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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hey Barkeep!: Saint Charles Tavern welcomes all

Alex McIntyre

Olivia Reardon tends the bar at Saint Charles Tavern, located at 1632 South Fourth Ave. in Tucson, Ariz. on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Reardon also bartends at the Rialto downtown.

Saint Charles Tavern is a small bar on the corner of S. Fourth Avenue and E. 27th Street. The tavern welcomes thirsty folks of all kinds to enjoy a drink, play a couple games of pool or dance during one of their events, such as tango night. Fresh cocktails are available, alongside a substantial list of draft beer and liquors. Saint Charles Tavern has a neighborly atmosphere and is the go-to choice for many locals in Southern Tucson. The Daily Wildcat sat down with Olivia Reardon, a bartender at the Charles Tavern who has been bartending for 23 years.

During the conversation, Reardon warmly greeted and gave goodbye hugs to various patrons. A range of songs played on the jukebox while Reardon tended to a large group of different people. She said the bar has become a neighborly, community bar and they just recently held a blanket drive for homeless people in the area. The owners are working on opening a kitchen at the bar soon.

Saint Charles Tavern is located at 1632 S. Fourth Ave. and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.

The Daily Wildcat: How did you get into bartending?

Olivia Reardon: I’m originally from Ohio, and I started off as a beer-cart girl at a golf course. One of the golfers owned a bar, and his bartender quit that day and he said, “Hey, do you want to come fill in,” and the rest is history!

It’s easy money, it’s addictive to have cash at the end of the evening. It’s hard to turn down.

How hard was it to learn how to bartend?

OR: Opening bottles or pouring drafts is kind of the easy part of it. Learning basic drinks is easy, you know, two part drinks, rum and coke, vodka cranberry. Those are the easy drinks. Bartending as long as I have, there are eras where cocktails sort of swing in and swing back out. So I’ve gone through the martini phase where it was sour apple martinis, chocolate martinis, lemon drops, to where it was crazy shots, purple hooters and all those crazy shots. Now it seems to be Moscow Mules and more herbal cocktails or more traditional cocktails, all of those come with time I think.

[I also] learned from older bartenders specific ways to make cocktails. If you look in old, traditional cocktail books they’re completely different. A Bloody Mary like tomato juice, vodka and a lemon, but now Bloody Mary’s are eight parts or whatever, you know, it’s a meal. So it changes with each era.

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What’s special about Saint Charles Tavern?

OR: This bar is only about a year and a half old. The owners used to run La Cocina and they’re just like a mom and pop decided, “Hey, we don’t want to bartend anymore, wait for anybody else, let’s open our own spot.”

So this place kind of has an amazing life to it. It’s got that three or four different kind of groups of people that come in throughout the day. In the [mid] morning we have abuelos that come in and have their two beers, and they share them and play cards. Then the after-work crew to late-night Fourth Avenue college kids who come down. On the weekends we could have South-side bikers in here, probably about 50 of them, and then still have all of these regular guys in here, and they all bro it out and get along; they love it. This place has a unique life in and of itself.

What is your favorite part of bartending?

OR: It’s a way to go out without really going out; there’s an instant socializing that occurs. Conversation, friendships, families sort of begin in a weird way, you know? You start to trust each other on a completely different level than the regular friendship because there are some walls that are let down. Alcohol sort of brings a lot of those down.

What is your least favorite part of bartending?

OR: It’s that one drink that knocks them over or that one drink that takes them to the wrong [place]. That’s I think the fine line of a good bartender. We get certified, in liquor training, to know what that fine line is. For me, that’s the part that sucks, sort of having to deal with that, and sometimes they’re people that you love. I usually kind of hold their hand, look them in the eye and say, “Hey I want to see you tomorrow,” or, “I want to see you next week, so I hope you don’t get too upset but tonight, we’re kind of done.” That’s the part that I dislike the most; it just ends up embarrassing people.

Any advice for people wishing to start bartending?

OR: It’s fun, but there is definitely a responsibility that comes along with it. It’s a skilled job. It takes years to learn all of the cocktails, learn social graces, read people and right now I’m the only one here so I have to take care of quite a few different things and be aware of a lot. The only advice is, it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s hard work.

What is your favorite drink to make?

OR: Moscow Mules are always fun because you get to pound the ice, and that’s always nice. I love making Bloody Marys, because especially here we make them like a meal. You get all the veggies and just a really nice pint Bloody Mary.

What is the atmosphere at Saint Charles Tavern?

OR: Again it comes from the owners. They are bartenders, or servers, if you know bartending [this bar] is truly set up for a bartender; constantly it’s just a turn to grab whatever you need. It’s because they worked in the industry and they’ve really taken the time and cared about how this place is set up. I think that’s part of the success of Saint Charles. The owners care about what they’re doing here and it kind of runs over into everybody else here. If you ask any of the customers, and you’re more than welcome to, especially that gentleman in the white hat, everyone will say it’s the feeling. I don’t know if you felt it when you walked in, you feel kind of at home when you walk in.

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I love it here. This is one of the first bars that I’ve been completely comfortable for a long time. Without [the owners] I don’t [think] this place would survive, and I don’t think as many good bartenders would stay here, as they do. We’ve got top-notch bartenders here.

Follow Isaac Andrews on Twitter.

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