Issue April 24, 2006

WATERING HOLE WORKFORCE

Like a good neighbor, Brad Jennings is there at Red Lounge
BY STEPHEN GEORGE

The first thing that registers while I’m crossing Frankfort Avenue toward the Red Lounge on the last Thursday in March is the two rows of motorcycles in the front lot. The façade’s signature garage doors are up, electronic music emanates from within, and the hogs — big-time heavy bikes, the kind professionals watch and ride — are snarling and spitting fumes. It’s around this time I remember I’m wearing short sleeves.

Tonight is “Concréte” night, and Kim Sorise is perched atop the DJ booth spinning records, while partner Tim Furnish stands in front of the jukebox, watching one of his gritty avant-garde films project onto a clear space on the wall behind the bar. The place is comfortably crowded: there’s maneuvering room, but no worries in case of fire. Perhaps the finest real estate, the clutch of tables just through the reclaimed industrial garage doors, is occupied. I amble toward the bar for a Newcastle.

Whipping around like wild banshees are three bartenders, one of whom is a well-coiffed young man with a sparse beard and a stylish button-down shirt, the top fly opened. It’s clear that attention has been paid to his upper body, and his smile — when he gets a chance — is toothy and seems genuine.

Brad Jennings is the Red Lounge’s 29-year-old general manager. He smokes Camel Special Lights, two during our roughly 30-minute chat. Jennings uses the word “my” when referring to certain things at the Red Lounge, like his expanded beer and wine lists. This is typical of folks who put more than 80 hours a week into a restaurant or bar. They do just about every job there is to do there. They have every right to such feelings of ownership.

One fact about Jennings that people who keep a reasonable distance from their bartenders wouldn’t know is that he’s a registered nurse. An Eastern Kentucky émigré, he worked at the University of Kentucky Medical Center before deciding — somewhat against his family’s will — to enter “the industry.” He worked as a server and bartender in Lexington before coming to Louisville with the woman, Michelle Manker, who’s now his roommate.
Manker, a representative for Southern Wine & Spirits, introduced Jennings to Bea Chamberlain, who owns El Mundo and bought a 50-percent interest in Red Lounge last fall. Jennings left a job tending bar at Fourth Street Live’s Red Star Tavern to take the gig.

The change in ownership at Red Lounge, accompanied by Jennings moving in from the mega-corporate Fourth Street Live, prompted the former bar staff to walk out in disgust. Jennings says some customers stopped coming as well, although a few seem to be trickling back in here and there.

Near the end of our conversation, a motorcycle backfired about five feet outside the front door. Jennings jumped. He’s had to tell them to quiet down once before; this is a serene neighborhood, after all.
“You want to be a good neighbor,” he says. That is, in a nutshell, his ultimate vision for his bar.


River Bend owners bend traditional notions about wineries
BY ELIZABETH KRAMER

On Friday or Saturday night, it’s customary to find Barry and Leslie Blalock at River Bend Winery, sitting at the bar and talking with customers. On a recent chilly spring evening, Barry sips a glass of just one of the wines made on the premises at 120 S. 10th St., while Leslie chats with a woman nearby, in between breaking out with small dance moves, gently shimmying and twisting her hips to the tunes that Bluestown, playing near the front door, sends out over the crowd.

“I’ve always wanted to have a bar,” Barry says, “but this is more, because it’s a winery.”

Beyond the bar is a glass wall, and behind that sit the mechanics that generate the elixir that fills patrons’ cups: along the north wall, towering containers, and along the west wall, rows of oak barrels from floor to ceiling. The containers typically hold white wine in the making, while the barrels hold aging red wines for six months to more than a year, depending on the style of wine. (The bar currently offers 11 types of wine, including Chocolate Decadence, which is, in fact, made with chocolate.) The area beyond the bar is dark on this night, but on some evenings customers can watch workers bottling the wine that is served here.

The Blalocks opened River Bend with winemaster Leonard Olson in September 2004, with a unique vision to establish a bar serving its own wine made from only Kentucky grapes. But that vision goes back about four years. That’s when Olson began looking for business partners who would share his vision.
Previously, Olson spent about 35 years making wine in Michigan. He’d been living in Louisville for a few years.

When Barry Blalock met Olsen, Blalock was ripe for starting a new venture after 25 years selling food preparation equipment. Leslie was all for it.
Barry likes to point out that Kentucky’s own Jessamine County became home to the country’s first winery in 1798, long before the commonwealth became renowned for bourbon. In the ensuing decades, up until the Civil War, Kentucky was the largest wine-producing state. Afterward, the industry didn’t fully recover. “Then Prohibition killed it,” he says.

