Tag Archives: Double Down Saloon

Taking Advice

EDIT (I spaced on two important people!)

In my days — and weeks — of waiting and what felt like inaction, I’ve been pretty stressed out. I’ve been obsessing, as my previous post explained, because it’s all I’ve been able to do. I received quite a bit of unsolicited advice as a result of that post. I’ll admit, most of my life I’ve been quite the know-it-all. Even in circumstances where I know less than I should. But in this situation I have seriously stepped outside myself. I’ve evaluated my flaws, one of which is not being comfortable asking for assistance, which leads to that know-it-all-ism. And I’ve overcome it. I have been soliciting advice from everyone I meet and the vast number of people I know who are experienced in this business. I have been humbly admitting all the things I know nothing about and seeking those who know everything.

This process began in earnest last March when a friend told me about a place that was secretly for sale. I wound up asking Molly if she’d sell me one of her two bars, since, although I was tempted by the secret space, my dream has always been to own a dive bar. Molly wasn’t ready to sell but she did express interest in helping me with whatever other space I wound up with. The machinations that took place before I eventually left for the desert were a little nuts; I may eventually post about them because they influenced where I am today. Molly is a neighborhood fixture and her bars are among my (few) favorites. I hope she’ll continue to be an advisor and supporter.

In the fall, after returning from the desert, I met with a friend of my sister’s who owns a large bar in San Francisco’s Marina district. He started with a small neighborhood joint, leveled up to a big bar/restaurant and then decided a nightclubby type bar was more manageable. His place is pretty fancy and definitely not a place I’d hang out. But he had some valuable advice. He suggested a specific “signature cocktail,” which I initially cringed at. But after some thought, I realized that even Double Down has a “signature cocktail” aka their house shot, “Ass Juice.” (Actually, Double Down even has an “infused vodka,” though it’s infused with bacon and not very highbrow!) So there will be a “signature cocktail” at my bar, the one he suggested, in fact, though I may not actually use the words “signature cocktail” to describe it!

My friend Scott sometimes has me join him at Perdition as a guest bartender. His boss, Jessica, sat down with me to share her years-won wisdom with me, including recommendations of accountants, insurance brokers, payroll companies and more. Probably the most valuable piece of advice she offered was to hang on tight and ride out all the bullshit, though I don’t believe she used those exact words.

Frannie is a fellow burner who has graciously offered the burner Happy Hour open bars at her old place on Rivington. She still owns half of the Manhattan Welcome to the Johnson’s but spends most of her time at her new place, the Bushwhack branch of WttJs. I’ve spent hours talking to her about the bar business; she has been very generous with her time. The one piece of advice she gave me that I’ll be incorporating into my place is the concept of creating intimate, separate spaces for people, even in a small bar. Her place on Rivington was pretty tiny — and slightly subterranean — but it had four different “conversation areas”: the bar (barstools), two-top high tables (also with barstools), a handful of low tables with two or four chairs and a back area with couches/banquettes and a low table. I’d guess that, although the feng shui is decidedly different in my space, both bars are about the same amount of square feet. So I will have almost the exact same seating options: the barstools at the bar, one or two high-tops, a couch with a low table and as many square tables with two chairs that will fit. Frannie gave me many other great tips that I’ve already internalized. She was actually the first person I sat down with about this, even before things were quite as close to becoming a reality.

Donald is the manager of Double Down and I took him out for lunch the other day to pick his brain. I asked him about a million questions and he provided me with answers, as well as phone numbers for pretty much every person, service or company necessary to keep a bar business up and running. He told me that 10 years ago a friend had done the same for him and he was happy to be able to “pay it forward.” I am now armed with the info to handle just about every imaginable crisis.

On Tuesday I ventured out into Brooklyn to meet Rosie Schaap, a barmaid Gaz Regan recommended I speak with. She writes a cocktail column for the New York Times, has published a book, “Drinking with Men,” and she works the noon to 9pm shift at South. The bar was great, I loved the jukebox, the regulars were warm and friendly and Rosie was a font of information. She even came up with an elegant solution to my desire to learn more about all the boozy things I don’t know without enrolling in the a-bit-too-basic bartending schools: attend classes at Astor Wine & Spirits. Perfect! I’ve already mentioned that I’m registered for Gaz’s Cocktails in the Country course, so I’m looking forward to tapping into his vast wisdom.

