With skull bones and pirate flags lining the gothic décor, Piratz Tavern seems more like a cheesy “Pirates of the Caribbean” themed eatery you’d find at “Disneyland”—except there’s no Johnny Depp. The staff really believes they are pirates—complete with swashbuckling garb, using words like “scallywag”, and putting on fake British accents. Longtime server known as “One-Eyed Mike” actually lost his left eye in a sword fight duel! No joke!
Piratz feels a bit like a haven for misfits; an odd mishmash of kindred lost souls who have claimed this place their home. The buccaneer business owner, Tracy Rebelo, had no background in running a bar; acting more like a mother figure to her quirky staff, than a boss.
Even after operating for five years, Piratz Tavern struggles to draw a solid clientele. The bar is supremely located in the heart of the downtown office district in Silver Spring, MD. Young professionals need a place to meet socially for lunch or after-work drinks with a colleague.
Sadly, Tracy has lost everything—her savings, credit, car, and five-bedroom home. Recently, she has moved her family into her elderly parents’ basement. This instigated her reaching out to Jon Taffer and “Bar Rescue” for help.
When Jon takes over the bar, he has a difficult time convincing Tracy that she needs to resolve Piratz Tavern’s identity crisis. The kitchen lacks experienced kitchen personnel to properly execute the ridiculously long menu, so corners are cut—Tracy uses frozen fish and other products to save money but also sacrifices quality. She will need to retrain or replace her renegade pirate staff to develop a clean, fresh start. Jon convinces Tracy to raise the white flag. There’s no way to reclaim her shipwrecked brand from the financial abyss without completely starting over.
Cosmetically the front of the bar is shabby and empty. There is no hostess to greet people, so guests meander around and have no idea where to go when they walk in. The décor is cheap and dusty, all of the pirate trinkets will have to go, if Tracy is serious about attracting an adult crowd.
Jon decides to completely transform the pirate joint into an upscale happy hour venue that the area has been clamoring for. He eliminates Tracy’s wasteful and clueless spending, and creates a sleek, internet-friendly place that the corporate crowd can have lunches and after-work drinks called Corporate Bar & Grill.
The staff retires their puffy shirts and wench bodices in favor of professional attire. Likewise, the tavern’s Halloween-like ambiance of skeletons, Jolly Rogers, and stuffed parrots were stripped down to a sleek steel-gray-and-yellow environment.
The menu, once a sprawling, multicultural affair that embraced pirate-themed dishes was reduced to a trim, share-friendly selection. Also, a new bar menu of designer cocktails is introduced to capitalize on the large profit margins of mixed drinks.
The old Piratz had a lifeless front room that wasn’t inviting to people walking by. To engage new customers, Jon introduces two new technologies near the entrance. The first is the Smartbar, an automated bar that can make a perfect drink in less than ten seconds. It holds 13 mixers and 16 liquors at any time, allowing it to make over 500 different drinks.
The second feature is an Ellickson Draft Table, a self-service tap where customers can pour their own draft beer. This allows customers to congregate and network, pouring their own beers while they wait for a table.
Tracy and her pirates were reluctant at the reveal of Corporate Bar & Grill, their inner-pirates can’t bare the thought of catering to this clientele on a daily basis. Owner and staff alike are ultimately upset with the changes and mutiny looms on the horizon. Blind to the potential that lies in her hands, she dismisses the new branding with an unconvincing “we’ll give it a try”.
Just weeks after unveiling the Corporate Bar & Grill, owner Tracy Rebelo has decided to revert to her unprofitable pirate-themed saloon. She resisted anything other than “pirate” and did not express desire to embrace the new concepts. Jon Taffer retorts, “I put my heart and soul into fixing this place and setting them up for success. If the pirates don’t like it, I have other bars to fix”.