Spoiler Alert: Bar Rescue Hates Metalheads, Helps Kill Rocky Point Cantina

Rocky Point Cantina, pre-Bar-Rescue.
Rocky Point Cantina, pre-Bar-Rescue.
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First you have to know that SpikeTV still exists. Then you'll have to take my word that one of its reality shows is a Kitchen Nightmares clone called Bar Rescue. Then you'll have to know that Tempe's Rocky Point Cantina (briefly known as Havana Cabana) is the bar the show will set out to rescue Sunday night.

Only then can you begin to understand what's weird about this story. But this is probably the easiest place to start: Rocky Point Cantina is closed. And Bar Rescue's suggestions had a lot to do with it. (Step one: Get rid of the metal bands people are paying to see.)

The Rocky Point Cantina/Havana Cabana story seems destined to get weirder and more sordid as time goes on, but right now here's what we know about it:

1. Bar Rescue doesn't like metalheads

This is right in the press release they sent us:

This week, Taffer heads to Havana Cabana Bar and Grill, run by two brothers who have drained their parents' retirement fund by opening an ill-conceived death-metal concert bar. Taffer arrives to run off the metal-head clientele & straighten out this festering mosh pit of failure

I've got no window onto Rocky Point Cantina's finances, but it seems like metal was the least of their problems; by 2013 this was much more a venue with a bar and grill attached than the other way around.

Given the super-glossy, scripted nature of the excerpts, I doubt we'll be seeing a very nuanced picture of this "death-metal concert bar" crowd. But that's the least troublesome part of this bar/reality show relationship.

2. SpikeTV got Rocky Point in trouble with the city of Tempe

This is where it gets--well, weirder, at least.

Bar Rescue

, in addition to driving the metal players from the temple, gave the bar a facelift and a new name, Havana Cabana. Which would be fine, except they didn't bother filing any permits with the city of Tempe.

Which would also be fine, except they told the owners they did. Notes from a Development Review Commission meeting held on July 23 say that "the owner was advised by the producer that all permits for work would be taken care of prior to the bar rehabilitation, and was unaware that the exterior modification was done without authorization."

One possibility to consider: This is part of a backdoor pilot for a show called Reality Show Rescue, in which Bar Rescue's sloppy work is taken to task with an even more hidden set of hidden cameras. The same notes say the Bar Rescue renovation lasted all of four days in late May.

As it turns out, though, the damage had already been done--when Rocky Point Cantina changed its name and altered its business model, it was unwittingly signing away its own live entertainment permit. As it turned out, Havana Cabana couldn't have been a Death Metal Concert Bar even if they'd wanted it to be.   On July 16, Francis Massimiano applied for a live entertainment Use Permit on behalf of the new-and-improved Havana Cabana Bar and Grill. According to the notes from their hearing, they hadn't had one when they were Rocky Point Cantina, either; the original use permit had been granted to Dos Gringos, and transferred to the Massimianos only when they took over ownership of that bar.

An unfulfilled attempt to perform their own bar rescue--"We are in the process of re-branding the restaurant and diversifying the menu to be a more diverse restaurant that will attract a lunch business and evening dinner crowd with great food and light entertainment," he wrote back in 2010--rendered their original permit invalid, but that only jammed them up when they attempted to transfer it, one more time, to the Havana Cabana.

When they applied for a new one, it became clear that "light entertainment," not to mention "lunch" and "dinner," were not on the menu. ("The venue was open only for concerts, and available for booking as an event venue [ie. no hours of operation as a bar or restaurant].") That's all pretty bad, but here's the damning part: "Bar cover charge is appropriate for live entertainment ancillary to the main use as a bar; a concert venue is not appropriate in this location."

This isn't all SpikeTV's fault, but everything Bar Rescue tried to do uncovered more problems for Rocky Point. A name change exposed an invalid permit; renovations performed without any permit at all inspired more scrutiny; a subsequent safety inspection uncovered old and new problems, requiring "the owner [to retain] an architect, structural engineer and sound engineer to assess the site for code requirements."

In the end, Havana Cabana's request for a live entertainment permit of its own was denied. Several months of Ill-Conceived Death Metal Concerts were cancelled or moved, and the Cabana closed, fresh coat of paint and all. It could be that the "grand re-opening in the fall" that's mentioned in passing shortly after all those structural concerns is still on--but as of right now, that twist ending would catch me off guard. I guess we'll see on Sunday, when they finally get rid of all those Satan-worshipping paid customers.

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