Last night the Burning Man Happy Hour was held at Sugarburg, a fairly new neighborhood bar and restaurant in Williamsburg. It also happens to be owned by a friend and fellow burner and his two brothers. I spent quite a while chatting with them about their purchase process, their buildout and what it’s been like since their opening day. The offer was made to talk again any time I need more advice and I’m sure I’ll be taking them up on that! I’ll add that the bar is pretty amazing. Everyone loved the wide assortment of craft beers, the delicious snacks and the convenient location. I, personally, had a deep appreciation for the decor and many architectural details. I know that nothing wound up on their walls without a lot of consideration. It was nice to know that they continue to make improvements and add to the eclectic collection of art.

In my recent travels, researching bars and bartenders, drinks and drink prices, competition and whatnot, I’ve spoken at length with every person on either side of the bar. I’ve asked bartenders what they do and don’t like, patrons what they want and don’t want, and everything else I can think of. I haven’t shut up about opening this bar and everyone I meet is excited to visit it.

The woman who has been helping me as my commercial real estate agent is also who I’ll be hiring to hold my hand as I learn the process of running a bar business. She owned a bar/club in my neighborhood for a decade and served on the local community board for seven years. She has a wealth of information and experience and she will literally be on my payroll. The rest of the staff at her real estate agency is uber-experienced as well, with a grand total of over 100 years in bars and restaurants between them all, most especially the man running the whole operation, who I met back in November at the Rosie O’Donnell event. He is, in my parents’ vernacular, a wheel. I feel confident that I am in capable hands.

I’m hiring a licensed architect to help me draw up the plans for the renovations and she is recommending a licensed engineer to install the new AC unit and ducting. A licensed general contractor will oversee the licensed plumber and electrician, and they will all be filing the proper permits. My liquor license lawyer is the liquor license lawyer. He is a legend. There is an army of people ready to help me realize my vision and an even larger army ready to patronize it.

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful and I anticipate that the next year or two will be equally insane. My friend at Sugarburg told me the first year is extremely tough. I’ve been impatiently waiting, itching to get my hands dirty, and today something clicked into place. The process is gonna speed up now and before I know it, I’ll be behind that bar, ready to say, “What’ll it be?” It won’t be a moment too soon!

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A Week, Lost; A Friend, Lost; A Coastline, Lost

I’ve been avoiding my computer, suffering from a strange anxiety. I got home three weeks ago and this past one was pretty much a total wash. Hurricane Sandy blew into town and I worked through the whole storm, from noon till 3am, eventually bartending by candlelight to a motley group of neighborhood folks who’d never been to the bar before. It was magical.

Since my power was out, I spent the next afternoon in the bar as well, drinking till midnight, then bumbling home by flashlight. On Wednesday I ventured uptown to recharge my phone, call my mom and have a meal. I also found out only the littlest bit about what was going on in the tri-state area. I walked back downtown into the darkness, fetched my pirate coat from a blacked out basement and got into costume. Even Scribble dressed up!

The poodle and I stopped by the Double Down, found Decibel and walked crosstown to Spring and Sixth Ave., where about 100+ costumed revelers had assembled for a renegade parade. The Hungry March Band was among them and they led the festive crew through the darkened streets of the West Village. When it appeared as though the marchers might be headed uptown into the light, I broke off from the pack with a few others and cabbed back to my ‘hood.

At Double Down there were already a few dozen blinky burners eager for an East Village bar crawl, so we strolled through the moonlit streets to 7B, Manitoba’s, Doc Holliday’s and back to Double Down. It was the spookiest, most special Halloween ever!

By Thursday I was suffering from a three-day hangover, still without power and pretty done with it all so I took a bus uptown and a cab across the river to take refuge at Pinky’s. A hot shower and Thai food was just the ticket! By the following afternoon I felt ready to return and the two of us were lucky enough to get a ride right to my door. When we were in the car at Second Ave. and 14th St. I noticed, “Hey! That traffic light is on. Wait! ALL the lights are on!” So our timing was perfect; I arrived home to hear the heat kicking in and watch the real horrorshow on TV.

Pinky and I forged on, however, cobbling our costumes together, then cabbing into midtown for Kostume Kult’s postponed Halloween party, which had been relocated to Times Scare. So fun! And a welcome change from the cold and dark. Sadly so many people still aren’t as lucky. There are hundreds of ways to help but it will take quite some time to rebuild the areas damaged by the storm and get things back to “normal.” There’s really not much need for me to rehash the news of how much of our coastline is lost.

