Bar Rescue "Don't Mess With Taffer's Wife" (partially found footage of confrontation at Sand Dollar bar; 2013)

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Bar Rescue.JPG

The show's title card.

Status: Partially Found

Bar Rescue is a reality series that has been broadcast on Paramount-affiliated channels. The premise involves bar consultant Jon Taffer attempting to rescue failing bars and nightclubs, with the show famous for its fiery confrontations between Taffer and the bar's owners and employees. Season 3 Episode 11, entitled "Don't Mess With Taffer's Wife", witnessed Taffer's efforts to save Sand Dollar, situated in Las Vegas and owned by Lisa Guerena and Dr. Paul Wilkes. It is most infamous for its opening confrontation between Wilkes and a furious Taffer, after the doctor made flirtatious and other inappropriate comments to Taffer's wife, Nicole. However, in a lawsuit filed against the Taffers and production company Bongo, Dr. Wilkes alleged the confrontation became violent, which was omitted in the final cut.


"Don't Mess With Taffer's Wife" first aired on 7th July 2013 on Spike, attracting 1.75 million viewers.[1] The episode revolved around the Las Vegas bar Sand Dollar, which had been in operation since 1976.[2][3] A year prior to the episode's airing, Lisa Guerena and Dr Paul Wilkes purchased the bar but struggled amid a $300,000 debt and an inability to attract a large, diverse customer base.[4][2][3] They henceforth called in Bar Rescue for assistance.[2][4][3] As with most Bar Rescue episodes, Taffer conducted a recon to determine how the bar normally functions and the behaviour of its staff.[2][3] For this episode, Taffer sent in his wife and market recon specialist Nicole to assess the bar, alongside her friend.[5][2][4][3] Aside from identifying issues typical of most failing bars, including an unappealing bar set-up, inexperienced bartenders and lacklustre management from Lisa, Taffer also notes Dr. Wilkes' deviant behaviour, including being more concerned with pool and his comments towards female customers.[2][4][3]

The recon culminated with Paul chatting to Nicole.[2][5][4][3] After initially requesting that she order a second drink to review, his comments become increasingly more suggestive.[2][4] Upon witnessing Paul grab Nicole's arm and make further inappropriate remarks towards her, a furious Jon enters and immediately lambasts the doctor.[2][4][3] The recon revelations and brief confrontation almost threatened Sand Dollar's rescue.[2][3] Ultimately, the pair put aside their differences the following day for Lisa's sake.[2][3] By the episode's conclusion, Sand Dollar is renamed to Bar 702, with the relaunch proving a success thanks to Lisa's improved management.[2][3] After an encouraging post-launch period, which saw a surge in local popularity and overall profitability, the decision was made to sell the bar in May 2014.[2][3]

Dr. Wilkes' Lawsuit

On 7th April 2014, Dr. Wilkes filed a lawsuit against Jon and Nicole Taffer, and Bongo LLC.[6][4][5] He sought damages for assault, battery, civil conspiracy to commit assault, civil conspiracy to commit battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[4][5] The lawsuit alleged that not only did the show deliberately put Wilkes in a bad light, but claimed that the initial Taffer confrontation ended with both coming to blows and inflicted significant long-term health implications for Wilkes.[7][4][5][6] According to Wilkes, Sand Dollar originally made contact with casting company Metal Flowers on 18th September 2012, seeking the show's assistance.[4][5][6] The bar was, in reality, owned primarily by Dr. Wilkes and Dr. Joseph Adashek, with Lisa receiving 10% of profits.[4] Metal Flowers, who acted as an intermediary between hopeful bars and Bar Rescue's production company Bongo, responded that the show was interested in rescuing a Las Vegas venue and that audition tapes would soon be recorded.[4][5] The first was conducted by Metal Flowers in December 2012, where Wilkes and co. were encouraged to be "outlandish".[8][4][5][6] Thus, the initial interview saw him and others discuss visiting Las Vegas strip clubs.[4][5][6]

