?Easygoing, talkative, and an expert pourer, Steve Delaney is a fixture at Rula Bula (401 S. Mill Ave., 480-929-9500), the Tempe Irish pub that won a 2010 Best of Phoenix award. A veteran of the industry, he's managed several El Chorritos in California and Arizona, the now-defunct Bamboo Club, and even Rula Bula. But the pull of bartending was too great for Delaney, and he made the jump from management to the bar at Rula, where you'll find him every weekday, serving drinks and conversation to the morning and afternoon crowds.
How did you get here?
I got my degree in restaurant and hotel management in — I'm dating myself here — 1981. My first job was opening up all the Chuck E. Cheeses in Minnesota. I moved to Arizona because I realized that it's easier to cool down than it is to warm up.
How did you end up at Rula Bula?
I used to manage here, actually, but I went into semi-retirement. One day I actually came here, and I realized that the real action is on the other side of the bar. The people who're having their drinks, they're taking the time to take their money out of their wallets to give to the pub. They're the most important factor of the entire restaurant and bar business. I thought to myself, that's what managing a bar is about. I like being behind the bar because I like seeing the people.
What do you like about this place?
This pub is special. There's a thing the Irish call "the Craic," which is an atmosphere more than anything. Say you walk into a party, and you don't know why, but you're really glad you're there. It's in the music, the drinks, the food, the people. This pub's got the Craic.
Guinness claims there's a six-step ritual to pouring a perfect pint. Do you use it?
Oh yeah. I was actually in a perfect pint contest that Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray came out to judge. I made it all the way to the semifinals, but I didn't win. I didn't have boobs. The girl who took the championship had great ones. She jumped up and down a lot and did very well.
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SHOW ME HOW
When can people find you here?
I work mornings and afternoons, Monday through Friday. Special events, I'll also work. Things like ASU games, Pat's Run. I'm very involved with Pat's Run. We sell pint glasses for Pat's Run every year — it's a little Rula Bula glass that has Pat's number 42 on it. It's a replica of the glass he drank out of, which we have up on the shelf over there. All the money from those goes to the Pat Tillman Foundation, and last year we sold 80 cases.
What's made you stick with it for so long?
The people on the other side of the bar, absolutely. Everyone's got their stories, and my little head holds all of them and makes sure they stay here. If you told me something, it's not going to anyone else. If you have the time to tell me about it, it's important to you.
What's your least favorite thing about bartending?
Cutting fruit! I hate cutting fruit; I don't know why. I'm not going to get scurvy. I have an unnatural hatred toward vitamin C.
How much longer do you think you'll keep serving drinks?
As long as people on that side of bar keep coming in to see me, I'll stick around.