10 Weird Things about Bar Rescue's Rocky Point Cantina Episode

Odd Future's afterparty at Rocky Point Cantina back in 2012.
Odd Future's afterparty at Rocky Point Cantina back in 2012.
Benjamin Leatherman

You didn't have to spend a lot of time at beleaguered metal bar Rocky Point Cantina to be interested in the way it went under. Thankfully, you don't have to be a regular viewer of SpikeTV's Bar Rescue, either.

After looking set to fall off the schedule, Bar Rescue's trip to Tempe finally aired Sunday night at 10. We watched it, so that you wouldn't have to; here, roughly, are the 10 weirdest things about it that we noticed. We'll spot you the big one: Far from being rescued, the bar no longer exists.

1. The story the opening tells about Rocky Point Cantina might be accurate, but if it is it's an incredibly bizarre one. First, manager Scott Massimiano's parents decide to invest their retirement nest egg into a bar, which seems like an obviously risky (and inherently bad) idea. Next, it suggests that Massimiano's pitch to attract college students is bringing in heavy metal bands, which--whatever your opinion of metal--seems like a weird anachronism, whether it's the venue's or the TV show's.

2. It's really jarring how obviously stagey so much of the show is--all the Command Center banter in the SUV, the worst-case scenario scene they staged for the first night, the timer in the corner of the screen. It's like a bad police procedural, only much cheaper and dependent on the humiliation (and then redemption) of actual people.

3. Actual people who might deserve it, sure. If the story the show tells is true, they needed something drastic, and they probably would have closed anyway. (Although it was only thanks to Bar Rescue's own negligence that we learned they were operating against City of Tempe regulations already.)

4. This show is a master class in Unnecessary Deep-Voice Narration: "Without cash registers, no transactions can take place."

5. Their "Expert Mixologist" is a fantastic argument against expert mixologists--it has nothing to do with him in particular, just the skills of his trade, which consistently force him to resemble a Vegas-musician-turned-pick-up-artist-turned-guy-who-lives-inside-that-Tom-Cruise-movie. I will give Anthony, the show's Bad Bartender, an uncut sheet of crisp $2 bills if he promises never to spin glasses around on his shoulders like a Harlem Globetrotter or breathe fire.

An expert mixologist's moves are by nature weirdly abbreviated-looking on TV, probably because he isn't able to end them by telling a 17-year-old girl with a fake ID about how many famous people he knows.


Paying customers at a Glassjaw show in July.
Paying customers at a Glassjaw show in July.
Melissa Fossum

6. How is this show even supposed to work long-term? The part that's on TV basically involves them completely remaking the menu; renaming the bar and totally changing its direction; doubling the staff and bringing in a temporary manager, Four Peaks' Steve Lynch; and then relaunching immediately and leaving in a couple of days.

After Lynch left and the rush of reality show publicity petered out, what was the plan supposed to be? If the idea was that they'd keep their much larger staff and remain open seven days a week, it didn't work out that way; the hard rock shows resumed almost immediately after Taffer and company left in late May, and continued until the bar closed entirely. (We caught Glassjaw there in late July, the same day their request for a live entertainment permit was rejected.)

6.5 Super weird coincidence that the show is sponsored by Captain Morgan and the new direction involves a lot of drinks with name-brand rum in them.

7. But the weirdest part is that the show flatly lies about the bar's current footing. In a quick update at the end of the show we're told that six weeks after Taffer left--that would be mid-July, when the metal bands he hated were already back and Bar Rescue's failure to clear its renovations with the city was already an issue--the bar is raking in cash every night, a problem employee is still gone, and everyone's basically doing pretty well. Man, who wants to go hang out there tonight?

8. Look: Rocky Point Cantina was not a great bar. Its Yelp reviews are a special kind of bad, and by all accounts it earned them. And Havana Cabana is a cool idea! Pre-revolutionary Cuba is--well, it's pretty far away both in time and distance, but it fits with the bar's (genuinely cool) space and it's novel.

None of that's the problem. The problem is that a super-cheap, quick-and-dirty reality show is not the kind of format that can support a brand-new business run by people whose current business is failing. It's not like renovating somebody's house or estimating the value of his antiques at a pawn shop--it's just a clearly bad idea, as dangerous as staking your retirement on a college-town bar.

9. These shows are basically business owners making a trade: In exchange for publicity and a quick, half-finished renovation, they're humiliated on cable TV in between ads for Bad Grandpa. What leaves a bad taste in my mouth about this episode is just that the Massimianos basically end up both humiliated and out of business.

9.5. If I hear the non-word "Floasted" one more time--well, this post is a clue that will point cold-case investigators toward the identity of the monster they will someday call the Phoenix Quiznos Killer.

10. I don't (necessarily) doubt Jon Taffer's credentials as a bar savior; a lot of his advice and ideas seem sound, if also pretty self-explanatory. But his befuddlement about Rocky Point Cantina has as much to do with the bar's identity crisis as it does its imminent failure. Rocky Point Cantina wasn't a bar by the time Bar Rescue got there; it might have wanted to be, but it was a de facto heavy metal venue.

What Jon Taffer wanted it to be is evidenced by the Undercover ASU Students he brings in at the start of the show. They aren't--in any possible universe--Rocky Point Cantina types. They're girls named Alyx and Symphony. Girls named Alyx and Symphony are probably much better business for a bar in a college town, but the enormous gap between them and the crowd the bar already had illustrates both how difficult the reboot would have been under the best of circumstances and the implausibilities that reality TV introduces into everything it touches.

Read more about the strange reasons behind Rocky Point Cantina's sudden closing.

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