The Blalocks and Olson are just a few of many people across the state who have invested themselves in creating a wine industry in Kentucky. (For others, check out the Kentucky Vineyard Society at www.kyvineyardsociety.org.) Some of the funds that have seeded this movement actually came from the state, which several years ago allocated money for projects to help tobacco farmers begin growing grapes for wine.

Barry says growing interest in wine, coupled with increasing commercial development west of downtown (the newest additions are the 21C Museum Hotel and its restaurant, Proof), holds promise for River Bend.

While the mainstays of the River Bend’s business plan are the winery and the bar, the owners have also found other ways to earn revenue. They serve lunch and have begun offering appetizers during the evenings. They also cater events on-site and off; upstairs, above the public bar, they have a private room with a bar and 3,000 square feet. (Barry and others working there believe the upstairs room is haunted. Some employees report seeing strange shapes and feeling curious breezes when there are no open windows or doors.)

While wine may seem a bit aristocratic for some tastes, Leslie and Barry don’t see it that way. They advise patrons to “leave your snobbery at the door.”


Third Street Dive owners have a monster plan downtown
BY CARY STEMLE

One of the frequent assertions about Fourth Street Live is that it will eventually prompt spin-off businesses in the general vicinity. To my eyes — and the LEO office is on Fourth Street, which is a good place to keep an eye on such things — it’s been sporadic so far. That’s one reason some folks favor a new arena at the old Water Company site at Third and Ali.

At any rate, there’s a new bar in the works that’s clearly a spin-off from Fourth Street Live, in more ways than one. There’s the name: Third Street Dive. And there’s proximity: Third Street Dive is at 440 S. Third St., literally in the shadow of Fourth Street Live. In fact, if you look out the new bar’s side door, which opens into an alley between Third and Fourth, you glimpse 4SL’s Red Star Tavern, Maker’s Mark Lounge and Felt. “We’re not here to compete with Fourth Street Live,” says Third Street Dive co-owner Steve Gordon. “We wouldn’t be here if they weren’t there. It’s just that I love this city, and I want to open a Louisville bar downtown. We are the downtown alternative — that’s our mission statement.”

Gordon, 36, will run the business with his half-brother, Ken Hines, 26. Both have worked extensively in local food and dining circles, but this is their first shot at ownership. Gordon says he caught the bar bug 20 years ago when he used to get into the late-great Tewligan’s on a fake ID.

These days, they’re busily overseeing the build-out in anticipation of opening on Derby Eve. (On Derby night, DJ Chad Krause spins.) Tom Clemons, who crafted familiar places like The Back Door, Dundee Tavern and Old Town Liquors, is heading up construction.

The structure that houses Third Street Dive is owned by Cynthia Torp, whose design firm, Solid Light, occupies roughly the other half of the building that dates to the 1880s. Third Street Dive comprises three rooms and some 1,700 square feet. Just inside, near its large front window, there’s a bandstand (“We’ll have live entertainment with a local emphasis,” Gordon promises, “everything from Johnny Berry to Ultrapulverize.”). A side room and the main room, where a large bar runs perpendicular to the entrance, are painted a rich Army green, which contrasts nicely against black ceilings.

 Another room with tables and chairs is painted a deep red. The poured concrete terrazzo floor and two white corbels lend an overall classic feel. The restroom doors are decorated with original art — a large painting of Blondie for the ladies, an archetypal image of Wattie Buchan, singer of the thrash band The Exploited, for the gents.

There will be real English darts from Harrows Darts, and when there’s no live music, DJ Penatrol (nee DJ Danno) will spin deep underground grooves. “He’s incredible,” Gordon says. “I know my music, but he makes me feel like ‘Papa Punk.’”

There’s no kitchen, but they’ve worked out a deal to offer limited menu items from The Pub at FSL. The bar will be full-service, with generous pours. “Not Back Door pours,” Gordon says, laughing, “but you’ll get your money’s worth.”
Third Street Dive will be open at least five nights a week, till 4 a.m. Which makes me think it’ll be popular with a certain segment of Louisville’s bar scene, particularly those who have worked or still work in it.
Which means this could be the start of something big.


