Tribute to a True Gentleman-Bartender, Josh Childs

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 09/30/2014

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Much to the dismay of Boston’s restaurant community and Tuesday night tipplers, tonight marks the last ‘official’ shift for Josh Childs behind the bar at Silvertone in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. We will miss his affable, warm, welcoming, inclusive and good-natured presence and humor behind the bar. Long ago dubbed, the “Godfather of Boston Hospitality,” Josh is a guy whose laudatory reputation accurately precedes him.

It’s time to celebrate one of Boston’s most beloved bartenders.

One of the first “Josh moments” I had was at Silvertone. After talking with someone outside for several minutes, I came back to my stool at the bar and my High Life was in a mini “beer cooler,” a Boston Shaker tin filled with ice to keep my beer cold. Absolutely brilliant. After several similar interactions with Josh, I quickly realized that the legend was not myth.

A few years back, Misty Kalkofen asked me to help coordinate the initiative to bring “Hey Bartender,” a bartending documentary to Boston. Part of the initiative included assembling a panel of Boston bartenders for an on-stage discussion after the film. I was anxious about getting a great group to commit to the event. Not only did Josh participate, he showed up to dinner with the director before the film, then added his down-to-earth candor, wisdom and insight to the panel discussion. It was a huge relief to have Josh and his voice included in the conversation. Two days after the event, I received a hand-written envelope in the mail. It was an old-school, ‘Thank You’ note from Josh stating that he was “honored to participate.” I was nervous as hell about assembling a panel, and the living legend himself not only comes through, but takes time to humbly send his gratitude. Those are the defining moments that reinforce what the term, “good people” is all about. I’ll never forget that.

I asked some Boston restaurant industry folks and friends to share their reflections about Josh Childs:

Aaron Butler: There are too many stories to exactly say how much Josh has had an impact on me. Still, there is one. That amazing man opened Silvertone on my 30th birthday on a Sunday just for my friends and me and bartended it the whole time with Cedric. He is selfless, thoughtful, and wants nothing but the best out of and for others. 

Seth Yaffe (GM, The Gallows): Josh Childs has always been and will forever be my hero and an inspiration when it comes to how to personify true hospitality in the restaurant industry. He is one of the best people I have ever met, and I am truly grateful to be able to call him a friend. 

Nicole Fonsh: I had to think of a quick place to take my parents before a Saturday night show in the Back Bay that also took reservations. We ended up at a non-descript but reliable chain-type spot on Newbury Street [name redacted to protect the innocent]. As my family and I approached, I thought I recognized Josh and his family sitting outside. And it was him. And I think we both felt slightly guilty to be at this particular establishment. And immediately everyone was laughing about it. I introduced my parents to him and he couldn’t have been more warm and friendly and appreciative of meeting them. Once inside, I explained to my mom and dad who exactly they had just met. “That’s the guy that made me feel like I was home at Silvertone and Trina’s, even when I go in on my own.” They were so excited to have met the man, the myth, the legend. And ever since that encounter, I don’t think there was an night where Josh was working and didn’t ask about how my parents were doing. That has always meant so very much to me. Cheers.

Domingo-Martin Barreres: Josh is the consummate professional and all around great human. A bartender of the people as well as the bartender’s bartender. A rare breed of person who exists on a level that all aspire to but few reach. There is the old saying we have all heard numerous times since childhood that states – if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. This simple, yet seemingly impossible phrase for most to practice, speaks volumes to the character of Sir Joshua Childs. I have never, not once, heard that man utter a single disparaging word about any one or any thing.

The world can be a dark place at times but, in his presence, always shines a little brighter.

Thank you Josh for being my friend. I love you. Cheers.

Trina Sturm (Trina’s Starlite Lounge): I met Josh the way most have, sitting at his bar, being in awe if his hospitality and the way he commands his bar. We got to know each other when we started working together at the Beehive. Although both of our stints there were short, we formed a great friendship that is still strong. He and my husband, Beau Sturm became fast friends as well, and quickly formed a partnership that over the last 5 years have been lucky enough to open 3 restaurants/bars. 

