Behind the Bar: Belle Alvarez at Palazzo
Belle Alvarez admits she doesn't believe in vampires, period.
It doesn't matter if they're the vintage bloodsuckers you read about in Bram Stoker's tomes or the more sparkly sanguinators that will be flying across silver screens this weekend in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. According to the 28-year-old, they just don't exist.
But that doesn't mean she wouldn't pour a drink for Nosferatu if he happened to waltz into Palazzo during one of her weekend shifts (just as long as it didn't involve tapping her veins, of course). After all, Alvarez has certainly served plenty of wanna-be vampires during the club's infamous weekly Goth night Transylvania, where fang-wearing, corset-clad creatures of the night gather to dance until dawn (natch).
Palazzo serves as a rather sumptuous setting for these pseudo-succubi to get their ghoulish groove on, as the danceteria looks like it was cut and pasted out of an Anne Rice novel with plenty of marble and Victorian décor touches. If you happen to hang out around midnight, Palazzo's proprietors flip on some glow lights that reveal some rather sexy fluorescent paintings lining the walls of the main room.
Powering this all night affair of the undead are the alcoholic beverages getting poured by Alvarez and her fellow bartenders, including the spooky-sounding Red Death (which you can learn more about tomorrow). But despite all the freaky drinks and even freakier behavior that transpires at a typical Transylvania, Belle admits she enjoys it more than Palazzo's Latin night on Saturdays.
"To be honest I kinda like Transylvania a little bit better just because I feel like it's a little bit more personal. Saturday nights is great, but its so packed you don't get to spend as much quality time with people. But goth night is just a little more like family," she says.
She doesn't even mind it if they're dressed like Lestat from Interview With A Vampire, or even Hellboy. ("Fake horns, fake teeth, I've seen just about everything.")
"To tell you the truth, it's very cliché for people to say, 'Don't judge a book by it's cover,' but goth people are honestly the nicest people that I've ever interacted with at any bar or club," she says. "They seem very well-educated people and are total sweethearts. A lot of 'em wear suits and ties during the day, but come in here to kinda let loose."
But would-be Draculas aren't the weirdest patrons she's interacted with during her two-year stint at Palazzo, as Alvarez saw plenty of kooky characters during her time working at a few bars in Gilroy, California. He introduction to the trade was rather sudden, however.
Back in 2004, a friend who owned a bar in the Northern California town (which is known as the "garlic capital of the world"), and needed someone to fill in as barkeep at the last minute. Since she had "a really good personality," Alvarez was asked if she could help out.
"One of his bartenders called in sick and I since was around that night, he asked, 'So you wanna come behind the bar?'" she says. "While I was like, 'Okay, as long as they don't eat me alive out there,' it actually went really, really smooth."
This "trial by fire" was the same way she got her start at Palazzo in 2007. Her sister Ozzy, who also an employee, was going out of town for the weekend and Belle got recruited to fill in.
"They really liked me, the customers thought I was great, and they asked me to stay on," she says. "And its been really great."
But has she ever gotten ribbed for working in a vampire bar and having a name like Belle, which is similar to Twilight's pale-skinned heroine.
"Haven't heard many of those," she says, laughing. "I've read a couple of the books though."
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