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Reporting #6 July 2, 2009

Filed under: Reporting — ckissner @ 7:30 pm

            This week I had two interviews set up. I wanted to interview Bryan Holland and Kristina Vlach. I only had a chance to meet with Bryan because I had been sick all week and had to cancel with Kristina. Bryan Holland used to manage Bayou Blues Café on the Avenue in White Marsh. The café had closed about two months ago and I was going to if Bryan had any input on what went wrong and bartending in general. Like usual, my preconceived notions about how the interview would go were completely wrong and I ended up in another direction. 

            I found out that for the last ten years Bryan has helped out behind the bar of one of the scariest bars on Belair road, The Coach House. I say scary because it puts last weeks “J.T’s Saloon story,” to shame.  The place is a complete disaster and most of the people that frequent the bar during daytime hours do not have a full set of teeth if you combined mouths!

            However, Bryan is there on Sunday nights and has drawn his very own crowd that has come to see him for the last ten years. “Sundays are always busier and more fun during football season, but you would be surprised how much fun we have on a regular Sunday night,” says Bryan.  I had to know what he could possibly do to keep anyone coming back to a place like that.  From the outside it truly looks like a haunted house, the inside is very dark and dreary with an original tin ceiling and the smell of a basement. 

            So Bryan explained to me that it’s not just about the bar or a drink that he can make someone, it’s about his ideas and how he treats everyone as if they were his best friend.  People come in on Sundays because that is when Bryan had the idea to run an 80’s trivia night.  He took the initiative to cook up some “dollar hot dogs” and keep a pit beef stand out back running until about 8pm.  He has driven people home instead of putting them in a cab, he as allowed people to crash at his house, and even keeps peoples tabs overnight if they come up short on cash. 

            He really is the nicest guy I think I’ve ever seen behind the bar.  Usually bartenders are a bit overconfident, sarcastic and a little controlling, which is not a bad thing depending on where you work.  This guy is not your typical bartender he really is charming and so giving its crazy.

            I’m not sure how I will use this information yet but I know that there is definitely a story here.  I guess I was wondering if I can focus on “hole in the wall” places and how popular they are on certain nights when certain bartenders are working.  I do have a problem though; I do not think that places like The Coach House and J’T’s saloon have websites.  The Coach House is the oldest bar on Belair road I doubt that they even know anything about advertising themselves online.  That is what makes these bartenders so great, it is all word of mouth and their nights are the busiest and most fun. I was just wondering how use linking effectively in my module if there is not a website that exists?

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3 Responses to “Reporting #6”

  1. Josh Flynn Says:

    Christine –

    I think there is definitely a story here with Bryan, he sounds like a bartender with a much different attitude and style than the typical bartender (especially compared to bartenders at college-town bars like in Towson.) I agree that a lot of bartenders are sarcastic and some are even cocky about being behind the bar.

    I have never heard of a bartender personally driving his customers home, and it was definitely a surprise to see he welcomes his regulars into his home to sleep! Sounds like an interesting guy, with plenty of funny and interesting stories to tell about his bartending adventures.

    As far as the online component, I think a lot of older bars haven’t moved online because it is not as integral to their marketing. Just in general, most bars do not have very functional or informational websites. It seems like it could be a pretty good way to get people in, to have specials and whatnot on your webpage.

    It might just be because these places are already well established, and people that go out to bars a lot of the time just go to their favorite locations or whatever is close to their home.

    I have seen some bars starting to use Twitter (although not very successfully), but this might become a tool to promote specials, do giveaways, or just get interest in general…

  2. Michelle Shry Says:

    From my experience, dive bars are sometimes the most fun bars. I think it is definitely worth you mentioning The Coach House in your write ups and being able to add the location to your Google maps site will be an additional bonus. Just because it doesn’t have a Web site shouldn’t be your ending point. You can take pictures of the outside and inside with Bryan bartending and that will bring his story to life.

    Also, I started searching on The Coach House and then came across something else that you might want to think about for your project. I found Baltimore Bartender’s Web site (http://www.baltimorebartender.com/). You can hire bartenders for all different types of occasions on this Web site.

    You could interview someone there to see how that works. I would think you really have to have the personality and the bartending experience to be hired for someone’s wedding or party. I had been hired to bartend a few weddings and parties by people who came into the dive bar where I worked. I know these people liked my personality and were willing to pay me well. It sets people at ease when they know they have hired a good bartender for their party.

    Hope this helps.
    Michelle


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