I owe so much to Josh. The last 5 years have been amazing because of him and we are still going strong. Everyone knows that Josh doesn’t have to be behind the bar to be the guy running the show. His professionalism and hospitality show even when he is sitting at a bar on his night off enjoying a drink.  I’m grateful our friendship and business partnership continues, but I’ll miss having him make me a cocktail. 

Yuki: Visiting Josh & Silvertone – “The best bad idea always.”  So easy to stay late because you’re having so much fun.
On my worst days because work or life is stressing me out, Josh never fails to make me feel better.  The drinks help for sure, but it’s because he really listens, cares and puts things into perspective through advice or inspiration that really lifts my spirits.  Josh & Silvertone always feel like a safe place to be yourself.

Daren Swisher (bartender-jm Curley): Josh has an inimitable presence behind the stick, unfailingly hospitable. He works a bar with such aplomb, all the while forging a genuine rapport with each and every guest. I’ve asked myself, more times than I can count, if tending a bar will ever be so seemingly effortless for me as it is for Josh. I can only hope that someday it might be.

Karen Richey:  I first met Josh Childs on a Sunday while I was working at The Butcher Shop in 2007/08ish.  He would bring in his daughters and have lunch and many other patrons and employees would invariably stop by his table to say hello.  I had no idea who he was or what he had done for the hospitality industry in his life, I only observed him as a Dad, amusing his kids and generally being an amazing guest in the dining room.  His personality always sparkled and he had his own share of “Dad-jokes” that would usually make his older daughter roll her eyes and sigh loudly… “What does blanc-de-blanc mean, sweetie?”…”Aw, Dad, (insert SERIOUS eye-roll) it means the grapes are 100 percent Chardonnay!”

I can only hope that his example is followed as a Father and a Bartender.  What a guy.

John Nugent: My favorite memory of Josh Childs is probably and selfishly the day he hired me. It was a very casual conversation between friends and I asked if he needed anybody for the fall. He replied with “How about you start in September.” I hope I kept my cool but I was doing backflips on the inside. I always wanted to work for him and was so excited to learn from him, Cedric, and Mike, The Three Musketeers of Hospitality.

I think you can relate any positive adjective toward Josh Childs and it could be correct in my opinion. My biggest dare–Find any bartender who has worked for Josh Childs and see if they have one negative thing to say about him.

Greg Reeves (Vialé): Josh Childs is the ultimate role model that many industries/professions lack. Aside from just being good at what he does, he can be an inspiration to just do the right thing. Whether it’s opening an ice cold High Life, or stopping the music so everyone can greet you and know you walked in, he is what the world needs more of. Plain and simple. And tall and handsome.

Tom Mastricola (Café ArtScience): I met Josh when we opened Roadtrip on Canal Street, I believe it was 1994. I was a kitchen guy at that point, but was lucky enough to be a part of an opening restaurant team with an amazing staff. Barmen like Rob Zin, Cedric Adams, Patrick Lynch and Josh Childs came form West Street, which was a great bar, and other places around the area. Everyone in the house was trained by the likes of Steve Olsen, one of the best in the business. A few years later Josh opened Silvertone and I was part of No.9 opening as bar manager. We lived at Silvertone after work and days off. (I actually pulled many shifts on Monday afternoons into the evenings at the end seat of the bar). We would go to Silvertone not only because of the close proximity to No.9, but for the most part the welcome you would get from Josh and everyone there! As far as I’m concerned, he is the king of hospitality in this town and it trickles down to everyone he works with.

We would walk down those stairs after work into a little piece of heaven. 100% industry!! We played cribbage, smoked, talked about the night, met chefs, dishwashers, servers, barmen and everyone from the restaurant scene. Not to mention drinking great wine, drinks, and of course Fernet and beer! Silvertone was everybody’s place to go to feel you where a part of something normal, not just a “restaurant worker.”

Beau Sturm: I wanna tell you about the first time I walked into Silvertone, which is to say, the moment that I knew I wanted to be in the bar business as my career.

