Last week I stopped by the World Bar at Trump World Tower to attend the USBGNY monthly mixer. I'd come just in time to hear Jonathan Pogash make a couple of announcements about upcoming contests and events.
For those attending the NY Bar Show, USBGNY will have a huge presence there this year with its own separate area.
It was the usual thing you'd expect at a meeting like this of this sort, a gathering of industry folks to talk about industry related matter. Except we got to have that there were plentiful booze, mainly in the form of Old Fashioneds made with Pierre Ferrand Cognac Ambre.
And like any proper meeting, we had a guest speaker speak to us about something relating to industry matters, except our speaker wasn't just any speaker. It was the always entertaining, yet insightful, and delightfully salty Gary Regan.
Reading from a sheaf of paper that he said was part of a work in progress memoir that he was working to get published, he began to tell us a bit about his life, and in particular, about his parents. He began his story explaining how he was brought up in the pub business. For a period of his life, his father owned a pub located in a lower class neighborhood near a council estate (public housing in the United Kingdom).
Gary had everyone's attention in the room as he told us tales with relish about the pub's house band. Or how as a youngster, he fell into a group of older boys and would go drinking. How his father "a regular superstar" of the council estate would get up on stage to sing. And he told us of the neighborhood tough guy, "the toughest motherfucker in town" as Gary described him, who'd come in twice a year just to sing "Danny Boy."
While everyone listened to the hilarious and heartfelt stories that Gary told, it became obvious that he wasn't just telling these stories because they were good stories, but he was actually trying to explain to us how deep the relationship between customer and bartender (or in this case, pub owner) can go.
Gary said that his father was almost like a father figure for the council estate through the relationships built with those that came into his bar and through caring about the people living in the neighborhood his pub was situated in, his parents weren't just the pub owners, someone one people could go to whether it was late night phone calls or a need to borrow a little money. Gary didn't find that his mother had slipped cash to those who needed it until 2001, a year after her death. He had no idea that his mother had provided some money for a barmaid whose daughter needed medical attention.
The magnanimity and hospitality his parents provided to those in the neighborhood created a sort of "fierce loyalty'
"He didn't want to fuck up in the last place in town where he could take some stuff off of his chest," Gary said of the tough guy who could intimidate the entire room into silence when he walked in, never caused any trouble for the pub.
"The most important part of being a pub landlords is that they must truly care for their customers...they must care in a very real sense on a very personal level," Gary said about what his parents taught him about the bar business. "Because nobody goes to a bar for a drink. They go for conversation, for company...to cry on somebody's shoulders. And such is the path the bartender must walk."
For those who know Gary or at least have read his book, the message isn't new. Even in the age of bartending being sexy, with people trying out different techniques, new ingredients, old ingredients that are new by virtue of having been forgotten, Gary still preaches the importance of the customer and bartender relationship.
As Gary put it, it's not just about "making a great drink or creating a masterpiece," and that bartenders should remember, "He who chooses a life behind bars, chooses a life of service."