I’ve recently been thinking about how the dynamic of a staff, as in how well a staff gets along and enjoys their jobs, can turn a bar experience from an average one into a great one. I have to give props to my employees at The Usual for turning my mind in this direction. They’re a great example of a group who enjoys working together, look out for one another, and makes sure that they make a collective effort to take care of everyone in the bar. On this point, this week’s bartender profile takes us a few blocks east of The Usual and over to Republic Street Bar. At the South Main Street-area establishment you can typically run into one or both of the dynamic duo that is Catfish “Chocolate Thunder” Flores and Danielle “Dirty P” Payne.
For the last year and a half, they have worked together behind the bar at both Shipping and Receiving (where Danielle still holds down a few shifts) and Republic Street (where Catfish works exclusively and Danielle spends the other half of her time). Working together for a length of time like they have is a great way to build chemistry and a positive dynamic, but add to that the fact that they’ve been dating for about nine months now and we‘ve got something else to talk about. I was curious about where they ranked on the scale ranging from “HR Nuclear Meltdown” to “Bartending Super Duo” so I sat down with them this week to find out.
They definitely come from different backgrounds in the industry. Danielle began as a server at Cotton Patch Café (I love finding out what bartenders’ first jobs were. It’s almost always embarrassing.), worked her way up as a server at a few different places, and then eventually found herself occupied as a full-fledged bartender. Catfish has done everything in his day including wash dishes, refuel helicopters in the military, work in the biomedical field, cater, butcher, and work as a chef. Now as the lead bartender at Republic Street, he definitely has some stories to tell. Side note, don’t try to run off with one of Danielle’s tip jars. I’ve seen someone try. I’ll just leave it at that.
This couple also has differing aspirations concerning their bartending futures and distinctive views about how they fit into the bar scene. Of the two of them, Catfish is the one that you’ll more likely find in the dark corners of the market searching for seasonal fruit to use in drinks to delight his guests, while Danielle is inclined to use her beer knowledge to guide guests through the coolest new selections that are stocked at her bars. Danielle is also focused on her photography degree and honing her art, while Catfish diligently moves through his career behind the bar step by step, preparing himself for future opportunities to rise through the ranks of the industry. By the time I’ve gotten to this point in the conversation it had become apparent that theirs isn’t so much an “opposites attract” scenario, but rather a story of complimenting personalities and philosophies.
Obviously, working closely with someone that you’re in a relationship with isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. They admit to having to had work shifts together while not seeing eye to eye on a personal level. Luckily though, Republic Street is equipped with a large walk-in refrigerator that’s perfectly suited to getting away and cooling off (pun intended) when tensions rise. Apparently Danielle gets a little irked at Catfish’s penchant for taking his shirt off while he works (I’m not sure where the health code stands on that.) and Danielle leaves her stuff behind the bar where Catfish can trip over it at some point in the shift. On a personal level, my girlfriend buys small postcards that say things like “Love is Happiness” on them and mattes them in frames that look like they were meant for movie posters, but we all still manage to love one another and get the job done. For Danielle and Catfish embracing the other’s quirks are all part of developing a deeper sense of teamwork.
If you haven’t made it to Republic Street yet I definitely recommend it. It’s an everyman’s kind of joint with great drinks of all sorts, one hell of a barbecue truck parked on the side, and the occasional live music act playing in the beer garden. If you happen to run across Catfish or Danielle tell them I sent you and be sure to take advantage Danielle’s beer brain and Catfish’s cocktails (he’s got a Manhattan variation that is awesome). They give a collective shout out to Brian Reising, owner of Republic Street, for being a cool, helpful boss and not being a micro managing prick.