It was winter 2000 I’m pretty sure. I was a fairly new bartender/server at Joe’s on Newbury Street– hey, it payed the bills…

After a day shift on a Tuesday, I had dinner at Biba with Mike Ray (another mentor of mine) behind the stick. After dinner I asked him where I could go on a Tuesday that would have some people. He didn’t hesitate to insist that I go to Silvertone, in his words: “the coolest spot in town.” He told me it was in a basement down some alley by the Orpheum. After some alley weaving, I found it.

I walked down the steps to the sound of laughter, loud laughter. It was 11:30pm on a winter Tuesday in downtown crossing; it couldn’t be that crowded…

Well, it was PACKED! Packed with a who’s-who of the restaurant business and what seemed like every hot girl in Boston. Some kind of smooth electro-jazz was playing at the perfect level. The lighting was dim but warm. Every inch of wall-space was taken up with vintage European liquor ads & antique radios. People were having a blast! But why? The place looked really cool but how could it be this busy and fun on a freezing cold Tuesday? I quickly found out. I was one of the droves in the bar. I knew no one. I was just trying to position myself to get a beer when the tall, debonaire barkeep breaks his conversation with a couple of the aforementioned beauties, looked up and gave me a huge smile like he’d known me forever. “Hey brother, can I get you anything?” I ordered a High Life because that’s all I saw anyone drinking. Then Josh saw that I wanted to ask him something but hesitated. He asked what else he could get me and I inquired if he might have a smoke I could bum. He said, “I can do better than that. I’ll be right back.” This guy comes over with an antique cigar box filled with cigarettes! “Take as many as you need buddy”.

I was hooked.

From that moment until this very day if someone comes to visit me, or is staying downtown and asks where to go, I don’t hesitate to insist that they go to Silvertone & see my good friend, Josh Childs.

Peter Boyd: Whenever I would be talking to a young bartender or barback I would always preface things with: I don’t claim to be the best behind a bar, because I know the best bartenders. I just try to take what I’ve learned from watching (and working with) the people I look up to in this business. You should all go sit at Josh Childs’ bar on a Tuesday night. Don’t tell him why you’re there. Just have a couple beers and observe how he moves behind the bar, makes sure you have a water and interacts with strangers and regulars alike.

I always felt that no matter what was going on outside the Silvertone door, you could always count on a smile, kind greeting and a few good hours there.

If you left Boston for a few months/years, you knew there would be that constant. We will miss him behind the bar, but rest assured that the generation of people who learned from his example will be there, spread throughout this city and beyond, to get you a beverage.

Steve Riley: If I was a wordsmith I could go on for days with Josh stories. And if I had a Happy meal #4 or the 200ml of Chartreuse that sits on my desk, I would ramble on…

I first met Josh in the dark ages of Bartending in the early 90’s. Hotel dining was for fancy dinners. No 9 Park, Clio or Radius hadn’t been hatched yet. But the ideas of bigger, more adventurous places were brewing. Josh Childs, Cedric Adams and several of their friends from around the city created an All-Star team behind the bar at a short-lived, white-hot restaurant called, Road Trip. With a collection of egoless talented bartenders from across the city, the bar became an instant success, probably to the detriment of the restaurant itself because every 25 to 40 single in the city was standing in line waiting to get drinks from this talented, fun, funny group of dedicated professionals. I was a fledgling wholesale sales rep when I met Josh for the first time at Road Trip,  along with several others who have become lifelong friends. These guys were a Renaissance of Bartenders in Boston, real restaurant pros and not just a collection of students and actors on their way to greatness…

Josh and a few others of his generation helped set a very high standard of hospitality. Silvertone became a place for industry people to congregate, share ideas, successes and dreams. Lots of the places we enjoy today came from post-shift drinks with waiters, bartenders, cooks, bussers and runners–people drinking and dreaming about better, different, faster ways for us all to eat and drink. Silvertone surely is one of the places that helped incubate the Boston’s restaurant community’s inclusive and supportive nature so prevalent in our city. I believe most people in this city could agree that Tuesday Night with Josh behind the stick at Silvertone was one of the best definitions of HOSPITALITY.

