Cassondra Keller started working at Monica’s On Astor about four years ago. She got the job through her aunt, who worked at the Y-Not 2, which is owned by Tony DePalma, father of Monica’s owner Monica DePalma.
Monica’s brother, Nicholas DePalma, owns Nick’s House, 1854 E. Kenilworth Pl., which was the Y-Not 3 prior to a transformation by "reality" television show "Bar Rescue."
Recently, we stopped stopped into Monica’s for the first time. It’s a walk-down space on the ground floor of a pre-Civil War building. We chatted with Keller about her recent trip to New York City, her cameo on "Bar Rescue" and what’s on deck for her as a recent college graduate.
OnMilwaukee.com: Is your name misspelled a lot? "Cassandra" instead of "Cassondra?"
Cassondra Keller: Yeah, a lot of times. And my nickname is "Cassi," which is misspelled all the time.
OMC: Did I overhear that you just graduated?
CK: Yep, I walked a week from yesterday. I got a degree in advertising and public relations from UWM. I went to New York City the next day and I just got back, so I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.
OMC: Did you go to New York to celebrate your graduation?
CK: I did. I went with my mom for five days. When one of her kids graduates, my mom takes them on a trip, pretty much wherever they want. Neither of us had ever been to New York. It was fun.
OMC: What were the high points of the trip?
CK: We saw "Chicago" on Broadway. We went to the top of the Rockefeller building at night and it was really amazing seeing all of the lights.
OMC: What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?
CK: I’m playing it by ear. I would like to eventually get a job in my field, but I’m taking my time to find something rather than taking a "whatever" job.
OMC: What drink do you like to make the most?
CK: We had a drink on special called a Scorpion. It’s a delicious and dangerous drink that’s all booze. I really like making that one.
OMC: What do you like to drink?
CK: I’ve been drinking way too many vodka and grapefruit juices. I just had a Shiner birthday cake stout and it was pretty delicious. A good drink for the holidays.
OMC: Did you go to any bars in New York City?
CK: We went to a rooftop bar off of Times Square that had a Moroccan theme. It was really cool. We also went to a couple of Irish pubs. I talked to the bartenders and asked where they go after work to find places that weren’t too expensive or touristy.
OMC: What do you like about working here?
CK: The DePalmas are a great family to work for. And I can pick up shifts at their other bars if I want. I work Saturdays at the Y-Not 2. It breaks up the monotony.
OMC: Were you involved with the taping of "Bar Rescue" at Y-Not 3?
CK: Yeah, I was a cocktail waitress for the reopening of the bar – now called Nick’s House.
OMC: Were you visible in the episode?
CK: You can see the side of my head for half of a second and then there’s a part when I’m walking down the stairs, see they are filming and walk back up the stairs. So, I was in the episode for about a second. But it was interesting to see how they do it. It’s not necessarily how they disclose it on the show.
OMC: How would you describe Monica’s? It seems a little under the radar.
CK: It is a bit of a hidden gem, but there are so many people who live in the area that it’s their place – their first stop or last stop of the night or their go-to bar when they’re out with friends. Also, because of the hotels in the neighborhood we get a lot of travelers.
In the summer, we get a lot of customers after Summerfest – any of the festivals actually – who come to have a drink on our patio.
OMC: Do you get business from County Clare (the Irish pub / restaurant / hotel next door)?
CK: We do. Especially on St. Patrick’s Day. They’re packed, being an Irish pub, and so we get a lot of their run off. Their employees come here after work for a drink sometimes and I run over there to get food.
OMC: What are you doing for New Years Eve? Working?
CK: Yes, I am working here from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. I did this shift last year. It’s a lot of fun. An all-night party.
OMC: How can you stay up until 6 a.m.?
CK: I drink some Red Bull to make it through. But I’m used to staying up really late. I only had class three days a week and so on nights I worked, I wouldn’t get home until 3:30ish and then I’d have a beer, watch a movie. My boyfriend is a bartender, so we’re on a similar schedule. I admit I’m not as bubbly in the morning as I could be.
OMC: What do you like to do when you’re not working or studying?
CK: I like to go to the Admirals’ games when I can. It’s always a fun, cheap night out. I live next to some of the players and it’s cool when you know who’s out there instead of strangers on the ice. Basically, I’ve been working and studying, working and studying. I think I need more hobbies.
OMC: Are you from Milwaukee?
CK: No, I’m from the Appleton area. I came here to go to Marquette in 2010, and then transferred to UWM. It’s funny, because before I went to New York, I thought Milwaukee was the "big city." But when I was in New York, I felt really small, and not in a bad way. I liked it and it made me realize how much I want to travel and see more of the country.
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.