Warmth, Brown and ale
BY MATT MATTINGLY

Step inside Cumberland Brews and gleaming beer-filled tuns and carboys with fermenting liquids meet your gaze behind the cozy bar. Opposite the bar, artificial bricks and original drawings line and define the rustic walls.
The eclectic atmosphere seems to mirror the clientele. To wit, meeting a 24-year-old bloke who’s been coaching field hockey for the past six years and is now studying Portuguese was not a surprise on the Sunday evening I stepped in from Bardstown Road.

Here is where Lucy Brown waits tables and leaves lasting impressions on patrons. When most people are getting ready for a night of drinking and debauchery, Brown is often just starting her shift at Cumberland Brews, where she is an integral part of the six-woman bartending crew, especially considering that she knew about 80 percent of the people who walked through the doors. The two she didn’t know, she recognized.

And patrons recognize Brown — by her curly black hair, held back in a headband, and her friendly voice.

She chats easily with customers, some of whom are her friends when she’s off the clock. Larry Black is no exception.

“Larry is number one,” she says, extending a middle finger to make sure he knows.

Black says Brown’s humor is one thing that keeps him coming back.
“This is home away from home. I’ve been to every bar in the city, and is the most comfortable,” he says.

Allison Stewart, a regular since the bar opened in August 2000, got to know Brown after she began slinging beer there in May 2003. “I’ve been blessed to know Lucy for quite some time,” Stewart says.

Along with other customers, she also praises Brown for her attentive ear and her ability to share perspectives and feelings in a friendly manner.

This Sunday, she gives me a personal in-house tour. After she details the ingredients, machinery and their function in the brewing process, I suspect Brown could run the whole operation. Living across the street may help with that someday. (When we hit the second floor, she hints that the space is haunted.)

Serving what she swears is the best brew in town, however, is just one part of her busy life.

Besides working at the pub some 30 hours a week, Brown is an art major at the University of Louisville. She began applying her talent to her place of employment recently when owner Mark Allgeier chose her to design the Cumberland Brews T-shirts.

Her job at the bar also has given her lots of funny stories to tell. She laughingly recounts one about a squirrel that ran straight from Bardstown Road into the brewery, hiding in the bathroom. After several males in the kitchen declined to apprehend the poor thing, Brown managed to catch and release the squirrel back into the neighborhood using only a towel.

But her interests extend beyond the bar to sports, travel, music and environmental issues. Since she was 18, she has coached Noe Middle School’s field hockey team. Last summer she traveled to Guatemala, and the spring before she went to Nagano, Japan. The latter she calls a snowboarder’s dream. “I’m a pro faller,” she says “but I still look good doing it.”
Some of her favorite musical acts are Daft Punk, Postal Service and Three 6 Mafia.

She brims with excitement when she talks about the Ohio Valley Creative Energy organization, of which she is a member. The group is working on a project to use waste methane emissions from an Indiana landfill to power kilns for glass and pottery making.

But her enthusiasm for renewable energy doesn’t stop there. “I’m a huge believer in Karma,” she says. “What goes around definitely comes around.”
That Karma seems to circulate around Brown and her customers, who leave and come back all the time.


DJ Willy G creates Caribbean nights in Louisville
BY JONATHAN FRANK

William Gomez — aka DJ Willy G — is used to trying new things. When he left Cuba for Miami in 1995, he only knew how to salsa dance. Then he lived in an area mixed with Dominican, Haitian and Mexican immigrants and quickly learned meringue and bachata (a type of Latin music with a heavy guitar influence, native to the Dominican Republic). By 2001, he had moved to Louisville, but he had never DJ’d. Then his friend, Pablo, asked him to fill in at Los Aztecas’ Club Salsa one night. The energy of the crowd hooked him.

What’s next? Gomez wants the city he’s adopted for the past seven years to try something new: Latin culture.

His passion to spread his community’s gospel takes visual form on his Web site, pamigentelouisville.com, which lists Spanish-speaking church services and newspapers and a recap of his “Ultimas 10” (his favorite) songs.

“It’s all for the Latin community,” Gomez says with a Havana-infused English accent.

As a novice DJ five years ago, he had only 20 CDs and played mostly salsa and meringue at parties. But with an eagerness to interact with crowds and his burgeoning dance skills, he developed a knack for finding the sort of tracks that get people shaking their butts and hips without interruption. He got experience at house parties, weddings and Quinceneras (similar to a Sweet 16 party for 15-year-old Latin girls).