Thank goodness this is just farewell to a bartending career and the end of an era that we are honoring. Here’s to many more years of sharing thoughts, dreams and drinks with our exceptional friend, Josh.

Aaron Cohen: I don’t get to the other side of the river hardly ever, so I just want to thank Josh with warm hugs for Trina’s Starlite Lounge as often as possible.

Justin Ito-Adler (GM, Nantucket Prime): When my brother came back from a year abroad, I brought him to sit with me at Silvertone. When I helped design a new bar program and we needed advice, Josh personally came out to sit with us. When I brought a group out to celebrate my mentor, Tom Mastricola’s, birthday we went to sit at Silvertone. When I wanted to leave the hospitality industry and needed inspiration, a coworker told me to go to Silvertone and sit with Josh. When I lost my job at a law office downtown and didn’t know what to do for work, I went to Silvertone and sat with Josh. When coworkers want to truly understand hospitality, I send them to Silvertone to sit with Josh. A true standup guy in the industry, there are no joys, remedies and experiences in the world of bars quite like going to Silvertone and sitting with Josh Childs. I am happy to be able to say that I had the opportunity.

David Robinson: All I want him to know is that he has all my love and respect.

Joe McGuirk (Highland Kitchen): Josh Childs is Rosa Parks. Or maybe he is Babe Ruth. Or maybe Moses. Or is he Lewis & Clark? Michael Jordan? Maybe he is a bit of all of them. I am talking about his immeasurable impact on the way people tended bar and the way people perceived bartenders. Josh moved all of us bartenders to the front of the bus. He did it with grace and dignity, like Ms Parks. And when he turned his hand to tending bar, he was Ruthian in how he changed the game. There were very good bartenders before Josh but he was a celebrity bartender before every job under the sun needed a “celebrity” version. I’m not saying Josh can part the sea but he did bring so many to a promised land and gave them a code of conduct; he taught both the industry and its patrons how to act whether it was behind the bar or sitting at it. And he did it with patience and humor. He blazed a trail for us all to follow and he did it with a smile but also with a string of incredible successes that reveal his competitive streak. I leave it to all of you to talk about what a great dad he is, what a mentoring boss he has been, and how he made you your first cosmo. I am here to say, bartenders and servers, we need to get this guy a statue, because now when we tell our friends we are working in restaurants, they don’t ask, “What else are you doing?” They will ask if we are hiring. 

Here’s to the next chapter, Josh. Thank you for the nights you masterfully held court behind the bar while respecting the people you were serving on both sides. It will be comforting to see you on the same side more often. Cheers, brother.

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Boorish Banker or Suspect Server?

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 09/17/2014

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My first reaction was, “Another entitled, mysogynistic jerk.” And then I became wary of the credibility of the server’s story. So I reached out to the banker and the bartender for comment, and both replied. But let’s start with the events from over the weekend.

A post on the Kitchenette blog yesterday titled: Server Posts Epic Facebook Response After Customer Harasses Her, tells the story of a male customer allegedly sexually harassing a female server:

From Kitchenette: Every server who’s seen the abuse heaped on themselves and their co-workers has wanted to see a horrible customer get their just comeuppance through a public shaming. Today, our prayers have been answered, because someone did just that.

Laura Ramadei, a server and bartender in New York City, was at the end of her rope after five years’ experience in the industry and more than her share of terrible customers. So when a New York finance bro named Brian Lederman allegedly sexually harassed her, it was the last straw:

The piece linked to Laura’s facebook page where Laura described the incident in detail in a letter to the accused, Brian Lederman:

Dear Brian,

You came into the restaurant where I work and ordered a Stoli on the rocks. When I asked you and your companion if you’d be eating, or needing anything else from me, you put your hand – ever so gently – ON MY ASS and asked if you could take me “to go”.

The facebook post included a copy of the receipt including Brian’s name, a bill for $15.24, a scribble in the tip line, and a printed total of $17.24, indicating a $2 tip. If you’re not on facebook, I’ve included the full text of Laura’s post in the first comment below.

