‘Bar Rescue’ Show Called a Set-up | Courthouse News Service
Monday, November 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Bar Rescue’ Show Called a Set-up

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The host of Spike TV's "Bar Rescue" attacked a bar owner after the show's producers encouraged the man to hit on the host's wife, the man says in Superior Court.

After Dr. Paul Wilkes, part-owner of the Sand Dollar in Las Vegas, made comments to Jon Taffer's wife about her vagina and implied that he would have sex with her, Taffer stormed into the bar, smashed a cup into Wilkes' face and punched him, the lawsuit states.

Wilkes sued Jon Taffer, Nicole Taffer, and Bongo LLC, the company in charge of producing the reality television program, "Bar Rescue." Aside from Doe defendants 1 - 10, those are the only parties to the lawsuit.

The premise of "Bar Rescue" is that Jon Taffer, an expert in bar management, goes to failing bars to give the owners advice on how to turn their businesses around.

Wilkes, the sole plaintiff, bought the Sand Dollar in Las Vegas with his medical partner, Dr. Joseph Adashek, and a friend, Lisa Guerena. Wilkes and Adashek had other sources of income, but Guerena's only income was derived from the bar, according to the complaint.

The bar was in the red from the time they bought it. Because it was Guerena's only source of income, Wilkes sent an email to Metal Flowers Media to ask that the Sand Dollar be featured on "Bar Rescue," he says.

Lauren Kalb, a casting director for Metal Flowers, contacted Wilkes and Guerena and told them that the Sand Dollar was one of about 40 bars in the Las Vegas area being considered for the show, the complaint states.

"She told them that the people who displayed the most outrageous behavior would be considered the most television-worthy, and that those who behaved in the most outlandish manner would be the ones who were chosen for the next phase of consideration for the program," the lawsuit states.

Kalb and her associate went to the Sand Dollar to film audition tapes to get "a feel of how individuals being considered for casting would react to being on camera," the complaint states.

Wilkes, Adashek and two friends participated in the audition. Kalb told them to talk amongst themselves in a natural way, as if no cameras were present. Remembering that "outlandishness" was the key to securing an episode, Wilkes and a friend discussed their experiences at Las Vegas strip clubs, Wilkes says.

Based on this, Metal Flowers agents pitched to Bongo an idea about making an episode of "Bar Rescue" that focused on a "dirty doctor" who "picks up on strippers," according to the complaint.

Tim Warren, an executive producer for Bongo, subsequently went to the Sand Dollar to film another audition tape, during which he asked Wilkes' pointed questions about Jon Taffer, the host of "Bar Rescue," the complaint states.


"He asked Dr. Wilkes, 'What do you think about Jon Taffer?' Dr. Wilkes replied, 'I don't think anything about Taffer. I don't even know the man.' Warren pressed on, asking, 'What do you think about how Taffer dresses?' to which Dr. Wilkes replied, 'Horrible.' Warren said to Dr. Wilkes, 'You've seen the show. Taffer gets in people's faces. You look like you wouldn't tolerate it well.' Dr. Wilkes replied, 'I respect him, he's good, and he knows what he's doing. But he doesn't have to be such a jerk,'" the complaint states.

Without telling Wilkes, Bongo made the final decision that Sand Dollar would be featured on "Bar Rescue," and that they would play up the angle about the "dirty doctor," the complaint states.

Al Rincones, a story producer working for Bongo, told Wilkes and Adashek that the Sand Dollar had not yet been chosen, but that if it were, the storyline for the episode would be "about two successful doctors who decided to buy a bar together, and while they are very good doctors, their lack of experience in the bar business had left them with a failing business," Wilkes claims.

Taffer would then come in and "save the day" by renovating the bar and giving them business advice, giving two "nice doctors" a real chance to succeed, the complaint states.

Rincones said that they needed to shoot more footage so that Taffer could decide if he wanted to use Sand Dollar in an episode of "Bar Rescue." While filming this footage, Wilkes says, he was told to act in an "obnoxious manner," so he began making disreputable comments to the women in the bar.

Rincones showed up at the bar again the next day to shoot some more footage. He told Wilkes that Taffer was in Los Angeles filming an episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," but that he would fly in to Las Vegas the next morning to film an actual episode of the show if the Sand Dollar was chosen, according to the complaint.

Rincones told Wilkes that to "get the show," he would have to make offensive comments about women. Wilkes, an OB/GYN, was uncomfortable doing this because he felt it would damage his professional reputation, the complaint states.

Rincones assured Wilkes that it was only a casting tape, that only Taffer would see it, and that none of the comments would ever be aired in any public forum. He said that Taffer would not feature the Sand Dollar on the show unless he saw an owner who was behaving in an outrageous manner, Wilkes claims.