A second audition tape was recorded by Bongo in January 2013, which saw executive producer Tim Warren interview key members of Sand Dollar.[4][5] In Wilkes' interview, he praised Taffer's industry knowledge and track record in rescuing bars, but criticised his overly confrontational behaviour and dress sense.[4][5] By 8th February 2013, Sand Dollar was purportedly among three bars that were shortlisted for a Las Vegas episode.[4] Story producer Al Rincones would also conduct a meeting with the doctors that day.[4][5][6] After recording footage in Wilkes' Summerlin office and Adashek's aircraft hangar, Rincones explained the proposed storyline: Taffer would help rescue a bar owned by two "nice doctors, and nice guys" who ultimately lacked experience in their new venture.[4][5] Rincones also assured the pair that if the episode was chosen, Taffer would arrive within three days.[4] However, as alleged by Wilkes and unbeknownst to any Sand Dollar personnel at the time, Bongo and Metal Flower had conjured up a significantly different narrative based on the original audition tapes.[4][5] Their intended plan was to film a narrative depicting a "dirty doctor" who frequently "picks up on strippers."[4][5][6][7]

On 11th February, more footage was being recorded.[4][5] By this point, Rincones informed Wilkes that if Sand Dollar was to be selected, he would need to make sexist and other outrageous comments concerning women during an interview.[4][5][6][7] Wilkes was reluctant to do this, as it would significantly impact his reputation as a respected obstetrician gynaecologist.[4][5] He was later convinced to make multiple graphic comments about women's bodies after being assured by Rincones that they would be left unaired, as well as to ensure Lisa's sole income generator, the Sand Dollar, would receive Taffer's help.[4][7][5][6] With the interviews conducted, recon swiftly began.[4][7] Wilkes claimed his initial encounter with Nicole and her friend was initially deemed underwhelming by Rincones, who blamed the doctor's "charming personality".[4][5] The story producer texted Lisa numerous times, instructing her to encourage Wilkes to make outrageous comments to Taffer's wife.[4][5][7] After Lisa informed Wilkes about this, the latter soon complied.[4][5][6][8] He supposedly conducted his lewd interaction with Nicole under the assumption Jon was still on his way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.[9][4][5]

Little did Wilkes realise, Taffer was in reality assessing the recon outside.[4][5][6][9] Jon was apparently ignorant to the revelation Wilkes' comments had been scripted and so was legitimately angry upon hearing them.[4][5][6][7] Before entering the bar, he instructed a Bongo crew member to plant a drink near Wilkes, where he would swiftly unload its contents onto the unsuspecting owner.[4][5][7] As Jon made his way to the bar, Wilkes honoured a request by Nicole to venture to the pool tables.[4] Suddenly, Jon entered and bellowed "I WANT YOU TO SEE A FEW THINGS, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!".[4][5] In Taffer's hand was a tablet, which played Wilkes' negative comments he made about Jon's clothes in January 2013.[4][5][7] The encounter swiftly became violent; it started with Taffer forcefully grabbing a Diet Coke from Wilkes' hand and throwing the can at his face, before spitting at him.[4][6] He then tore the doctor's shirt and directed the planted drink at him.[4][5][7] In the midst of the attack, Taffer also labelled the doctor as a "pervert" and "scumbag".[4][5][8] Wilkes, startled by the initial assault, attempted to resist as Taffer threw the tablet at him.[4][5][7] Eventually, two men broke up the fight; as Taffer was being restrained, he managed to land a punch to the doctor's jaw, before he allegedly collapsed onto the ground after experiencing hyperventilation.[4][5][6][8][7] He presumably required medical attention following the encounter.[4][7]