As the story started making the rounds, I reached out to Brian via Facebook DM:

Me (9/16 4:09pm): I’m publishing a piece on this. Would you like to share your side of the story? Thank you-PM (I included excerpts from Laura’s Facebook post and a link to the Kitchenette post.)

(All of Brian’s comments were cut and pasted verbatim, without edits. Perhaps they were voice-generated?)

Brian (9/16 4:11pm): You want to publish a piece of fabricated lies bet guest you will also be on my attorneys list to sue for defamation you like to publish hearsay ! You know this girl ? Does anyone know her ? It’s a shame people believe what they hear not knowing the facts

Me (9/16 4:12pm): What are the facts?

Brian (9/16 4:18pm): My story ??? There is no story I went into a bar ordered a drink I was a bout to make a joke and stopped in the middle ” the girls says what can I get you – the joke if told 1000 times is how about you to go with nothing on it ” laughing kidding in the most joking manner not insulting nothing even remotely close the fact is I didn’t even finish the joke .. And I certainly never laid a finger let alone a hand on this girl she is simply fabricating a story to gain attention and get another Jon if I did anything inappropriate why didn’t she say anything to me I signed my check with my friend and left there is not one part of her story which is factual I never said anything derogatory and sexually harassing in any shape or manner never nog in anyway it’s a complete lie and I have a friend who was with me who witness everything and nothing because nothing but two drinks were serves we were not even drunk I remember EVERY think that occurred which as normal stop in a bar for a drink paid and left where this came from is shocking to me and my friend in fact my cc is missing since I left there and I believe she stole it and probably got does not quit . The girl is a psyco that’s the facts I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before so that’s a sick story to post especially when no one knows the facts except myself and my friend

Me (9/16 4:20pm): I’m waiting for statements from you and the restaurant you interacted with her at before publishing my piece. Obviously I want to get the facts straight. That’s why I reached out.

Brian (9/16 4:23pm): If anything happened why didn’t someone say anything to me not the girl not the Resteraunt no one I got a call from someone about this is all a complete shock to me . The fact is nothing what so ever happened if I was in any way rude I would have appologized I wasn’t I’m not that type of person I’m a married man 2 children this is like a nightmare what have I done but have a drink pay and leave What’s could possibly have happened why didn’t anyone in the Resteraunt say anything why suddenly 2 days later all this garbage written its 1000% untrue that’s the faxts

Me (9/16 4:26pm): If you want to prepare a statement, I’ll include it in the story. Thank you.

Brian (9/19 12:01 am): My statement is simple . This fabricates story is a clearly premeditated plan to leave a job and attempt to get sympathy from the public by slander and defamation of my character . The girl is clearly intelligent and calculated how is it possible is I sexually harnessed her she didn’t say anything to me or her manager ? Why ? Because it NEVER happened except in her mind . I never touched her or made any advance in any inappropriate sexual manner and this girl will be deal with my attorneys and paying for her lies this I can garantee . I’ve never heard of anything like this in my life ! It’s just a shock to me and I’m honestly speechless how she can create such a story maybe it was the tip …

Brian: (9/17 12:31 am) One more thing to take into consideration about what has been written Look how much time she spent taking about herself rather then the supposed sexual Harassment she is self promoting herself rather then making such a huge deal about the fabricated story and why she quit her job . If anything like that ever happened in a bar or public place the manager would have known imm and came to the table to say some thing or she would have said something she was super nice when she handed me the bill and never insinuated any sort or inappropriate actions on my part so when did it all occur after I left ? I guess on her mind ! That’s all I can say this girl is self promoting and getting to gain sympathy to get another job or try to defame and slander me to Gain attention for herself

Me (9/17 8:28am) : Got it. I’ll be gathering facts all day and posting tonight. Why only a $2 (13.12%) tip on $15.24?

Brian (9/17 3:32pm): I didn’t pay attention I was in rush that simple . I thought I wrote 3 and now find out 2

After reaching out to Laura via Facebook DM, we exchanged emails:

Me: (9/16 4:49 pm): Hey Laura. I write a blog advocating for people in the service industry. I’m working on a blog post about the alleged incident with Brian Lederman. I have a few questions.