During the filming of the casting tape, Rincones asked Dr. Wilkes several graphic questions about women's anatomical parts, but was not satisfied with Wilkes' relatively tame responses. Rincones made Wilkes reword his responses, according to the complaint.

"In the end, Rincones had Dr. Wilkes make comments such as, 'Don't come up to me with half your titties hanging out and not expect me to look and comment on 'em,' and 'I think in order to get a driver's license in Las Vegas, you have to have fake titties. They are delicious. Tonight it's like the Holy Grail of pussy. When I see huge boobies, I just don't have a clutch. The shit that comes into my head, comes out of my mouth.' When the interview was finished, Rincones was exuberant, and told Dr. Wilkes that they were 'going to win,'" the complaint states.

Wilkes was then told that Nicole Taffer, the host's wife, would be coming into the Sand Dollar with a friend to help with the casting tapes. Rincones was directed by producers watching from a control room to approach the two women and talk to them, according to the complaint.


"Rincones was dissatisfied with Dr. Wilkes' charming personality. He sent Dr. Wilkes a text message during that conversation, telling him to 'Hit on [Mrs. Taffer] hardcore!!''" the complaint states.

Rincones also sent messages to Guerena, directing her to tell Wilkes to hit on Mrs. Taffer or comment on her boobs. Guerena pulled Wilkes aside and told him about Rincones' messages, according to the complaint.

"Dr. Wilkes returned to the conversation with Mrs. Taffer and her friend, and Mrs. Taffer ordered a cocktail called 'Sex on the Beach' from Tyee. Dr. Wilkes responded, 'We just met, but I'm good. Get those bags of sand out. We need a beach.'" the complaint states. (39)

Later in the conversation, Wilkes said to the women, "Probably my most impressive trick is just from looking at the bend of your arm, I can tell what your vagina looks like. So, if you bend your arm, and go like that, that's like Grade A va-gee. If someone bends their arm and it's all like jacked up and, then, like you know they have the elephant ears, which is foul.' Mrs. Taffer responded, 'Paul, that's disgusting,' and Dr. Wilkes said, 'I know. It's a deal-breaker, in my world.' Dr. Wilkes then picked up Mr. Taffer's arm to demonstrate the trick and exclaimed, 'Wow! We have a winner! Somebody's downstairs is kickin'!" the complaint states.

Wilkes did not know that Jon Taffer was not in Los Angeles, but was sitting in an SUV in the Sand Dollar's parking lot watching the scene unfold on a monitor. Taffer did not know that Wilkes had been told to hit on his wife, according to the lawsuit.

"While watching the scene inside the SUV, Taffer called the control room and told a staff member to make sure there was a drink near the spot where he intended to confront Dr. Wilkes, so that he could throw it in Dr. Wilkes' face," according to the complaint.

As Taffer got out of the car, he told an employee, "Now I'm going to show you show you why my show is Number One," the lawsuit states.

An entire camera crew then burst into the Sand Dollar, following Taffer as he made his way to confront Wilkes. Calling Wilkes a "piece of shit," Taffer showed him footage from the earlier audition tape where Wilkes had insulted the way Taffer dressed, the complaint states.

Taffer grabbed Wilkes' drink, threw it at him and smashed the cup into his face, calling Wilkes a "pervert" and "scumbag." Taffer then spit in Wilkes' face and tore off Wilkes' shirt, according to the complaint.

"Taffer picked up the drink that had been planted by a Bongo employee to throw in Dr. Wilkes' face from a table and then threw the second drink in Dr. Wilkes' face. Taffer then swung at Dr. Wilkes' head with his electronic tablet, which Dr. Wilkes deflected with his left arm, and the tablet went flying across the room. Taffer turned and went for his coat. Dr. Wilkes, terrified that Taffer was going for a weapon, then went to restrain Taffer with his arms," the complaint states.

Other tried to intervene, but Taffer was still able to punch Wilkes. Taffer then "began hyperventilating and collapsed to the floor," according to the complaint.

Wilkes says the entire attack was caught on camera.

Wilkes seeks punitive damages for assault, battery, conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Justin A. Nash.

Spike TV's website says that Taffer is "an internationally recognized, award-winning restaurant operator, owner and concept developer. He's a respected industry 'voice' with nearly 30 years of hands-on experience."

It says that Nicole Taffer's role as a "Market Recon Specialist" is to go "into bars undercover to talk to customers and staff for an assessment of the situation. Her casual and gregarious personality allows her to covertly investigate and gather information that shapes and informs Jon's ensuing transformation."

"Bar Rescue" is in its third season.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.