Alex Jump pours gin to prepare a Southside Collins cocktail for Stuart Jensen in their backyard bar they called the Peach Crease Club on June 7th in Denver. (Eli Imadali, Denver Post Special)
On March 14, 2020, when I heard the murmur of impending restaurant closings, I put on the last proper outfit I’d been wearing in a while and went to dinner at Annette’s, taking a seat at the bar instead of a table.
Next to me was a couple I had met earlier who owned another local restaurant. They had a date before they couldn’t have one again for a long time. But they also seemed happy to chat with me about the news and the virus, everything that was still unknown and what we could only imagine came.
At the end of the evening our conversation had become so natural that the three of us agreed to share the dessert when we heard that there was only one special Paris-Brest left to order from the kitchen.
We enjoyed the cream-filled pastries and our after-dinner drinks for an interrupted moment. And while I haven’t seen my impromptu dinner companions since, it’s only a matter of time before we meet, I think.
The beauty of the bar seat is just that.
“As someone who has always loved going to bars, I really miss the chance meetings with people when I go to your favorite bar (on a weekday) and have meaningful conversations with people you don’t see that often,” agreed Stuart Jensen zu, a Denver bartender and co-owner of Brass Tacks, Curio, and Roger’s Liquid Oasis bars.
Dozens of liquors line the shelves of Alex Jump and Stuart Jensen’s backyard bar, which they called the Peach Crease Club in Denver. (Eli Imadali, Denver Post Special)
Like Jensen, I missed the unexpected bar experience of interacting with bartenders and neighboring patrons in ways I couldn’t while sitting elsewhere in the restaurant. And from the bartender’s point of view, the feeling is mostly mutual, Jensen told me.
After more than a year of indirect service through takeaway drinks and detached table seating, bartenders have their front-and-center patrons back and saying they’re ready to interact with us – with some caveats.
The loss of bars over the past year as meeting places for the community “has been really devastating,” said Jensen. “You have lost human interaction” and instead gained an unprecedented level of “conflict” between customers and employees.
“All of the things we love about the bar have been legally taken from us,” he added. “And I think (bartenders) have always put up with a bit of unreasonable guest behavior, but that was really amplified (during the pandemic). Our employees have abused a lot from the public. “
Guests who refuse to wear masks or who arrive in groups that exceed the legal budget limit, employees who have tried to explain the rules, verbally abused and given bad tips – the laundry list for bad cash behavior last year is long.
But Jensen hopes it will stop now, as hospitality employees and customers return to more normal dynamics and the value of key employees has (hopefully) become clearer.
“This is a one-way street and we are committed to making you a special experience,” said Jensen. “We want to treat you like a guest, but you have to treat us like a host, not a servant.”
Alex Jump and Stuart Jensen stand for a portrait in their backyard bar they called the Peach Crease Club in Denver. They quit this home bar to find themselves and their friends while theirs and the stores of others were closed. (Eli Imadali, Denver Post Special)
For many who work in restaurants and bars, the past year has been enough to put them off the industry completely. In April and May, more than 90% of Colorado restaurants reported having problems hiring staff as their dining and bar restrictions were lifted, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association.
“I’m not going to lie: I’ll be very scared for the next three to four months,” said Alex Jump, chief bartender at Death & Co Denver. She and Jensen are also in a relationship and live together. “Most of the bars and restaurants in Denver have new staff … and that means the service will be tough. It’s kind of reopening, ”added Jump.
Nonetheless, she and her staff had been looking forward to the day when they could reopen Death & Co’s bar and their lounge-style communal seating in the lobby of the Ramble Hotel. It finally happened in late May and “was a pretty emotional moment for the team,” said Jump. “For all the bartenders on our team, I know it was a great week.”
So your feeling about the state of the bars starting this summer is bittersweet but hopeful.
“We wouldn’t live in this state of shitty bars and restaurants forever,” she said. “We now have the opportunity to reassess every part of our business. To get the chance to take a step back, rethink, come back and hopefully get better … I want to be part of it. “
A neon peach is lit in Alex Jump and Stuart Jensen’s backyard bar they called the Peach Crease Club in Denver. (Eli Imadali, Denver Post Special)
Even before the pandemic, both bartenders noticed a slight shift in customer expectations: “A lot of people used to go out just to go out,” said Jensen, “and now they go out for certain reasons. They got a taste for cooking or making beverages at home and see the skills that go with it, so they are more inclined to pay for good food and drinks if they go out now. “
And in order to bring the much-needed lightness back to their business in recent months, Jump and Jensen have changed their private lives by expanding a free-standing office, tidying up an art studio or building an annex for children.
Only they moved and designed and stocked a backyard shed to create a bar that could rival most professional setups.
“During the lockdown, it was a place where we had dinner or almost found a bit of normalcy,” said Jump. “To give it a place and a name … it is by design.”
They call it the Peach Crease Club, after a bar on the HBO series “The Outsider”. It’s in stock with lots of American whiskeys and scotches, draft, canned and bottled beers, as well as vodkas, soft liquor, and whatever.
Cocktail umbrellas are in a mug at Alex Jump and Stuart Jensen’s backyard bar, the Peach Crease Club, in Denver. (Eli Imadali, Denver Post Special)
“Stuart jokes that we have the best brandy selection of any bar in America,” said Jump. (“She’s literally wearing a shirt that says ‘Eau de vie’,” Jensen laughed.)
You have date nights and invite friends.
“When we go out to dinner or something, we have a nightcap there instead of going to a bar,” added Jensen. During the March snow storm, they tried to get a drink in their neighborhood, but everything was closed: “‘I think we’re going home and shoveling a way to the bar,'” he remembers their offer.
In most places, a bar space is fun for meeting and interacting with strangers, but ultimately it is for intimacy with yourself or a loved one and also for more understanding and empathy between you and the person on hand Page helps.
Shortly after it reopened last month, I sat back down at the bar where I’d dined so memorably a year earlier, this time with my friend who was excited to introduce him to the staff and owners. And we talked to them on an equal footing for the first time since I can remember.
As the pandemic progressed, Jensen said he also realized that hanging out with friends in bars is great, but “I should focus more on spending meaningful time with the people I care about. One of the reasons we have a home bar is that we have a room to get together. “
A Southside Collins cocktail from Alex Jump in her and Stuart Jensen’s backyard bar, the Peach Crease Club, in Denver. (Eli Imadali, Denver Post Special)
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