#1- Would the MOD working when Brian came in be willing to substantiate your story and answer some questions?

#2- Did you tell the manager that Brian put his hand on your ass?

#3- What action did the manager take? Did they confront Brian?

#4- What do you say to the people who are speculating that this is a ruse? (Your “commercial” at the end of your facebook post has raised more than a few eyebrows.)

Laura (9/16 9:48pm): I have answered your questions so as to clear up confusion. I am hoping the noise my post has created will die down soon, as things seem to have gotten out of hand, and attacks are being made that I have strongly advocated against. I hope that in reaching out to me you like wise seek to promote awareness and education, rather than malice and accusation.

[Laura's answers to #'s 1-4 above.]

#1- He was not a witness to the incident, and therefore would only be able to provide further conjecture.

#2- Yes, almost immediately after the incident, the customer asked for the check. I told my manager what happened as soon as the customer left and he took down a description of the man and his name.

#3- After conferring with the general manager, the decision was made not to allow this customer back into the establishment. He was not contacted or approached by my managers, and I never requested they do so. The organization has been very supportive of me as an employee.

#4- I posted the story to spread awareness, and to inspire friends to treat each other and their servers with kindness and consideration. The post script was a genuine call for help and advice from friends, who face similar challenges pursuing careers in the arts while making ends meet. By no means was it meant as a “commercial”. I can’t imagine that any significant career opportunities would arise out of this incident. Only support and input from friends and colleagues, which I’ve been grateful to receive.

I also sent Laura a facebook DM on 9/16 at 4:50pm stating that Brian denied touching her. In a separate email sent by Laura on 9/16 at 10:07pm, Laura responded:

Oh and to address your follow up facebook message – he did touch me. It wasn’t a “grab” or a violent act the way certain repostings or stranger shares have implied. It was subtle but clear contact. To me it felt like three fingers gently resting on my left buttcheek. I hope you understand how horribly ridiculous and uncomfortable it is to talk about the details of this, but in the interest of clarity I hope my candor is helpful. I know that he has denied the event to other publications, and to my managers, but I stand by what happened, as do my employers.

If the quotes in today’s NY Post are accurate, Brian Lederman did nothing to endear himself to anyone defending him.

Excerpts from The NY Post:

“I’ve grabbed plenty of girls’ asses in my life,” Brian H. Lederman boasted to The Post. “But I’ve never grabbed hers.”

The married moneyman went on the defensive Tuesday after server Laura Ramadei made a tell-all Facebook post saying he ogled her like a piece of meat as he fondled her derriere at Lucky Strike on Grand Street.

Lederman, a 57-year-old managing director at Swiss Performance Management & Fiduciary, angrily denied any physical contact — and threatened to sue Ramadei for defamation.

“I clearly remember making a joke when the girl said, ‘What would you like,’ ” he said. “I kiddingly said, ‘I would like you to go with nothing on it.’ ”

He said he was furious that she claimed he did more than spew sleaze.

“That f–king c–t, for her to do something like that is pretty ridiculous,” he told The Post.

He then threatened to make sure she doesn’t serve lunch in this town again.

“I will make sure she doesn’t get another job in New York City. I know everybody,” he raged. “The bar owners, the club owners — that’s a terrible thing to write about somebody.”

Ah, another rendition of the old, “Do you know who I am?” rears its ugly head. Because of his reaction alone, a few hundred thousand more people know him…

If a 57-year-old guy doesn’t know that it’s not funny to make a sexist comment to a stranger, there’s a good chance he’ll never learn. The old, “I was just kidding” excuse just doesn’t fly, especially in a case like this. It’s bad enough when servers hear the same ‘jokes’ thousands of times (“Hated it” from a customer pointing to a licked-clean plate), but personal, sexist, abusive “kidding” is unacceptable, cover-your-ass backpedaling.

Despite the hint of opportunism, I’m siding with Laura.

