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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hey, Barkeep!: Playground’s bartender reveals some of his weirdest (and sweetest) stories

    Zi Yang Lai

    Adrian Sobarzo, a bartender at Playground Bar & Lounge, prepares a drink for a customer. Playground is located at 278 E. Congress St.

    Adrian Sobarzo, bartender at Playground, located on the corner of Congress Street and Fifth Avenue in downtown Tucson, tells the Daily Wildcat about his early experiences as a bartender and the many special events hosted by Playground.

    Daily Wildcat: How long have you been bartending?

    Adrian Sobarzo: Almost four years, just about.

    Have you bartended here that whole time, or have you worked at other places?

    No, I bartended a couple places. Right before this I was bartending and managing at Fuku Sushi. Before that at a couple spots in Phoenix, and before that, I did a couple stints over in Central America when I was backpacking there for a little bit. Just to scrape up some money.

    Do you have a favorite drink to make?

    When I first started bartending I had a fake ID, and I was the kid who would go to the store to pick up the stuff to make, like, the best jungle juice and stuff.

    Are there any drinks that bring up any memories for you?

    We have this new drink on our menu called the Paloma, and it was probably one of the first drinks I ever had when I was visiting Mexico, and I was like 13-14 years old. It’s really funny to see it now on our menu because it’s just like, “Wow, something that’s so common in Mexico has finally made its way over here to the states,” especially since, I mean, it should, ‘cause this is a Southwest state, so we’re right next to the border. That was like something I would drink at a wedding or something like that and I’m like, “Yeah, I know how to make it.”

    Do you have any memorable customers?

    Plenty! Well we have him over there, he’s an old-time customer. He comes in all the time, really sweet guy, just super nice. We have a couple customers that we just know when they walk in that they’re going to have a great night; they get rowdy, and they’re always fun to see. I mean, they don’t overstep their boundaries, but you know they’re going to party hard, and we get to watch it.

    What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen happen here?

    I don’t know, I mean there’s always something crazy happening. Two weeks ago we had a customer just literally defecate [herself] on the dance floor, which was kind of odd. I didn’t expect that from a grown lady, and then [she] got mad that we kicked her out. I don’t know, it’s always interesting to see what happens every week; it’s never the same.

    What do you appreciate in a customer?

    I don’t mind customers actually asking questions. It’s really nice to have someone who’s not just like, “Bartender, make me something.” [It’s nice when] they’re like, “Oh can you make something with this and that,” or “Hey I’m interested in what goes in this,” or “Where does this come from?” That’s always fun. I don’t mind spreading a little knowledge before I serve someone a drink. That’s always kind of cool.

    What’s something customers do that pisses you off?

    Wave money in my face … when you try to talk to them, you just get no response and just a big “Uhhh” after they’ve clearly been waiting for a little while. I don’t know, sometimes, especially late at night, you’ll find people are just a little confused about, like, proper service procedures. You know, like, they just won’t act like adults. They’ll act like children. That’s always fun to see.

    What’s your favorite part about working here?

    I don’t think I could pick just one favorite part. I mean, I really enjoy the size of it all; it’s a big spot in downtown, so you never know what you’re going to get. We also have a big venue for a lot of events and different things, and I enjoy just being able to do—whether it be daytime working on craft, or nighttime just dealing with a lot of volume and DJs and just crazy night life. That’s always fun, or an event like serving at a wedding, something memorable for someone else. And the people I work with are really great. We have a nice family, and we’re all great friends when we get out of here after work.

    What kind of special events do you guys host here?

    We do weddings. We’ve held concerts where we have someone come and play on the roof and do like a little private event. We’ve done a little bit of everything, you know, like nothing too special, but tonight, even, we have quizzes outside. We used to do karaoke; we would show movie nights; we used to do game nights, as well. We’ve done events for different communities around the downtown area. Like the gay community has done a couple events here. KMFA has done events here, … we used to do the Party on the Patio every Friday, where KMFA would bring a different band every time. We used to show the World Cup and have pretty much anybody who was into soccer up on the rooftop for their early morning games—it was like 6:30-7:30 in the morning. There’s always something here.

    Follow Emma Jackson on Twitter.

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