Tracy Rebelo walks through the Silver Spring bar that she owned for nearly a decade, pointing out the establishment’s unique features.
There’s the wood paneling and the furniture, and the outdoor patio that was regularly packed with frequent customers of the now-defunct Piratz Tavern. The bar is now the temporary home of the Quarry House Tavern, which had to relocate due to a fire at its original location across the street.
Piratz Tavern, at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street in downtown Silver Spring, closed in April, three years after being immortalized on an episode of Bar Rescue.
Rebelo, who owned Piratz Tavern with her husband, famously rejected the show’s makeover of the bar, reverting back to the original theme almost immediately. What followed was years of angry phone calls, Facebook messages and Yelp reviews every time the episode aired—and it seemed to air more than any other Bar Rescue episode, Rebelo said.
“It ended up defining Piratz Tavern,” she said.
Now, the Rebelos are headed south.
They plan to open a bar in the Melbourne/Palm Bay area of Florida. The bar—which will be called Bar Refuge—won’t be pirate themed. Rebelo is planning an eclectic establishment that she hopes will become “the Cheers of the neighborhood.”
That’s kind of what Piratz Tavern was, she recalled.
“It was definitely the Cheers for the geek world,” Rebelo said.
“I was appalled”
The original Piratz Tavern stemmed from Rebelo’s love of elaborate Halloween parties and a childhood dream of someday owning her own restaurant.
The tavern opened in winter 2007 in what was then a rundown neighborhood, when the economy was starting to tank. It was tough, “but we survived,” Rebelo said.
The original cast of characters at Piratz Tavern included a sword swallower as a bartender.
Before it even officially opened, a group of local pirates contacted Rebelo, asking if they could celebrate National Talk Like A Pirate Day on Sept. 19, 2006 at the bar.
Romances blossomed between customers who met at Piratz Tavern, Rebelo said. The bar became a community for people who had nowhere else to go.
While the bar’s Facebook page remains littered with negative comments from Bar Rescue viewers, plenty of patrons have left their kind words, too.
“Piratz really was a home away from home (and a family away from family) for me, and plenty of other people I know,” one customer wrote.
When Bar Rescue contacted the Rebelos in 2012, they had a wish list of upgrades in mind.
Rebelo said the menu needed to be simplified, and they wanted to take out the kids’ area at the front of the building and put in a bar there, among other things.
In the end, Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer and his staff turned Piratz Tavern into the Corporate Bar and Grill, resulting in a near-mutiny.
“I was appalled,” Rebelo said. “When you get out of work, the last thing you want is an ink blotter for a placemat.”
Within a week, Piratz Tavern was back in business. When the episode aired in September 2012, the staff had a party.
But then the backlash began. Every time the episode was on, Rebelo said, the answering machine would fill up with vitriolic messages. People would leave mean reviews online. Rebelo quit coming to work on the Mondays after the episode aired.
Last year, the Rebelos agreed to participate in a Back to the Bar episode of Bar Rescue, which they hoped would give them a chance to clean up the bar’s image. Rebelo says now the episode was completely staged.
Then early in 2015, the Rebelos decided to close Piratz Tavern. Rebelo said she was still reeling from the death of her parents, plus tired of the abuse.
“My heart wasn’t there anymore,” Rebelo said.
Patrons drank their last sips of grog on April 4. The Back to the Bar episode featuring Piratz Tavern aired the following day.
A spokesperson for Bar Rescue declined to provide a statement from Taffer or comment on the Rebelos’ experience with the show.
Change of scenery
One good thing that came out of the closure of Piratz Tavern was the temporary home for the Quarry House Tavern.
The fire in the Quarry House Tavern’s original location happened just a few weeks before Piratz Tavern closed, owner Jackie Greenbaum said.
“It was crazy, fortuitous timing,” she said. “It probably was the fastest deal you could imagine.”
Greenbaum said she plans to return to her original location once renovations there are done, but added she’d like to see another bar or restaurant move in.
“Everybody knew it sort of far and wide,” she said of Piratz Tavern.
Rebelo said she feels no animosity toward Bar Rescue, and is proud of the eight years of relationships the bar helped to foster.
But she’s ready for a change of scenery, and that means opening Bar Refuge.
Another Piratz Tavern, she said, might come afterwards.