Honing a reputation as a good bartender certainly hinges on the ability to memorize the ingredients to a wide variety of drinks, but ask the average patron on the other side of the taps what matters most and you’ll realize there’s much more to it than that.
An outgoing personality and understanding demeanor are key components to the job, as are accountability and attentiveness to customer service. These are qualities Gia Rivero, a 27-year-old lifelong Ventnor Heights resident, possesses in abundance, and ones that have entrusted her to employers past and present, including her current post as bartender — for roughly the past five years — at an Atlantic City linchpin among the locals, the Chelsea Pub.
“I’ve been around here most of my life,” says the 2003 Atlantic City High School grad. “I started waitressing at Chili’s in Mays Landing. I was there for a while and I guess they thought I was doing a good job, so one day they asked me ‘Hey, how about if we throw you behind the bar?’ I thought sure, so I learned all the basic drinks and all their crazy margarita concoctions — this, that and the other thing that they make there — and I really enjoyed it.”
Rivero and her boyfriend were frequent patrons at the 24/7 Chelsea Pub, and on a whim she asked Jeannine Conway, the pub’s 32-year co-owner with her husband Jack (and manager of the 40-room inn above the pub, personally primped by the French-born Jeannine) if there were any employment openings.
“My boyfriend and I actually had our first couple of dates here,” says Rivero of the pub, located about two blocks in from the beach and near the Tropicana. “I love this place, so I came over and asked if they had any openings. I’m thinking maybe a waitress job, something to get my foot in the door, because there’s no way they’re going to hire me to bartend right away. But the owner asked if I know how to bartend and I said yes. She said I can give you a couple of shifts and just threw me in, telling me ‘I’m sure you’ll do fine.’”
Apparently Rivero did, as that part-time gig evolved into a full time job with benefits.
“It’s a great place to work — I’m grateful to have Jack and Jeannine as my bosses,” she says. “They make it happy for me to come to work. They gave my mom and brother a room [after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in Ventnor], and many of the regulars were given rooms at discounted rates while they sorted everything out, while at the same time many other places were price gouging like crazy. They’re honest and hardworking people who make you feel like your input is appreciated. For instance, Jeannine knows I like wine so she’ll often ask me what types of wine do you think people would enjoy? They like to try to keep things fresh and will ask us for our opinions.”
The Conways aren’t the only ones who occasionally ask for input and advice, as the Chelsea Pub bartenders — and probably all bartenders everywhere — are often asked to morph into amateur psychologist mode.
“One of my regulars, a local guy I’ve known for about 10 years, came in late at night this past weekend all upset,” she says. “He said ‘Gia, you wouldn’t believe what just happened to me 10 minutes ago. My girlfriend and I just split up. Is your Doctor Is In sign up?’ I told him it sure is, let me get you a beer and you can tell me all about it. The guy was all upset and he left here marginally better and not so crazed. I think I got him partially calmed down. Hey, if you can’t trust your bartender, who can you trust?”
Another local named Larry regularly gives Rivero weather reports, knowing she is fretful of thunderstorms. Then there’s a couple of couples who regularly show up — who Rivera fixed up.
"Basically every summer there’s a shot that becomes the “shot of the summer” that you end up making all summer long, and I’ll often suggest that."
“We saw this coming and we’re well prepared to grow it for the next 10 or 15 years. This is a whole transition we’re living through.”
Brian Ireland is a Ducktown bartender and lifelong Ventnor resident who, at age 26, can already claim eight years as a professional mixologist and amateur advice dispenser.
With the Chelsea Pub & Inn having recently surpassed the halfway point of the half-century mark, one gets the sense owner Jack Conway does not take a half-baked approach to anything he undertakes.
What: Chelsea Pub Where: 8 S. Morris Ave., Atlantic City (across from Tropicana) When: Open 24 hours, seven days per week. Happy hours 11:30am-1pm and 4-6pm. Phone: 345-4700 or 348-6665 Details: ...
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A brief, online profile touts the ultramodern dance club Déj� Vu as a place where nightlife devotees go when the dayshift workforce will soon be waking up. You can believe it. Those weaned on the sounds of the '80s might have assumed that dropping by the club at 10:30pm Tuesday - a night when '80s dance music is the club's specialty, and an hour-and-a-half after doors open - might be a prime time to savor the flavor of the place. You can forget it. "We really don't get started until after midnight on any night, and don't close until 6 or 7 in the morning on weekends," says the Déj� Vu manager, who preferred to be identified only as Willie. "Most of the Philly clubs and the clubs out of town have to close at 2am, so they're packed around now. Not in Atlantic City. The casinos make the difference." An appropriate, pre-midnight tune for the Déj� Vu DJs to play might be the Billy Idol hit "Dancing With Myself." Established in 1992, the club is located at New York Avenue and the Boardwalk, and is about equidistant between the Sands and Resorts casino-hotels. It adjoins the downtown bistro Irish Pub and is directly across New...