By now most of my readers, excluding my Mom, have been to the Republic. So three-fourths of my readers have visited Richmond's newest hot spot. Sorry Mezzanine, you lost the title a few weeks ago. I won't launch into some diatribe about how hip Republic is and how you can still smoke there, but it does have the smoking thing going for it, which is nice.
Instead I want to give a shout-out to one of my bartending brethren there, an old-school Richmond barman whom I look up to and admire for what he can do behind the bar and for what he is doing when not slinging drinks.
Sean Cannon is Richmond's version of Brett Favre, or at least Vinny Testaverde. He's been bartending at a high level, at high-volume bars, for 25 years now with no apparent signs of slowing down. Most of you have probably been served by Sean before at Star-lite (where he worked before his switch to Republic) or Sidewalk. He's the incessantly cheerful guy who looks way too young for however old he is. I didn't ask.
Bartending at a crowded Fan bar is no picnic, though, and somehow Sean manages to handle the influx of frat boys, hipsters and lunatic drunks in stride. When I asked how he's motivated himself for so long, Sean compared tending bar to solving a jigsaw puzzle: “Every day there are new problems and interesting situations to deal with in a bar. Finding how to get the pieces to fit together and make everything work is one of things I enjoy most about the job.” It's this ability to continually enter the bar with a smile that makes Sean one of Richmond's best.
If you haven't had the pleasure of watching Sean in action then there's a good chance you've tasted his meat or his sauce.
Oh, grow up. I'm talking about his rapidly growing side businesses: Cannon's Pig Paint BBQ sauce, a local catering company and a popular barbecue-to-go cart at 10th and East Cary streets downtown. All of which Sean runs with the help of his business partner Dave Al-Attiyah, another popular local bartender who's well-known for his array of interesting facial hair stylings.
Humble beginnings of handing out homemade sauce to his regular bar customers has turned into a Pig Paint that's now carried in many local grocery stores and restaurants, with plans to expand more in the future.
Working at the most profitable bars in town and slowly building a sauce empire is an interesting and most assuredly fun way to spend your years. Last I spoke with Sean he was grilling a pig for his cart and drinking a lot of beer. He's got it pretty tough.
When asked if he ever considered being behind a desk Sean replied: “Maybe once, in college. I just don't have the temperament to be in an office. Too A.D.D. I always knew that the bar was for me.” I can relate.
Visit Sean behind the bar at Republic on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday or pick up Cannon's Pig Paint BBQ sauce at Whole Foods, Shields Market, Belmont Butchery, Mojo's, Star-lite, Avalon, Republic or at his barbecue cart weekdays in front of the James Center.
Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback consumes and slings drinks at a number of local establishments. He also writes a surly blog at www.jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Find him on Twitter @jackgoesforth. Have a question or comment for the bartender? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.