. 18 as Corporate Bar and Grill with a menu serving gourmet burgers, tuna steaks and shrimp ceviche. Taffer said he hopes the bar’s new focus will create a place for executives to go to lunch and happy hour, a niche he said did not exist in Silver Spring previously.
“There is no place to come to get a great executive burger,” Taffer said.
The show chose Piratz Tavern from a pool of 260 applicants, Taffer said. Taffer changed the menu, look, drinks, service practices and business model at Piratz.
“This is a place where [staff] comes to play pirate every day,” Taffer said. “It’s like kids in a sandbox.”
The Silver Spring bar was known for its staff dressed in full pirate garb and its signature drink: grog, a brown mixture of undetermined alcohols.
“It’s to the point of delusion,” said Taffer, who said he has launched about 600 restaurants. “[At other places,] I have dealt with bad food, bad management, rats, mice. This is the most bizarre restaurant and bar I have ever been to.”
Taffer, however, was headed for turbulent tides with some staff members who were not excited about the change.
Waitress “Poppet” Lynn, who declined to give her first name, drives an hour from Glen Burnie specifically to work at a pirate bar, she said.
“I am not happy,” Lynn said. “I like the way the bar was before.”
Tracy Rebelo said the bar has been struggling since it opened five years ago. She said its location at Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street had not been able to target the foot traffic that bars on Ellsworth Drive enjoy.
The pirate bar was Tracy’s dream. She said she wanted to create a place where people could come to escape real life.
“Everyone wants to be a pirate,” Tracy said. “What if, whenever you felt like it, you could come to a place to not feel uncomfortable, and when you leave, you go back to reality?”
Her fantasy, however, did not coincide with the realities of the business world, and the bar had been struggling to make money.
Taffer said Tracy and her husband lost their home and had to move into her parents’ basement.
“It’s literally walked [Tracy] off a plank,” Taffer said.