The tender: Brian Ramsay
The bar: Murphy's Law (58 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler, 480-812-1588)
The pedigree: Ramsay started young, barbacking at Native New Yorker at the tender age of 15. After a short stint in the military (dude did aviation ordinance during Desert Storm) he returned to Phoenix, where he tended bar throughout college at Applebee's and eventually earned a management position at the Wild Hare. After the place dissolved, Ramsay took his skills to Murphy's Law, where he's been for almost two years. He also tends bar part-time at the SanTan brewpub down the street from Murphy's.
So what's up with the dollar bills?
From what I know -- and it changes every time I talk to the owner -- it's a personal thing for the bar. You write your name or a little slogan on the dollar, we tape it up. Originally, I believe it started out as one of those matching things for charity. We'd count the dollars up, and however much was there we'd match and donate. Obviously, as you can see, it exploded. They're all over the place, dollars on top of dollars. You can't even count anymore; it would take too long. So now the owner just donates every year to the fallen officers fund, I believe.
What do you drink when you're out?
It varies by where I'm at. I'm a seasonal drinker. I have Guinness on tap at my house, but I like a lot of wines and liquors. Winter, I'm more scotch or whiskey-based, darker beers. Summertime I'm more tequila-based with lighter liquors and beers. I'm all across the board.
What are the best parts of this job?
The freedom, at some level. The customers suck! (laughing) Getting to know a bunch of shitty people. Networking, meeting people all the time. One perk is that if I anyone ever needs something -- like family, friends, or even myself -- I know someone who can help out. A Bud Light goes a long way. If someone needs a refrigerator, I know a guy. If someone needs a car, I know another guy. If someone needs landscaping, I know 10 guys. I'm not even on Facebook for that reason -- there are too many people. After doing this five, 10, 15 years, you have clientele who come by, and you watch their children grow up; you watch them grow up. You go through bad times or good times with them. I get offered jobs a lot, and I've tried getting out of bartending before, but you get lonely. I want to be hanging out, talking to people, going zero to 100, 100 to zero.
I've talked to a bartender before who bought his car from a customer super cheap. You guys get some nice perks.
When I first bought my condo, one of my customers gave me a refrigerator, a washer, a dryer and a vacuum. I was like, seriously? This is ridiculous. Let me give you some money for this stuff, blah blah blah. And his response is: "You know what? The two people I love in the world are the woman I kiss at the end of the night and the guy who gives me a beer when I wake up. So shut the hell up and take the stuff." And that was it.
Do you ever miss being the boss?
Sometimes. When you're at that level for a while, you get certain expectations. You see a certain format of how things should be done, how they should operate, but everyone's got their own style. Sometimes it's hard to adapt to different styles because it's not what you know. Sometimes you end up training your boss. I had the opportunity to get my own place twice. One time I backed out; the other time the lease beat me up, so I got kicked out. But in hindsight it's probably better that way. There are some parts when it's hard to go back, like when someone's telling you what to do and you're just like, that doesn't make any sense. You can be in this industry for 20 years and still not know what you're doing. I've seen people who have no clue who have been doing this a long time. But at the same time, if you're not a working part of what you're doing, it's hard to get a grasp of the industry. Everyone thinks it's easy on the other side of the bar, but it's a monster. There are a thousand people whose dream is to own a bar; that's almost my nightmare now. That's why I'm at the front of the bar instead of running it.
What's the wildest thing you've seen behind the bar?
I have no idea. I mean, other than the body shots, stripping on the bar, people lighting themselves on fire...
Hold up. Lighting themselves on fire?
I had these two Chinese guys who were doing Flaming Dr. Peppers. They'd chant, light it, and they wouldn't even drop it in the beer; they splashed it on their faces. Then they'd put it out with their glass of beer. I told them they couldn't do that, showed them the right way to drink it, but they couldn't speak a lick of English, and they did the same thing again. Their faces were fully on fire.
If you could have a drink with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Probably my old man. Or a family member, or a good friend. People I actually cherish and don't get to see too often because of my career. I love everyone I see and wait on here, but you do miss out on those special moments. Christmas, New Year's Eve -- it's nice when you have days off and you're able to savor the moments with family.