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Life Behind Bars: Drink Slingers Tell Their Tales
“I recently had a handsome older couple, Peggy and Byron, sit at the bar for dinner. Peggy kept ordering classic cocktails like the Pink Lady, telling me about life as a young woman in the ’50s. She looked at me and said, ‘I think drinking cocktails is the epitome of civilized culture.’ That statement was not only true, but also a validation of what we do. Any bartender who has spent a decent amount of time behind the stick can tell you about a celebrity sighting or guests behaving badly. But it’s those positive encounters that impact me the most.”
Dorman Street Saloon
"One night my parents came into the bar to visit. Unfortunately, they sat next to a ‘gentleman’ who proceeded to curse at me for throwing his nearly empty beer in the trash. My parents were shocked, but they let me handle it. He demanded that I give him a new beer. I walked over to the register, calmly refunded him for the beer, and kicked him out. I think my parents were proud."
The Chatterbox Jazz Club
"In late 1989, I got a call at the bar from a friend of mine who was the concierge at the Canterbury Hotel. She said that Mick Jagger and Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones were going out to hear some music before they rested up for their concert at the Hoosier Dome. She requested that I ask the customers to be respectful—no autographs, no pictures. So I did. But not one of them believed me! Well, Mick and Ron showed up and spent at least an hour. They seemed to have a great time."
The Brass Ring Lounge
"In the bar business, there are several philosophies as to who is responsible for cleaning up messes. The one that I have adopted is similar to finders keepers. Specifically, ‘If you find it, you get to clean it.’ I once stumbled upon a real treat: the ladies’ room covered in someone’s stomach contents. Everyone at one time or another has had too much to drink and gotten sick. What makes it not okay is allowing a bartender to clean up your Exorcist aftermath."
White Rabbit Cabaret
"The night Fountain Square flooded last September was insane. It was raining so hard that the streets looked like rivers. Water was up to our door, and suddenly the power went out—it was pitch-black in the bar for almost an hour. But everyone stayed because it was raining so hard. They just kept ordering drinks in the dark."
Photos by Tony Valainis
This article appeared in the January 2013 issue.