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Boston-area Restaurant Playfully Embraces Yelper

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Confronting without Confrontation

Posted: 07/31/2014

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This is too good not to share. From Eater National:

Yelpers and restaurateurs have long had a shaky relationship, but one bar in Massachusetts has come up with a clever way to fight Yelp hate. According to an Instagram postState Park, a bar in Cambridge, is poking fun at a one star review left on the site by quoting it at the bottom of their checks: “Lucy D. on Yelp says ‘Overall, a pretty lousy experience.’” Other restaurants have also gotten creative with responding to the antics of Yelpers: One restaurant in Portland fired back at a sexist joke left on their Yelp page by turning it into a fundraiser to benefit victims of domestic violence. In New Mexico, a food truck bit back at a one star review with a genius song featuring a ukulele.

See receipt on Instagram here.

Love it.

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Antisocial Social Media

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 07/29/2014

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“Any press is good press,” is an antiquated and spurious adage. Social media failures are now commonplace and can lead to decreased business, and in extreme cases, closures. The list of restaurants, bars and businesses I’ll never visit because of the views, attitudes, content and strategies portrayed on their social media platforms is growing, including a Cambridge, MA “Beer Bar Bistro.” Fortunately, the list of Boston-area businesses I need to visit, partly because of their social media persona, is longer than my boycott list.

I got into a dustup on Facebook recently (7/16) with whoever was contributing content on the facebook page of a “Beer Bar Bistro” in Cambridge, MA. The ‘brewhaha’ started when the bar posted;

Tonight on Draft we have some of the most important beers in the world… particularly from Belgium…

[Highlight is my emphasis. -PM]

De Ranke XX Bitter 
De Ranke XXX Bitter 
De Ranke Saison de Dottinges
De Ranke Guldenberg
De la Senne Jambe de Bois 
De la Senne Band of Brothers 
Bink Blonde 
Bink Grand Cru
Thiriez XXtra
Blougies La Manuesse
Blougies Saison

Other “Beer Bars” will tell you to drink Dupont, Chimay, Karmaliet, Guldendraak, Piraat, Delirium.

They would be wrong.

I thought their post was a dick move and told them so in a comment. Their response;

Beer Bar Bistro: Patrick Maguire, if you think we are dicks for saying that some of the beers you like are not very good, well then, I guess we are dicks.

I don’t know much about beer, but I do know that everything we say when we’re representing our brands in a public domain registers in the brains of potential customers and influences buying decisions. Insulting, mocking and taunting your competition and/or peers fosters negative perceptions. Businesses walk a very fine line attempting to employ an effective strategy around bravado. And businesses that depend on grandstanding often state that their intent was humor after they’ve been called out.

Me: No, I just think it’s a dick move to put parentheses around “beer bars” mocking your peers/fellow restaurant owners and workers who serve the beers you listed. Pretty condescending, insulting and dickish approach to co-existing in a very small town.

BBB:  It’s hardling mocking to say to someone the product they serve is not good. Our approach is in fact to co-exist. We’d just like our peers to pour better beers. So that we could actually be peers. If we sold the world’s best burgers and called ourselves a burger bar, and other “burger bars” sold crappy burgers, we’d still reserve the right to say they ought to sell better burgers.

Me:  And if you told other “burger bars” that they ought to sell better burgers you’d be arrogant dicks. (Yes, I know that’s part of the attention-seeking schtick.) Taste and business strategies are subjective. Who are you to tell other restaurants/bars what kind of beer is best for their business and their customers, and to tell them that they’re “wrong” for what they serve?

The ‘conversation’ intensified, but quickly died after a few more exchanges. Apparently someone realized that digging a deeper hole was a bad strategy. It will be interesting to see if they leave the thread intact. If they take it down, I copied all of it.

As I stated in the “Beer Bar” facebook threadI get the “king of the hill/let’s be edgy” swagger that has always been part of the schtick, but I don’t agree with it when it crosses the line. I believe that you can still have a unique brand identity and personality without being disrespectful, especially to those in your own industry.

It’s imperative for businesses to demonstrate that they have a personality that fits their brand, but I also believe that humility, gratitude and respect should be recurring themes in social media campaigns.

