Ramón Melendez has tended bar at Walker’s Pint, 818 S. 2nd St., for almost six years, but he started in the service industry many years prior. His smile, quick service and positive energy contribute to the overall good vibe at The Pint, and further proves that it’s not a spot only for lesbians.
Recently, we stopped by for a Guinness and a chat with Melendez about booze, movies, Puerto Rican food and more.
OnMilwaukee: Where were you born and raised?
Ramón Meledez: I was born in Chicago, but moved to Milwaukee with my mom and stepdad in 1989, when I was 6 or 7. I graduated from Riverside High School and went into the service industry, first a Motel 8 manager and then later as an expediter, server and bartender.
Where did you work prior to Pint?
I managed Club Tropical. I worked at La Fuente, first the one in Walker’s Point and then helped open the one on Bluemound. I also managed at Potawatomi and Mona’s.
What do you like about bartending?
I like coming to work and being able to hang out with friends. When you're a bartender, you come to the same place, but the experience is always different. I tried the 9-to-5 thing – doing the same thing over and over – but I couldn’t do it.
What’s it like being a male bartender in a women’s / lesbian bar?
I love it. It’s fun. I’ve known some of these women for 12 years or more, and I have a great boss, Bet-z. I have learned a lot from her over the years.
What is your favorite drink to make?
All of them. But especially Cosmos and other martinis. I don’t get many people ordering them here, but they are always fun to make.
What’s your favorite drink to consume when you're on the other side of the bar?
It depends. In summer, I like vodka presses or gin and tonics and in winter, it switches to whiskey – Tullamore D.E.W. or Jameson.
Do you ever have to cut off drinkers? And if so, how do you do it?
Oh, for sure. I have a code phrase with friends: "Is it time to go to Cielito Lindo and eat some food"? Otherwise, I say something like, "I think you’ve had enough for tonight, but we open tomorrow at whatever time and you’re welcome to come back then."
What do you like to do when you’re not bartending?
I like riding my motorcycle, going to movies with my boyfriend Adam – especially $5 movie night on Tuesdays – and helping my mom at her restaurant. She owns La Moraveña on Greenfield.
I didn’t realize that was your mom, but I have eaten in her restaurant before and your mom is really cool.
Yeah, my mom grew up in bars and restaurants. When she was a little girl in the '60s my grandpa owned a restaurant in Puerto Rico and whatever he had for the day is what he had to offer his customers – if he had chicken or pork or eggs, that’s what you got. My mom would tell the customers that they needed to have a belly full of food before they went to the bar to drink alcohol.
Did your mom always want to open her own place?
Yes, a lot of people in Milwaukee had eaten her food and were always telling her she should open her own place. Everything she makes is so flavorful and delicious. Some of the dishes she serves at the restaurant we would only eat on special occasions when I was a kid. It’s great having them available all the time now.
You mentioned you like to see movies, do you have a favorite film?
Right now it’s "Deadpool." We saw it twice in the theater already.
Did you ever work at a gay men's bar or consider it?
I’ve guest-bartended at Fluid before, but otherwise, no. I heard a lot of stories when I was younger about some of the other gay men's bars and it wasn’t for me.
What is unique about Walker’s Pint?
(Pointing at his boss) It’s Bet-z. I've worked in a lot of clubs and usually there is one person who is good at fixing things and handling the books, and another who’s a people person and handles the front end of the house, but Bet-z is all of that in one person.
Where would you like to travel someday?
Next week I am going to California to visit friends, which I am really looking forward to. I'm going to L.A. for one night, just to try it out, and then on to Long Beach. I would also like to get back to Puerto Rico. I still have family living there and I have not been there since 1996.
What do you think about Milwaukee in general? Do you find it to be a welcoming place?
I do. When I was younger, I didn’t care for Milwaukee, but I think I was just trying to be rebellious. I slowly met my friends and got to know the city better and I really like it here.
For more on the absence of women's / lesbian bars in Milwaukee and beyond, go here.
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.