This post was updated at 6:10 p.m. March 26.
Tracy Rebelo is going down like a pirate: She's taking no prisoners.
The co-owner of Piratz Tavern, Silver Spring's grog-gy bar and grill dedicated to the urban pirate life, announced on Facebook this morning that she would not renew the pub's lease. Instead, Piratz will throw one last party for salty old sea dogs and landlubbers alike on April 4, before officially ending its tumultuous eight-year run at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street, across from two other establishments that have experienced a great deal of pain lately.
Rebelo was understandably frustrated when reached via phone this morning. She wanted nothing to do with the media and their constant cannon shots across her bow. She had intended Piratz's final voyage as a trip for the faithful, designed only for those loyal swabs who dressed in tricorn hats and gunner's pants and drank deeply of the Piratz Grog. But this being the Internet, and not the high seas, what Rebelo assumed was a private Facebook announcement soon spread far and wide, like a dead man's blood in the water.
The owner's frustration stems, in part, from her own fateful decision in early 2012, when she and her husband, Juciano, did something very un-pirate: They asked for help to rescue Piratz Tavern, where the sharks were circling. The couple requested a makeover from Spike TV's "Bar Rescue" and its host Jon Taffer, who's something of a one-eyed swashbuckler himself. Tracy and Juciano hoped Taffer would plug the holes of their listing ship and save it from a rendezvous with Davy Jones' Locker.
Taffer and his crew had other ideas. They crunched the numbers on Silver Spring and noticed the city was flush with more than 200,000 worker bees, who quickly fled the area when their shifts were done. Taffer wanted to intercept them on their way home. So, in a 36-hour makeover, he transformed a pirate pub into, ahem, the Corporate Bar and Grill. Its logo was a faceless, clean-cut businessman in a suit and tie. The place featured "While You Were (Out)" notepads on the table. It had all the soul of a cubicle.
If Tracy Rebelo had a broadsword in her hand when she first saw the renovated operation, she might have sliced Taffer in half, right on the spot. Instead, she and Juciano wasted little time dismantling the Corporate structure of their new place. They even burned the business logo in effigy, caught in an elegiac video, complete with its own sea shanty soundtrack. Within a few weeks, the couple relaunched their pirate ship, although Spike TV's endless re-airings of the infamous Piratz Tavern episode continued to cast a long shadow on the business, Tracy notes.
"Unfortunately, the aftermath of reality TV has became an unbearable burden," Tracy wrote via e-mail. "The constant airing of our episode of 'Bar Rescue' has had a widespread negative effect on our social media presence. Especially recently it seemed John Taffer was doing his best to personally provoke me on his Facebook page. I can honestly say there were no positive gains by our participation on the show, only negative, and as a result the decision was made not to renew our lease."
For sure, Piratz's three-star Yelp page is littered with mentions of "Bar Rescue," although not all negative. Some support Tracy and Juciano in their scurvy ways. On the other hand, the establishment's two-star TripAdvisor page practically creaks with critical comments, including one mutineer who calls the place "Piratz Toilet Tavern." Of the 39 reviews on TripAdvisor, 19 rate Piratz as "terrible."
Taffer apparently has no interest in getting into a high-seas galleon fight with the Rebelos. But a Spike TV spokeswoman notes that at 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 5, one day after Piratz Tavern walks its own plank, "Bar Rescue" will air a special episode, "Back to the Bar," in which Taffer sees how some of his toughest makeovers are faring. Piratz Tavern is among them. (Incidentally, the original Piratz Tavern episode will air at 8 p.m. the same night, right before "Back to the Bar.") A clip from the episode:
As you can see, Tracy Rebelo almost aches for Taffer to come back and give Piratz Tavern another makeover. On "The Soul of Piratz Tavern" Facebook page this afternoon, Rebelo responded to the upcoming episode, accusing the production team of staging the whole affair. Here's a snippet:
To add insult to injury, late last year Taffer's crew reached out to me again asking that we participate in a back to the bar episode. They promised that it would be followed by a re-rescue and that they would right all the wrong's committed during the first episode. Obviously I don't learn. I believed them. On December 1st we went to the effort to open on a Monday, the one day a week we have been closed for 8 years, with a skeleton staff of former employees who agreed to play the parts. It was basically coerced and staged to be an opening act for a re-rescue. I was told to bring in several changes of clothes to make it appear that filming covered several days.
Spike TV had no comment on Tracy Rebelo's post.
Piratz Tavern, 8402 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. 301-588-9001. www.piratztavern.com.