Anyone who spends time at County Clare knows the charming Gregory Steffke. Steffke -- who is the general manager of County Clare -- bartends about 30 hours a week and he's always quick to provide a drink, lend an ear or joke around with the clientele.
OnMilwaukee.com recently stopped by County Clare late one afternoon and drank a couple of stouts with Steffke.
OnMilwaukee.com: How long have you been tending bar at County Clare?
Gregory Steffke: I have been here for 15 years. I came shortly after it opened. I am the general manager, but I spend a lot of time working behind the bar. I love it.
OMC: Where are you from?
GS: Victoria, British Colombia. But I traveled around quite a bit, and ended up here.
OMC: What is your specialty drink?
GS: I pride myself on a perfect pour of Guinness and my knowledge of Irish spirits, particularly whiskeys. And I make a pretty good margarita, believe it or not.
OMC: What is your favorite libation to drink?
GS: I love Guinness, and I particularly love ours because it's always, always fresh. We clean the lines at least twice a month and always pre-rinse our glasses (after washing.)
OMC: Ever drink behind the bar?
GS: Never. There's no drinking behind the bar here, but we do celebrate after our shift.
OMC: What do you love about tending bar?
GS: I have the honor of serving myriad people and I really enjoy that. I get a lot of older people in the late afternoon or early evening, and then later, I get to serve younger people, including artists, politicians, lawyers.
OMC: What's the worst pick-up line you've heard?
GS: You know, we don't really hear much of that here. A lot of our female clientele appreciate that about this bar.
OMC: How do you stop serving people who have had enough?
GS: I do it very politely. I do it from a place of understanding. Everyone's in the position once in a lifetime or so, so I do it respectfully.
OMC: Have you ever lived in Ireland?
GS: Yes, I lived there for four years. Harp and Eagle, the company that owns this bar, owned a bar in Athlone (Ireland) until last week. It was a 300-year-old manor house called Castledaly Manor.
OMC: In your opinion, is County Clare similar to a traditional Irish pub?
GS: Absolutely. In some ways, it's more like a traditional Irish pub than many of the bars in Ireland today.
Pub is short for "public house," meaning a place for, yes, drinking, but also for conversation. County Clare honors conversation whereas some of the modern bars in Ireland have changed and don't honor the history of the public house.
OMC: What other inns are owned by Harp and Eagle?
GS: There's St. Brendan's in Green Bay; 52 Stafford in Plymouth; Rochester Inn in Sheboygan Falls. And again, until this week, the Castledaly Manor in Ireland.
OMC: How many employees report to you at County Clare?
GS: About 60.
OMC: What is your favorite food item on the County Clare menu?
GS: Wow, that's a tough one. The lamb shank is really great. But so is the smoked salmon salad.
OMC: How do you feel about the smoking ban?
GS: I believe it should be up to the bar owners and the people paying the taxes. If a "mom and pop" doesn't offer food, they should be able to decide whether or not smoking is allowed at their small business. It should be up to the proprietors, but those days will never come again. However, that said, it is very nice not to have smoke during long shifts.
OMC: What do you do with your time away from work?
GS: Garden, cook, play guitar. I also like to ride my bike and my skateboard, but that's a little more painful than it used to be.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.