Caitlin Barry Van Vooris
Each night as a twenty-something, I couldn’t wait to hit up the bars that lined Orange Avenue, Wall Street and Central. Me and my pals would start at The Globe for Happy Hour, then make our way to Waitiki and One Eye’d Jack’s until the block party started, and then as the people started shoveling themselves in, we’d head out and over to Casey’s, The Echo Chamber, Room 3-9 and The Lodge. Since we were so close, we’d have to hop across the street, drop in Bar-B-Que and I-Spy, dance, and then head back down to Wall St. for last minute shots. If we timed it correctly, we’d arrive just in time to sing that song, “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Next, it was time to say good-bye—which included telling each person within range things like, “You’re so awesome!” and “I’m so happy to meet/know/make-out with you.” Finally, there’d be one last stop for street meat. Eventually we’d make it home by 3-4am, with a wrist full of drinking bracelet’s that would serve as tomorrow’s reminders of where we had been the night before. Those were some good times—I have albums of ridiculous photos to prove it.
Now that I live in Thorton Park, I find it difficult to make it anywhere but my neighborhood bar, Burton’s, and the restaurants that surround it. I’m also thirty and no longer bar hop—I bar park, which means I pick one place and stay there until I’m kicked out. Hopefully, it’s no later than 11:30pm. Photos are no longer taken, developed and stored in albums either. Instead, they’re taken with cell phones and immediately uploaded to social networking sites. The times have changed. I have changed. The bar scene, however, hasn’t changed as much.
Every now and again, I get the urge to make the great trek west and head just four blocks away to my old stomping grounds. There, I’m greeted by the same bartenders, bouncers and bar owners that have served me for the past decade, except those people are no longer strangers but friends. Consequently, I am treated like a celebrity when I arrive on the scene. I move to the front of lines. I am served first. I do not need to show ID. My bar tabs are generally a fraction of what is owed. I AM somebody when I go downtown, at least in the eyes of the new generation of bar-hoppers … bless their shot-taking hearts.
Enter Caitlin. I’ve known her since she worked at Wall St. Plaza, back when she directed most of the entertainment for the plaza and before she gave birth to her own bar, Finnhenry’s (and her two sons, Finn and Henry). She let me write for the Wall St. Journal, the menu/newspaper that sat on every Wall St. Plaza restaurant table. It gave me the opportunity to interview Michael Glibicki, lead singer/noise maker of Rusted Root, among many others in bands. I’m forever grateful for that.
*Below are excerpts found in Jana Waring’s Who’s That? Discovering Orlando One Interview at a Time. Read the entire interview about Caitlin and find out the stories that only a bar owner can tell by buying the book now!
Is your staff what separates your bar from the others?
I hope so. There are some other bars in town that I think do a really good job of that, too. And then, I’ve been to many bars that I should love, but the people behind the bar or the ownership—you can feel it—they’re detached.
What are some of the changes that you’ve noticed in the downtown bar scene?
Ten years ago, before Thorton Park was what it is now, and before Winter Park Village, Park Ave., Mall of Millennia and Restaurant Row, you pretty much went to happy hour here. Now, there are so many options. I mean, I live in College Park. On the way home I could stop in at Jax, or wherever, and that’s great but it’s diluted the critical masses for being in any one place.
What is the cut-off line for your bartenders?
We want people to have fun. I always have this conversation with my bartenders: they can’t get annoyed—especially when we’re super busy—when someone is being loud, or annoying, or trying to tickle you while you’re holding a tray full of drinks. We want people to come here and have fun. The consequence is sometimes they become an asshole. Everyone has become the asshole before. Trust me.
*Interview Date: August 31, 2009