Within the past year, he’s played weekly at Tequila Mexican Restaurant on South Third Street Road, and just last month he began playing at Coconuts on Baxter Avenue (in the old Brewery and Have a Nice Day Café spot).

Interestingly, the two crowds — Tequila and Coconuts — exhibit quite a dichotomy, which keeps Gomez on his toes. His south Louisville gig seems to draw a mostly Latin crowd, while his Phoenix Hill neighborhood date attracts a mixed crowd of native Latinos and Americans. Gomez gets his biggest kick playing for diverse groups.

“I like the mixed crowds because you see unexpected things,” he says. “With Latin crowds, I usually know how they’ll act, but Americans — they think they are on vacation.” (What he means is that, under the hypnotic spell of Latin music and dance, American women apparently are unmatched in their ability to dance on bars and expose their breasts.)

Tequila manager Tony Hall knew a good thing when he heard it.
“I’d tried out some bands and hadn’t seen a big draw,” he says, “but I liked style and sound … and I had nothing to lose.”

The first night Gomez played there, about 265 people showed up. Three weeks later, about 440 showed up. He really wants to beat the highest attendance he had at The Gate on Story Avenue, where 635 people turned out to see him.

“The city is growing, and it’s a good time to start a business, especially with the Latin community growing,” notes Gomez, who gets excited discussing his idea for a Caribbean-themed club in Louisville. Like his first American experience in Miami, he wants his club to cultivate an ethos that spans the full spectrum of Latin communities.

“I like learning about other cultures,” says Gomez. “You become more open-minded.”

La Caliente, a local Spanish-speaking radio station (105.7 FM, 620 AM), recognized Gomez’s potential and asked him to host a radio program. Although that could have helped him establish a larger voice in the Latin community, he declined because he knew he’d be stretching himself too thin.
“I’m not going to do it if I can’t do it right,” he says.


Donna D. serves up spirits, stories at Rick’s Double T
BY SARA HAVENS

Bartenders are a dime a dozen. Anyone can walk behind a counter, twist off a cap and swap a beer for a few bucks.

It’s rare, then, when pub dwellers cross paths with a true, professional bartender — a bartender who knows what you want before you take a seat; a bartender who can serve five people at the same time; a bartender who isn’t afraid to serve up sass with shots of Beam.

Donna “Donna D.” Kuntz of Rick’s Double T Tavern in Jeffersonville is everything a bartender should be — and more. Along with a lighter (attached to a string at her waist that recoils after she lights your cigarette) and a pen, Donna D. has more than 20 years under her belt as a full-time bartender. She’s certainly made a fine career of it — she single-handedly raised her 15-year-old daughter on tips and wages.

Years of long nights and short naps have left no signs of wear on Donna. With an air of confidence, she stands poised to serve, always ready to hustle to the opposite end of the bar to replace an empty bottle or refill a diminishing rocks glass. Her long blond hair is always a step behind, trailing her abrupt movements, and it bounces back to rest on her shoulders as she stops in front of you to take your order. “Thank you for shopping at Double T’s,” she quips when she hands back change. When she answers the phone, it’s “Rick’s Double T, this be me.”

For someone who is “39 and holding” — a fact she reveals with a wink — Donna D. is in great shape, which she attributes to walking the bar. She recently wore a pedometer and found that in one eight-hour shift, she walked 12 miles. “That’s how I keep this trim figure, I suppose,” she jokes. (Later she revealed she has won the Run for the Rosé three times and is looking for another victory this year.)

There are two reasons drinkers should get to know Donna D. One is for the impeccable drinks she serves up (Bloody Marys and margaritas are a must). The other is for her stories. Donna cut her teeth behind the bar of a legendary and now-defunct Louisville rock club, The Toy Tiger. A conversation on this alone would last through three pitchers of beer. She threw out tidbits on the legends as she supplied spirits: the owner of the Toy Tiger won the club in a poker match; her biggest tip there was $100 from a guy who looked like he was in the mafia; she was there the night Poison’s C.C. Deville got arrested (“He came behind my bar, grabbed a fifth of Jack and ran out to the parking lot and started jumping on people’s cars … it was crazy, I think we’re in one of their videos,” she said).

Donna D. has worked at a handful of other bars along the way, and now enjoys her day shifts at Double T. She attributes her success to being social and separating herself from what she serves: “If you can’t deal with people, you’re in the wrong profession,” she says. “I’m not even a drinker. I’m just a normal goofball.”


