Austin’s Saloon & Eatery toasts to guest bartenders
BY KATLYN SMITH firstname.lastname@example.org | @Katlyn_eSmith October 16, 2013 3:28PM
Mayor Terry Weppler and local business owners wil step behind the bar at Austin’s Saloon & Eatery from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 and on a handful of subsequent Fridays this fall. A portion of the proceeds from sales will support each bartender’s charity of choice. | Courtesy of Austin's Saloon & Eatery
at Austin’s Saloon & Eatery
When: 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays in October and November
Where: 481 Peterson Road, Libertyville
Info: (847) 549-1972 or austinsaloon.com
Social Media: Facebook.com/Austinsfuelroom
Updated: November 18, 2013 7:39AM
Call it a public forum with a bubbly twist.
Politicians, former and past, will walk into a Libertyville bar and — no joke coming here — roll up their sleeves so they can respond to a stream of citizen requests.
For this event, locals will finally get the chance to ask their elected officials an important question (at least on a Friday night):
“Can you pour me a cold one?”
Mayor Terry Weppler will do just that when he steps behind the bar at Austin’s Saloon & Eatery from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18.
Weppler is one of a handful of guest bartenders lined up for three-hour stints.
They’ll concoct beverages, maybe even perform some tricks made famous by Tom Cruise in the ’80s film “Cocktail.”
“That’s the kind of freedom we’re giving them,” says Gregg Kalble, Austin’s veteran bar manager.
Why? Because who doesn’t want to see leaders toss bottles and juggle orders.
But it’s more than a show.
A portion of the proceeds from sales will support each bartender’s charity of choice. In Weppler’s case, the Libertyville Township Food Pantry.
“I know the tremendous needs we have right now for these services,” Weppler said.
The pantry relies on cash and food donations, as well as volunteers, to meet the demands of serving 430 households a year, a figure that’s grown over the years in tight economic times.
Weppler has never been a bartender. But he’s no straight-laced mayor, either.
For a parade in Libertyville Days, a marquee summer festival, Weppler has donned a shiny helmet and shovel for “Horse Patrol.” Translation: picking up horse poop.
If there’s anything he knows about bartending, it’s pour fast.
“The happiest customer is the one who gets served quickly,” Weppler said.
Other appearances are set for Fridays this month and November, including former Mayor Duane Laska, business owners and a doctor.
The trash-talking is already brewing. Bartenders are competing to see who raises the most money for their causes.
“He said he’s going to blow me away,” Weppler said of Laska. “We’ll see.”
Austin’s owner, Mark Khayat, hatched the inaugural event after looking for informal networking opportunities.
“It’s a great way to interact with people,” Khayat said. “Just the feeling of being on that other side of the bar and facing them that way — it’s a fun atmosphere.”
He expects it to raise Austin’s profile, with guest bartenders bringing their families and friends to cheer them on. Staff members estimate as many as 60 new customers could show up alongside regulars.
Seasoned bartenders will give the novices basic training and help them learn an extensive wine and beer menu. Austin’s crew also will be on hand when the guests take on their shifts.
Kalble, the bar manager for 16 years, has some advice.
Be a good talker. Steer clear of religion. And keep an open ear.
“Anybody can pour, but it takes a professional to hold an intelligent conversation,” the Mundelein man said.
Austin’s, a popular joint that also hosts concerts and other entertainment in a venue called the Fuel Room, hopes to draw a regular rotation of guest bartenders.
The staff is planning some specials, but they’re tight-lipped about new recipes.
Each bartender may end up with a namesake drink, Khayat hinted.
“We’ve got a couple of things that we’ve been mixing up,” he said.