I’ve never been shy about how much I love the people I work with behind the bar.
And it’s no happy accident—I pick people to work at the two Portland, Oregon, bars I manage, Clyde Common and Pépé Le Moko, that I want to spend time with. Think about it: sometimes we spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our loved ones at home. And I’d argue that a team of folks that get along well, actually make better drinks and offer our patrons a much better experience.
So, I’d like to introduce you to my staff. In my continuing effort to show that there’s much more to bars than just alluring photos of dimly lit bar tops and beautifully styled cocktails, almost none of these portraits were taken behind the bar. Over the past six months, I’ve been hounding my staff to let me capture them doing something they love, other than making drinks.
To everyone who participated in this project my heartfelt thank you. This is my love letter to all of you.
This is Angie. Angie is no longer working with us, but she was (and still is) such a huge part of the family that it would have seemed odd to leave her out, especially since I’d already taken her picture several months ago.
She moved here from Ohio about two-and-a-half years ago and Clyde Common was her first Portland bartending job. It would be an understatement to say that Angie fit right in with the rest of the crew immediately. In many ways, she brought us all closer, made us better, and lifted us up. Clyde Common’s bar became better, and will remain better, now that Angie has spent time there. We miss her every day.
I go for a long walk every morning to get some exercise, clear my head, and treat myself to a cup of coffee. Greg was one of the many baristas I’ve befriended on my morning walks, and for years I was taken by his demeanor, hospitality, and just his general ability to have a really good conversation.
When Angie let us know she would be leaving, I asked Greg if he’d ever considered a change of careers. Thankfully for all of us, he said yes. Greg has been with us for a few months now, but I captured this snapshot of him on his last day at the coffee shop.
I’ve known Heather for close to 18 years now. She and I both tended bar in Eugene, Oregon, in the early 2000s, though never together. She’d visit my bars and I’d visit hers, and I always wanted to work with her, but never got the opportunity. Then, about six years ago, she reached out to me right around the time we were opening Pépé Le Moko. She now works upstairs at Clyde Common and has for about five years.
I knew she was going to be tough to nail down for a photoshoot—nobody likes having their picture taken less than Heather. But she and her husband love old horror movies, so I convinced the Hollywood Theater here in Portland to open up for us one morning and I got this fun shot of her with her favorite person in the world.
This is the last photo I took, and ended up being my favorite. Susana works downstairs at Pépé Le Moko and is one of my favorite people in the building. She’s absolutely hilarious, is so genuinely kind and caring, and has the most adorable relationship with her dog, Olive.
Watching Susana and Olive interact is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They have this crazy chemistry, like two rich socialites who have been roommates for 30 years. It’s really loving, and sometimes a little antagonistic, and always pure comedy.
Like me, Susana has been exploring photography over the past year, and specifically pet photography for her. So, it seemed only natural to capture her while she took Olive’s portrait. You should really take a look at Olive’s Instagram account.
Speaking of pets, Amelia stopped by the restaurant one day with her dog Felina, and I thought it was the perfect moment to grab their photo. Amelia worked at Pépé Le Moko as a host, and then in the kitchen, and then waiting tables, and finally behind the bar. But she’s young and wanted to see more of what was out there, and left us after a couple of years.
We threw her a big party, wished her well and maybe even shed some tears. And then two weeks later when we had an opening at Clyde Common, Amelia came back to the building to be our opening bartender and brunch bartender. She’s my comedy duo partner most days, when we’re either making fun of our poor co-workers, or just making fun of each other.
This is Banjo, and he’s the reason why Clyde Common’s bar runs as well as it does. I met Banjo ten years ago, when he was working at another bar across the street. He’d come in after work, have a beer or whatever, and then we’d end up talking about music, video games, comic books, cooking, or whatever. This went on for a year or two and then finally I had an opening and told him I’d really like to work with him.
He thought about it for a minute, and then told me no, he wanted to focus on this band he was in at the time. And I don’t remember saying this, but he says I told him “Well, when you realize your band fucking sucks, let me know and we’ll tend bar together.” It certainly sounds like something I’d say to a friend.
When he did end up realizing that, I didn’t have any openings. But I recommended him for a former Clyde Common bartender’s new spot, and he worked there for a few years. And finally, one day the stars aligned and about seven years ago Banjo came home to Clyde.
We run the bar together, and I couldn’t do it without him. Nowadays we still talk about the Beatles and video games and cooking, but recently we’ve added photography to the list of interests we share.
Banjo’s counterpart downstairs at Pépé Le Moko is Jamie. She and I run the establishment together, and I also couldn’t do it without her, but there’s so much more about her that is wonderful and special than just being a force to be reckoned with at the bar.
Jamie brings people together. I don’t know how she does it, but she has this incredible draw that makes you want to follow her to the ends of the earth—you just believe in her no matter what. I snapped this picture of Jamie in her apartment, where she hosts regular get-togethers such as her women’s empowerment group. This day was the meeting of the book club she organized at work.
You know. Just getting a bunch of bar employees to read books and then getting them all together to discuss them during their day off. No big deal!
Catherine was born just two months before I started working at my first bar job. Which is kind of crazy when you think about it. And given that she’s literally half my age, you might assume we don’t have much of anything in common but you’d be so wrong.
We were both born and raised in California, both have a deep love of old ska music, which was the music that got me through my junior year of high school, and can talk about Mexican food for hours.
So when it came time to take her portrait, I took her and her fiancé to my favorite taqueria in Portland and we ordered half the menu. Susana and Jamie showed up and suddenly it became a little Pépé Le Moko bartender get-together. We all ate delicious Mexican food and then went across the street to surprise Julia, one of our former co-workers at the bar she now works at (see the very first image above).
Freddy and I have been friends for well more than 20 years now. I worked across the street from him when I got my very first bartending job ever in Eugene. We became instant friends, and even our dogs were best friends. We just never had the opportunity to work together, even though I’d always wanted to.
Freddy moved to Seattle for a while, and then to Orcas Island, but we stayed in touch all of those years. And then one day about a year into my tenure at Clyde Common I was looking for a lunchtime bartender and having a hard time finding one. Out of the blue, Freddy texted me and wrote “Moving back to Portland in a week. Let me know if you know of anyone hiring. P.S. I don’t want to work nights.”
Freddy has been with us for a decade now, and a couple of years ago he switched to nights, so that he can spend his days riding his motorcycle all over Oregon. He’s now the second-longest-running Clyde Common employee, after me.