However, the attack had longer-lasting consequences for Wilkes; the file claimed he suffered, among other ill effects, regular panic attacks, night terrors and depressive episodes.[4][6][7] He was additionally aghast to learn that when "Don't Mess With Taffer's Wife" aired, the narrative painted him as a "dirty doctor".[4][7] He accused Jon of pre-planning the attack as a ratings ploy and to solidify a relationship with both Bongo and Spike executives.[4][9] Additionally, he alleged Nicole and Bongo personnel were key agents who facilitated the violent encounter.[4] It should be noted that this whole account is from the plaintiff's perspective; it is likely Bongo and the Taffers' version of events would greatly differ especially when also considering the broadcast version of events.[8][7][9] A motion to strike under Section 425.16 was rejected by the trial court, having not been satisfied with the defendants' claims that their Bar Rescue actions constituted free speech on a situation of public relevance.[10][11] The case was eventually settled out of court in 2016.[12] The lawsuit also inflicted reputational damage to the show, particularly calling into question Taffer's claims that Bar Rescue is entirely unscripted.[7][6][8][12]


"Don't Mess With Taffer's Wife" can still be accessed via platforms like Amazon Prime. But interestingly, the episode is no longer available on Paramount Plus.[13] The lawsuit claimed the entire ordeal was captured by Bar Rescue cameras.[4][5] Its allegations were questioned by sources like TMZ and Bar Rescue Updates, who noted that the aired version of the confrontation consisted merely of a brief verbal exchange between Taffer and Wilkes, with no signs of violence breaking out.[8][7] But upon further analysis of the episode, Bar Rescue Updates made an interesting discovery; during recon, it was found Wilkes had worn two different black shirts.[7] It inexplicably changes from a black shirt containing a double pocket on the left and zero right pockets during the Nicole encounter; to one with a right pocket and only a single left one when Taffers confronts him.[7]

The shirt inconsistency heavily implies that the confrontation shown in the final cut was not the original.[7] Notably, the lawsuit claimed Taffer caused extensive damage to Wilkes' shirt during the alleged fight, ripping off four of its buttons.[4][7] If Wilkes' account is to be believed, it is possible that a second, tamer confrontation video was filmed with him wearing a similar shirt to cover up the incident.[7] But even if the allegations were exaggerated or entirely false, and that the aired confrontation was the only one that happened,[8] the shirt alteration remains an unusual discrepancy as Wilkes would have had no time or seeming motivation to change shirts by the time Taffer arrived.[7] Considering the legal and reputational ramifications the episode inflicted on Bar Rescue,[12] it is unlikely the uncut confrontation(s) and any other media related to Sand Dollar, including the full audition interview tapes, are to receive a public release.[4][7]

External Links


  1. The Futon Critic noting the episode's airdate and viewership. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Reality TV Revisited summarising the Sand Dollar episode and the aftermath. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Reality TV Updates summarising the episode and the lawsuit filed against the show. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 4.34 4.35 4.36 4.37 4.38 4.39 4.40 4.41 4.42 4.43 4.44 4.45 4.46 4.47 4.48 4.49 4.50 The initial lawsuit filed against Bongo and the Taffers. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 5.29 5.30 5.31 5.32 Courthouse News Service reporting on the lawsuit and allegations that the show was a set-up. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 Deadline reporting on Dr. Wilkes suing the show for damages relating to the alleged violent confrontation. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 7.23 7.24 Bar Rescue Updates summarising the key points in the lawsuit and noting the shirt discrepancy in the episode. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 TMZ reporting on and disputing the claims made by the lawsuit. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 FindLaw reporting on how the incident most likely was for a ratings ploy. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  10. Wilkes v. Bongo LLC B258794, which noted the defendants' special motion to strike the complaint was rejected. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  11. FindLaw summarising section 425.16 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 25th May 2020 issue of The National Enquirer noting the case was settled in 2016 and the reputational damage it inflicted onto Bar Rescue and Taffer. Retrieved 14th Nov '23
  13. Paramount Plus, which no longer contains the episode in its Season 3 collection. Retrieved 14th Nov '23