Ironically, the owner of “Beer Bar Bistro” is building a large brewery in Massachusetts and will be attempting to sell beer to many of the same “peers” he has alienated. As one Facebook commenter noted, “Weird for guys about to open a massive new brewery to be talking this way about potential accounts, no?” Well, yes.

The owner of “Beer Bar Bistro” was asked on Facebook, “I’m beginning to wonder why you are opening a brewery in USA when you are so reverent to Belgium…”

BBB Owner: “…it’s not so much a reverence toward Belgium Beers, as it is reverence towards these particular Breweries in Belgium. There is so much shit beer being produced in Belgium…I feel it’s my responsibility as a citizen of the world to educate people on what they SHOULD be drinking. As a Brewer, I will make whatever the hell I want and then tell people they SHOULD be drinking that!”

Oh, really?

“I am the greatest!” was endearing (even eloquent) when trumpeted by Muhammad Ali, but only a handful of humans and businesses can get away with it.

Do comments, attitudes, and opinions expressed on social media influence your decision about patronizing an establishment? Some customers don’t pay attention or care at all. Even after Upper Crust Pizzeria in Boston was found guilty of exploiting their employees, many people continued to patronize them because it was convenient. Where do you draw the line? When do you take a stand? Is it bigotry, bullying, bragging, misogyny, politics, religion, exploitation of employees, or something else you saw on social media or elsewhere that has lead you to boycott a business? Please add your comments and stories below. Thank you.

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86 Boston’s Legendary Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe: 1927-2014

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 06/29/2014

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When Fontaine locked the door on Thursday afternoon and Arthur climbed onto a stool to take the weight off his bum knee, I knew it was time. You could feel it. The Manjourides siblings have earned their retirement after working very hard together at Charlie’s for nearly four decades–an amazing feat unto itself.

I attended the last day of service on Saturday morning. Some of us camp out for concert and playoff tix, some of us for food and history in the making. My goal was to be first in line for the 7:30 opening. When I arrived at 6:25, the counter was already full of melancholy regulars and lively banter.

There are very few authentic places left that exude as much soul and history that Charlie’s did. After the door was locked on Thursday, I slowly walked around the restaurant taking in every framed picture and scrap of memorabilia, some I had never seen before. Fontaine filled in the blanks for me, “Oh yeah, that picture of me and Marie was used for an AT&T Ad. Yes, that’s Dennis Johnson (“DJ” Celtics legend), Al Pacino,…the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guys were so nice…”

We’ve all been to wakes, funerals or memorial services and thought, “If only we could have gathered this group when (deceased) was alive to celebrate their life with them and let them know how much we loved them.”  The “living wake” for Charlie’s began on May 11th when the cat jumped out of the bag via twitter. Since then, and another twitter announcement, the Manjourides siblings have been inundated with media and sentimental regulars visiting for one last meal to say goodbye and congratulations. One gentleman who frequented Charlie’s 50 years ago, drove up alone last week from Alabama to pay his respects.

Personally, I’m thrilled for the Manjourides siblings and their families. I’m honored to have befriended all of them, and so happy they’ve closed the restaurant on their own terms. I have so much respect for what they have accomplished and endured. I’ll repeat the message I posted on my Facebook album dedicated to the extended Charlie’s family:

Much gratitude to siblings, Arthur, Chris, Fontaine, and Marie who have been operating Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe together for decades without killing each other!! I’ll miss the history, charm, wit, character(s), stories and friendship. Thank you for serving the South End neighborhood and Boston (and far beyond) so long and so well. Congratulations on a legendary run, and good luck on the next chapter. Cheers to everyone on both sides of the counter at Charlie’s, past and present.

To Charlie’s, a legendary American institution. Cheers. You will be greatly missed.

Tributes:

Boston Globe June 29, 2014 by Dan Adams

WBUR-Boston’s NPR news station June 27, 2014

Boston Magazine May 14, 2014 by Christopher Hughes

MySouthEnd.com-South End News May 12, 2014  by George Cuddy

Where Hash Rules  by George Cuddy

Facebook Album dedicated to Charlie’s & the Manjourides family by Patrick Maguire

WHDH Boston June 28,2014

 

 

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