On Mill Ave. in Tempe, there's a bar for every personality. Rula Bula's the place to be for Irish music; Pool sharks can hit the Cue Club. But for those looking for the taste of New Orleans and the flair of Mardi Gras, there's Fat Tuesday (680 S. Mill Ave., 480-967-3917). Amidst the spinning blades of the frozen daiquiri machines,Jason Jereb has been tending bar for about five years, serving drinks and handing out Mardi Gras beads to those who earn them.
How did you get into bartending?
I'm originally from Illinois. I needed a job, so I started out as a busboy when I was about fifteen, then just moved up from there to barback and eventually bartender. I moved to Arizona about five years ago and got a job at Fat Tuesday my first day here. I started out working security, then just moved up to become a bartender.
What's the most interesting thing that's happened to you here?
I grew up in a town that's 3,000 miles away from here, but I've met people that graduated from the same high school as I did. One day an older couple came in here, and one of them was wearing a Cubs shirt. I asked them where they were from in Illinois, and it was my hometown. I found out through talking to them that their daughter used to teach at my middle school -- she was my fifth-grade teacher! They called her up on the phone and we had a nice little conversation. That was out of control.
More after the jump.
What's the best thing about being a bartender?
You get something new every day, and everyone's different. It's part of the reason I enjoy bartending. I've seen it all. Businesspeople, people on drugs -- they'll come in here tweaking and just asking for glass after glass of water and I have to ask them to leave. There are a lot of crazy people in the world. It's the ones you never expect, too. Once they get a drink in them, they change. You meet a mixture of everyone here. We get the older crowd that comes in on the afternoons looking for a good daiquiri, but we also get the younger crowd on weekends that come for stronger drinks. Our 190 Octane is made with Everclear. It's a killer.
Any advice for aspiring bartenders?
Take away empty glasses. All the time, I'll see guys sitting here with their beers empty, and when I ask if they need another drink, they'll say no. But as soon as I grab the bottle or glass and move it away from them, they'll ask for another. In their minds, people feel like they need to have a drink in front of them, empty or not. It's like their comfort.
What's your drink of choice when you're out?
I'll usually have a Kiltlifter if I'm trying to take it easy. If I'm trying to party, I'll have a Jäger bomb with lemonade instead of Red Bull. All the bartenders look at me funny when I ask for it, but I don't want to be up until 5. Try it sometime; it's delicious.
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What's your least favorite thing about bartending?
This situation: It's Friday night, I'm super-busy and barely have time for a drink of water, and there's a guy pounding on the bar asking me for drinks. I come over to him to find out what he wants, and he doesn't know. He turns around to ask his friends what they all want. Here's a tip: if you turn around, I'm already gone. I can't waste a minute on a busy night waiting for you to make up your mind.
What's your opinion on tipping?
A dollar per drink is a good general rule. There was a Cardinals player who came in last week and tipped $120 on a $40 tab. I once had a guy tip me a hundred bucks on a $7 drink. The thing is, you have to treat everyone equally, no matter how much they tip. I'm going to give the same service to a guy who tips $1 that I'd give to a guy who tips $100. It's more about getting people to come back.
In your opinion, what's the main role of a bartender?
To make the drinks, first and foremost. Some customers think it's also my job to listen to bullshit stories I don't care about. On a busy weekend, there's always at least one annoying girl or guy telling me about his or her life for ten minutes. This is my job; I'm trying to make money. I don't come visit you where you work and try to tell you about my day, do I?
Any plans for the future?
I purchased a share of Fat Tuesday in February. Valentine's Day, actually. There was a professional magician who was working here and decided to move to L.A. to pursue his magic career, so he decided to sell his stake and I was just in the right place at the right time. So now I'm part owner of Fat Tuesday. I'd like to hold onto my ownership of this place and maybe open my own bar-restaurant. I definitely wouldn't tend bar there, though. I enjoy my job 95 percent of the time, but there are only so many times people can piss you off.