Everyone knows I am a big “Bar Rescue” fan. I watch the show like a maniac and I even planned a tour that took me to bars that were rescued by Jon Taffer. But I am not an idiot. I know the show is scripted worse than professional wrestling. However, I could never get anyone who was on the show to confirm it to me until now.
Recently I came in contact with Maria Bedient, a real life person who was featured prominently on the fifth season of “Bar Rescue.” However, don’t think the word “prominently” translates to accurately or glowingly. Her episode, titled “Emergency Exit,” portrayed Maria as an entitled, spoiled distraction who was sucking the life out of a bar called Murphy’s Law in Reno. The show explained that Maria owned 40% of the bar while her ex-boyfriend also owned 40%. A third partner owned 20%. After an opening scene outside the bar where Taffer is very critical of Maria, he later convinces her ex-boyfriend (Gary) to fire her.
The episode is your typical “Bar Rescue” story line: The bar is initially depicted as a business in complete disarray. The stress test is a disaster. The staff eventually comes together. The re-model is out of this world. The grand opening is a success. The credits explain that after a short period of time, the sales of Money Bar (the new name of Murphy’s Law) went up 20%.
But not so fast. Like I said, it doesn’t take a reality TV guru to know that “Bar Rescue” is produced to attract viewers, not to tell the truth. Maria couldn’t have made this more clear.
How about we just start from the top? The opening of every show exclaims that the featured bar is ready to “pull open the doors, bust out the books, and make a call to ‘Bar Rescue’ for help.” While Murphy’s Law did end up pulling open the doors and busting out the books, it never made a call to the show. Believe it or not, “Bar Rescue” contacted various Reno area bars to gauge interest in appearing in an episode. The show dialed up Murphy’s Law and Maria says it was the worst decision they ever made to accept their offer to “rescue” the bar.
The original call from “Bar Rescue” came in late September of 2014. All filming was complete by March 15, 2015. Once the show converged on Maria’s bar, it didn’t take long to realize that there was an agenda at play.
Maria doesn’t dispute that the bar had issues. But what she does vehemently deny is the type/cause of issues “Bar Rescue” portrayed the bar to have. You just have to watch the first minute of the “Emergency Exit” episode to see the writing on the wall. Maria is immediately labeled as a “puppet master” and all the editing and sound bites of her from that point on paint a portrait of a toxic individual who is set on destroying a business. More on what this portrayal of Maria did to her later.
At the start of the show, there is an epic meltdown by the owner who controlled a minority stake in the bar, Nellie. While the cameras rolled, Nellie decides to walk off his bar shift while hurling expletives and flashing obscene gestures at Gary. The two men and Maria happen to take their disagreement out into the parking lot right at the same time that Jon Taffer exits his recon vehicle. A major confrontation takes place. The whole scene seemed, to put it nicely, less than spontaneous. This would be the theme throughout the entire filming.
Maria explained to me that the main producer talked to all Murphy’s Law employees who appeared on the show separately. Roles were developed and certain behaviors encouraged. As for the smaller things that occur on a reality show to make telling a preconceived story easier, all employees were required to wear the same clothes throughout the filming. Also, just like what Bryden Vukasin told me about “The Bachelorrete,” show producers had the Murphy’s Law staff perform certain tasks/scenes over and over.
Some of the manipulation was more damaging. The couple sent in as part of Taffer’s surveillance operation definitely wasn’t going inside to offer impartiality. Encouraged to showcase Murphy’s Law as an incompetent hellhole, they did just that. Interestingly enough, the couple, Kevin and Brittany, eventually apologized to Gary and Maria for purposely making their business look bad. Of course, how can you blame them? The show told them to do something so how do you say no? Anyway, this individual story ends well as now Kevin and Brittany are regular Murphy’s Law patrons and friends with Gary and Maria.
Another tough part of the “Bar Rescue” experience for Murphy’s Law was that the hands of the owners were tied. In the show there is an infamous part where Maria is sitting at the bar gambling and hanging out. A clock appears on the screen that shows the length of her inactivity. The truth is, she couldn’t do anything else. The show specifically told her to not help out with any bar operations, a tough task for someone who is used to significantly assisting. This is a theme you see throughout all the “Bar Rescue” episodes so maybe now you won’t think that all those owners are actually that lazy.
Maria credits the “Bar Rescue” personnel for being nice and helpful up front, but it soon became hard to accept it as genuine. As the filming went on and on, the hidden agenda of the producers started to become more visible. This wasn’t the story of Murphy’s Law, it was the story of a generic “Bar Rescue” plot line that used a bar in Reno to help tell it.
But Murphy’s Law did go along with it. The employees played their parts, took their lumps, and put on their smiles after the bar was remodeled and renamed. Although I actually thought the 1930s old school style gambling hall makeover was pretty cool, Maria informed me that the staff, and, probably more importantly, the customers, didn’t.
Before the episode even premiered, Gary had changed back the name from Money Bar to Murphy’s Law. Everything else wasn’t as easy to reverse, however. Maria tells me business has suffered dramatically since the rescue. She says the place lost thousands of dollars worth of equipment and personal belongings. The 20% increase in business that “Bar Rescue” reported as the credits rolled? Absolute hogwash, claims Maria. Not only is that number inaccurate, but “Bar Rescue” never even followed up in the first place.
Losing business is one thing; losing your sense of self is another. Believe it or not, after the show aired Maria received hate mail from viewers unable to decipher the truth about reality television. She was the subject of social media venom from trolls who would watch the show and then sound off using their keyboards and smart devices. It took a year before Maria could even talk about the experience. She doesn’t hide the fact that it has been a very tough road since the “Bar Rescue” experience started.
With that said, it says a lot about Maria that she can still see the silver lining in this whole saga. After Gary pleaded for Maria to return to the bar, thereby turning his back on the advice Taffer gave him, she has experienced the small positive fruits of the “Bar Rescue” exposure. Fans of the show frequently drop in at Murphy’s Law solely because they saw it on TV. While this group can never replace the scores of regular customers the business has lost, it does provide Maria the chance to meet new people and set the record straight.
I am well aware that people have either enjoyed or suffered through different “Bar Rescue” experiences. I have in fact talked to both sides. In the future, I look to talk to more. However, there is one major theme that is very important to remember. The word “reality” in front of TV is not synonymous with the words “truthful” or “accurate.” We need to keep this in mind when watching our favorite shows and give the benefit of the doubt to any cast members who might come across as disagreeable. Don’t Blink.