Queen of the Castle

BY ELIZABETH KRAMER

On Saturdays around 4 a.m., the White Castle at 105 E. Market St. is “the place to be,” says Darlene Gabehart, who has been a manager and worked many a weekend night there for the past seven years.

The gleaming white building with the trademark crenellated tower at the corner of First and Market streets sits amid several nightclubs, including Petrus, O’Malley’s Corner and The Connection.

At 4 a.m. on almost any Saturday, Gabehart and staff can be found waiting on a host of characters, from the bar-hopping crowd from the neighboring clubs to scantily clad independent businesswomen to homeless people, all looking for those beef cookies loaded with onions, or the best onion rings extant, certainly among the fast-food joints.

When I suggested LEO’s Nightlife Guide should feature a White Castle manager, particularly one from the Market Street location, a few people cautioned me about going there late at night. Others made the obligatory slider/slyder jokes.

Such White Castle folklore, including potentially disparaging remarks about the crowds that patronize this particular location, don’t offend Gabehart. After working for White Castle for 29 years, she’s heard it all.

Share any suspicions about the dubious and eccentric characters she and her staff serve, and she will listen. Then, with a smile, she’ll tell you how kind and fun those same customers are, and she’ll praise the thoughtful and hardworking personalities she has worked with behind the counter — not just on Market Street but at many Louisville-area White Castles, from Outer Loop to New Albany, from Westport Road to Greenwood Road near Dixie Highway. “Everybody’s equal here,” she declares, “whether they are homeless or prostitutes.”

She has plenty of celebrity-sighting stories, many from Derby weeks past. On her list of those she has served are Jamie Foxx, members of Aerosmith, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Jay Z.

“Kid Rock came in the last two years,” she says, arching her eyebrows into her blonde bangs. “He must have dropped at least $700 to feed the whole crowd.”

(Gabehart is quick to point out that the restaurant is “popular at all hours,” with a sizeable lunch crowd that includes lawyers, nurses and other professionals who work  downtown.)

Ask how she handles rude customers, and she talks about how they’ve taught her to effect respect from them by politely asking, in her sweet Southern tone, to quiet down, remove their feet from chairs or pick up their orders — generally to behave.

She says her job is probably easier than those at other fast-food restaurants because she has very little staff turnover. Case in point: She’s managed the same personnel on the night staff for the last four years. “We take a lot of time to give people what they want,” she says.

Her career with America’s oldest fast-food chain (it was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kan.) began just before she got married at 22. She was looking for a job with good pay and benefits (paid holidays, vacations, profit-sharing and health insurance).  A position at the WC Lounge fit the bill.


Helping Café Kilimanjaro hold down the south end of Fourth St.
BY ELIZABETH KRAMER

It’s just before her evening shift as Angelique Lusk flutters around Café Kilimanjaro, consulting with several colleagues about this Fourth Street establishment’s plans to institute new grooves for the dance floor and revise its menu to feature even more international dishes among the standards. She talks of how these changes will fortify Kilimanjaro’s multicultural atmosphere and appeal to an urbane clientele.

The vision is for the restaurant to be a supper club that complements the other venues in the Fourth Street corridor between Chestnut Street and Broadway, such as The Palace and the Kentucky Theater.

She points to the new promotional posters hanging on the walls, a picture of a traditional African woodcarving of a man dressed in various uniforms. In one, he is a chef with a toque on his head, and in another he is a musician with a guitar around his neck.

“The musical focus is on R&B, mild hip hop, reggae, neo-soul and salsa,” she says, then lists a number of DJs she has lined up to score the café’s scene: Wallace Gardner and Friends, who plays jazz and classic R&B with one invited musician accompanying him; DJ Lo-Skie, who mixes R&B, hip hop and jazz; El Dawg, who plays heavier R&B and hip hop; DJ Mase, who spins R&B, jazz and blues; EJ the DJ, who puts out old-school blues; and DJ Ace, whose mix features reggae and hip hop. (The schedule will be posted at www.cafekilimanjaro.com.)

Lusk points out that the latter two are female. “We’re trying to put women in the forefront,” she says.

Then she darts behind the bar to pour drinks for a few customers.
Lusk, 38, has been Café Kilimanjaro’s marketing and promotions assistant since January, soon after she came in to apply for a job as a bartender.
Shedrick Jones Sr., manager of the 13-year-old establishment, says he hired Lusk because she understands the new vision for Café Kilimanjaro. He is especially impressed with the confidence Lusk brings to her job.