I spent the weekend obsessively cleaning my apartment. It’s been since…well, probably since June. It was the only thing I could manage. I was barely able to leave my building; I felt agoraphobic. So my home is now immaculate. Yet I wanted very much to assist those less fortunate. Yesterday I jumped at the opportunity for a ride to Staten Island, hoping to help out. Instead I wound up on a day-long drive, picking people up, passing devastated homes and turned away from overstocked collection points. It was great, I guess, to witness so much abundance but I had wanted to get OUT of the truck and shovel sand or something. Instead we wound up donating our truckload of supplies to a senior/homeless shelter. Certainly not a bad thing but also not my intention. Had I known that we were only going to drop off donations, as opposed to working, I would’ve tried another tact. It wouldn’t have taken five people to unload the truck…

This morning I woke up ready for a fresh start. But I was still digesting last night’s shocking news that an old friend, Erocktica’s Pink Snow, had died of a heart attack. I remain in disbelief: a young woman — and new mother — in apparently perfect health. How does this happen? I am just stunned. Erocktica was Mondo Porno’s “house band” and really made the events memorable, from San Francisco to Boston to Vegas. She had bowed out of the rock band and nightlife world to go back to school and start a family. I cannot believe her dreams have been cut short.

Wow. Just wow. So. Much. Loss.

Overbooked

Ack!

I can’t believe I’ll be leaving for the desert in just over a month! There doesn’t seem to be a spare moment between now and then! I was planning on using this blog to jettison much of my costumery and clutter but I don’t think I’ll have time to photograph and post it all! I will try and use Party Costume Exchange on Facebook, so keep an eye out for fun stuff there!

I have one week till I leave for Vegas, where I’ll be wrangling balloons again for Balloon Chain at Electric Daisy Carnival. Between now and then I’ll be working at the bar, taking a two-day seminar — “Going All the Way: Sex and Money Intensive” — with Amy Jo Goddard, attending the “Meet & Beat” for The New York Fetish Marathon Thursday night and emceeing for the HOWL! Festival finale, The Jackie Factory presents’ “Low Life 6: East Village Others” on Sunday. Whew! Guess it’s a good thing I’ve given up dating!

Somewhere in there I’d like to have a clothing swap, do Pink Drinks at Sidewalk and, well, you know, pack! There’s 4th of July in there (come visit me at Double Down!) and a trip out to the Hamptons to hang with my family. Oh! And The Mermaid Parade! I have a feeling I won’t be blogging much. But maybe this year I’ll do a bit more of it from out in the desert. Though it’s very difficult to focus on a computer screen after eight hours in the sun…

The ideal situation would be if I could just think the things I want to write here and have it all magically transmitted into type. Sigh. I’m sure we’ll have that technology any moment now. Which will be awesome because that would make it super easy to write my memoir! Anyway, keep an eye on my Facebook page for more up-to-date info, since it’s so easy to just zap a photo there. (Shakes fist at Mark Zuckerberg.) Anyway, stay tuned!

Cunty

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been keeping up with my bloggage. However, what little I have had time to post has generated interest…and outrage. Okay, perhaps outrage is an exaggeration. But when I’m busy I don’t spend hours mulling over my responses. I just dash off what initially comes to mind. Which often comes out sounding cunty. It could be said that I am cunty; I do, after all, have the word CUNT tattooed right on my body. Hey, truth in advertising! However, to those who know me, they get my cuntiness right along with my kindness. I can be both, as can most women. It is so very difficult to convey kindness through the ether—or the printed word—as is the conveyance of many emotions.

I’m exhausted. I am over dating people who are so terribly mismatched with me—and me with them. I don’t want to give up, though. Should I? I’m happy to be bartending so I can meet men in what I consider to be my natural habitat, especially while making money instead of spending it. And while they’re drinking and I’m not! I’ve been saying for a while now that meeting guys in bars has been my MO for so many years that it’s really the only process that makes sense to me!

So yeah, the sassy, snarky, cunty responses and the cunty part of my personality that’s been (unfortunately) emerging on many of my recent dates may, indeed, be a valid facet of who I am. Thankfully when I’m behind the bar, my happy and helpful side is what’s shown. Which means if you want to meet the most sincere me, you’ll have to come visit. And order up an Ass Juice! WOOT!

You can find me at Double Down Saloon, 14 Avenue A, Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon till 8pm. And yes, this is a bit of shameless self-promotion. It’s also an open invitation to all my friends, fans and foes to come stalk me or say hello. While you’re free to come and go as you please, I am, quite literally, trapped behind the bar!