I went to the Oak Barrel Tavern for a gin and tonic. It’s what I do.
This used to be Tweed’s, which I thought was old looking and dull when I visited a few years back. This new version is very whiskey bar and modern restaurant. It had a nice neo bistro feel. The bar was made from strong wood slats, it was nice. The selection of whiskeys was impressive.
It was a Sunday night around eight thirty or so. They had three bartenders working, which felt like overkill, but it’s a new place and things will settle I suppose. I didn’t further my investigation but it looked like one of the bartenders was the same guy who served me back when it was Tweed’s. I don’t know for certain, but it looked like that. The more things change….
The gin and tonic was given and I paid 7.49 (I think, it was two weeks ago and I can’t recall completely) and it was an alright glass, nothing fantastic, but serviceable.
But that’s not what I came to talk to you about.
What I want I talk about is control. More precisely, who is control of a bar? The bartender or the patrons? Who makes the bar what it is?
When I entered, there were three women at the end of the bar drinking and eating and cussing. Cussing a lot. They spoke loudly and the word fuck was in every sentence, because hey sunshine, this is Worcester and this is how we talk.
Wait, sorry. Got that wrong.
This is fucking Worcester and this is how we fucking talk.
There, that’s Worcester.
One of the woman in the swearing bacchanale had her nine year old child with her, who was wandering around the tables, looking bored.
One of the women said, “Yeah, I can fuck that shit up. I can fuck that shit up.” It’s a good thing she only said that mantra twice, because at three times, the Candy Man comes out of the mirror and really fucks shit up.
The swearing and the shouting at this restaurant/bar continued until the women decided it was fucking time to fucking go. And with their departure, the peaceful silence of redemption settled upon the room.
This is not a dive bar. This is not a sports bar where the Patriots are being routed by the Broncos and we have to swear at the tv.. It’s a pseudo whiskey bar with a fine food. Actually, when I was at the scariest bar in the city last year, there was no swearing at all, everyone was too broken to form the words.
I was talking to Bartender Brian the week after I went to the Oak Barrel and told him about the swearing and the kid running around and he said, “That’s the problem with a lot of bartenders. They have no control. You have to have control. You can’t have them shouting and swearing, you can’t have them screaming into their cell phone. If you don’t have control, then you give it to the patrons and the place goes to hell. You don’t have to be an asshole to have control, but you got to be the one running the place. You are the bar tender, you tend, you run the bar. I’m sure they will say I’m surpressing their first amendment rights. Nothing in the First Amendment says you can be a rude asshole.”
So is the issue with the bartenders or the patrons. It’s a new place, do they feel they can possibly alienate the clientelle by asking them not say fuck at the top their lungs? If we don’t let them swear then they won’t come back. I am just a pourer of beer, how can I ask the kind people of Worcester to not scream fuck?
I wish them luck. The place looks great, filled with strong wooden bones. Let’s hope the staff grows bones and spines as strong as the bar they stand behind.
The Oak Barrel Saloon is located at 229 Grove Street.