February is "Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com, and we'll serve up more than a six pack a week of bar articles all month long. Look for bartender profiles, drink recipes, revamped bar guides and more!
If you live and drink in Milwaukee and have never been handed a Jack and Coke, a gin and tonic -- at the very least a bottle of Pabst -- by Evan Barnes, you just haven't been out enough.
From the East Side to Bay View -- where he opened Evan's in '03, which he later sold and is now Lee's Lounge -- he's made his watering hole rounds in Brew City for over a decade. Although you never really know which bar you'll see him next, you can rest assured that if he's on the other side, you're getting a good drink and a warm welcome.
He's done time at The Nomad, The Redlight, The Redroom and Comet Cafe and these days you can find this bartender extraordinaire slinging the drinks at Hi Hat & Garage, The Palomino and Downer Avenue's newcomer, Café Hollander.
OMC: How long have you been a bartender?
EB: I started bartending in college and have been doing so on and off for the last 13 years. I've enjoyed falling back on it as a source of income and a job where I know I'll have fun, entertain and be entertained all night.
OMC: What is your specialty/signature drink?
EB: Every bartender has experimented and come up with great drinks. Most of mine end up sweet drinks like The Rum Punch: four rums, some juices and a dash of soda. Three of them and you feel the "punch." I always warn my patrons that if they drink more than three, they'll end up running naked down Brady Street.
For a bomb shot my co-worker Brad Williams and I came up with The Tic-Tac: Hanger One Mandarin Vodka, orange juice and Red Bull all mixed in a cocktail glass. The benefit of the Tic-Tac is great tasting alcohol, caffeine and vitamin C. It tastes just like an orange Tic-Tac.
OMC: What is the most ridiculous thing you've seen a drunk patron do?
EB: About a month ago i was working at the Hi-Hat and there was a guy up on the balcony landing doing a dance for this girl, but had no idea the entire bar was watching him, as he was so into the dance. It was to the song "Mr. Roboto" and this dude was full-on engulfed in his perfectly choreographed routine. At the end the entire bar cheered to his bowing. It's the little things like that that are so ridiculous, yet make the night so much better.
I have also definitely seen some ridiculous behavior from patrons like oral sex at the bar, sex under a pinball machine at bar time, blatant disregard for property or human life, etc.The worst part is that I'm usually the guy who has to break it up or end the fun. Sorry! It's crazy what happens when just the "right" or "wrong" amount of alcohol makes it to the bloodstream.
OMC: Ever break up any bar fights?
EB: When I was GM of Bermudas Nightclub (a long, long time ago) we used to have crazy fights where weapons and dozens of people got involved. The worst was a knife held to my throat. Luckily, the bouncers saw it and pulled me away.
The most interesting was a guy my (former) bar Evan's. He threatened me with a live tarantula. It was bar time and we were starting to clear the bar and he refused to leave. When it came time we kept asking him to leave and he was so maddened that he said he was going to get his pet spider to teach us a lesson. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later he was trying to push this big spider on to me. As much as I felt sorry for the guy going to such strange attempts, I felt even worse that the spider had to act as this guy's bodyguard.
OMC: Best/worst pick-up lines to use in a bar?
EB: I've heard a million sad attempts from men to pick up women in the bars and a few sad attempts from women to men -- so many that I have purposefully forgotten them. But one that I remember finding so funny and working for this guy was: "Hey, wanna go home with me and make a box of Mac 'n' Cheese?" The reply: "Sure." In the future if you know you're going to blow it with a bad line or you're nervous, just ask the bartender to send a drink. Yes, I know it sounds cheesy, but most guys who do it get -- worse case scenario -- a smile and a thank you. The rest is up to you.
OMC: Best/worst part of the job?
EB: I have worked many jobs in my life, but I keep returning to bartending. I love providing a customer with the best possible service and in return I enjoy so many benefits. I always try to engage my customers, welcome them and take as good care of them as they could possibly expect in this setting. I love people and I enjoy their stories and meeting new people every night, along with seeing friends and hanging out with my regulars. The bar or restaurant is a place to come and be happy, drown out some sorrows or celebrate, and I truly enjoy being a part of it and taking care of those involved. I've spent years in a cubicle and working professional jobs so I can say honestly that working in a great environment with great people listening to great music and helping people have a great time is better than most jobs you'll find. Plus, bartending allows so much free time to ride motorcycles, travel, relax and enjoy my days.
The worst part of the job: a customer that doesn't understand tipping or proper bar etiquette.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”