“She is mature and disciplined, which in this industry — well, it’s hard to find people like that,” he says. Her maturity shows, he notes, when she’ll admit what she doesn’t know but will quickly research new subjects so she can do a better job.

Although Lusk moved here from New Jersey only a year ago, she had visited many times. She also lived here in short stints after her mother moved to Louisville from the Garden State in 1988 to take a job with Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

During one of those periods she enrolled in classes at the Kentucky School of Bartending. Upon completing her courses, she returned to New Jersey and landed a position as a bouncer at The Limelight, the well-known New York City dance club that made its home in a neo-Gothic church. During the next several years, she also worked as a bouncer at other notable New York clubs, including The Tunnel, the Kit Kat Club and Club Speed.

She found a posting for the position at Café Kilimanjaro after finishing one of the bartending school’s refresher courses. The job appealed to her because, as a customer, she always liked coming to Café Kilimanjaro. The same day she interviewed for the bartending job, Jones called her and offered her the marketing and promotions assistant position. He’s still pleased with his decision.

“She’s going to make it work,” Jones predicts.


She gave him fever, and he turned out to be Mr. Wright
BY ELIZABETH KRAMER

In 1996, Clare Schmitt was a regular at Bobby J’s Club Cafe, drummer and singer Bobby Johnson’s jazz and supper club on Bardstown Road. She had gotten to know Johnson a bit, and having developed some chops of her own, one night she asked if she could sing a few numbers with the house band, Bobby J and the Flying Martinis.

Johnson obliged. One of her favorite songs opened with a steady bass line, which gave her the chance to flirt with the audience. She sang it in a slightly raspy but strong voice.
 
Never know how much I love you.
Never know how much I care.
When you put your arms around me,
I give you fever that’s so hard to bear.

One of the bartenders on duty that night heard the amateur siren sing Peggy Lee’s sultry classic, “Fever,” and he was completely taken. “What would it take to get a girl like that,” he wondered to himself.

Bobby J’s closed in 1999, and Schmitt never pursued a singing career. She did continue in the service industry, however, working as a flight attendant for Pace Airlines and as a server at De la Torre’s, 211 Clover Lane, Baxter Station and the former Timothy’s restaurant on Broadway.

Last March, Schmitt took on a new gig as a bartender at the BLU Bar, part of the Marriott Louisville Downtown’s BLU Italian Mediterranean Grille. During a two-week training session before the hotel opened, she met her future colleagues, including Lyle Wright, a bartender at Champions Sports Bar & Grill, which is also part of the hotel complex.

In the ensuing weeks, the two got into the customary conversation about where they had worked over the years. Wright’s resume included the old Brasserie Dietrich and a few Bobby Johnson ventures, including his Mediterranean-style supper club, Steam, which presented jazz music from 2002-2004, and its precursor — Bobby J’s.

Schmitt, a tall redhead, recounted the one time she sang with Bobby J and the Flying Martinis.

“Oh, my God,” he exclaimed. “I remember you.”
The mutual attraction that started out strong grew as they found they had common interests, including music.

Finally, on the Thursday night of Derby Week 2005, they had their first date. They went to Seidenfaden’s Tavern for a few drinks after work, and talked until dawn.

“And within about two weeks we were like, ‘We have to get married,’” she says.
Because they were co-workers, they tried to keep the attraction secret. It wasn’t easy. So they developed a routine: BLU and Champion’s each have their own stemware, so whenever a bartender found a style that didn’t belong in his or her bar, a trip was required to the neighboring bar. Flirting, of course, would ensue.

“Lyle was so obvious, and I kept telling him, ‘Be kind of sly, man,’” she says.

By mid-summer, their secret was out and they told their family and co-workers about their plans to marry.

“We just wanted to be together and it seemed like the right thing to do,” Wright says.

Two days before their Nov. 19 wedding, Schmitt reprise her version of “Fever” on Wright’s behalf, with backing from Hickory and Friends, BLU Bar’s regular Thursday night band.

Clare still bartends at the BLU Bar, while Lyle has taken a job as a server with Primo, the new restaurant on Market Street. Although they no longer work together, they still have similar schedules.

“What really matters is the time we spend together,” Lyle says.
Most nights, Lyle comes to the BLU Bar in the hours before Clare gets off work. Some nights, you can catch her singing “Fever” with the band. Lyle usually has a big smile spread across his face.
 
Fever
Till you sizzlin’
But what a lovely way to burn.