By Katie Cracchiolo
Glasses clink, liquid splatters on the floor, and laughter erupts through the room as Jerry Leach serves up a whiskey coke at Sam Bond’s Garage. This is a typical night in one of the Whiteaker’s most well known bars, that includes food, booze, music, and an unforgettable crowd.
A 2012 University of Oregon graduate, Leach has been working at Sam Bond’s since 2008 and has had quite the run. “I’ve heard people call this place everybody’s living room, and that’s really what it is,” he said. The customers seem to agree as they all get cozy and prepare for the evening’s band to start playing. Leach can’t stress enough that this bar is home to a family. “The best part about my job is the social element,” said Leach, “I get to see a lot of people that I actually like, and then give them beer! It doesn’t get much better than that.”
While Leach regularly gets to enjoy his friends at work, being a bartender comes with its own set of expectations and rules. In addition to preparing drinks, a bartender needs to be able to socialize and interact with customers and know when it’s time for someone to call it a night. While Leach isn’t employed as a bouncer he says that it comes with the territory, “Every one of us needs to be able to take on that role.” He remembers a man who once came into the bar wearing a trench coat. It being Eugene, Oregon and likely raining Leach didn’t think much of it. Though shortly after the man entered the bar he took off his coat, wearing only a pair of jeans, and proceeded to jump up onto the stage and start playing a saxophone that belonged to the band. Leach approached the man, “Come here,” he said, and took him outside. “First thing, you’re not wearing shoes or a shirt and second…” Before Leach could finish his sentence the man had completely exposed himself. “So I threw him out,” said Leach, “and everybody applauded. So, yeah… That kind of thing does happen in real life.”
Marie Cave, one of Leach’s coworkers witnessed many of these moments with Leach. “It’s great being able to laugh about this kind of stuff with other bartenders and customers when it happens,” she said. She recalls a night when an older man came in wondering what he had to do to “get a drink around here.” The woman sitting next to him at the bar jokingly told him to strip down to nothing. Unfortunately for Cave and Leach, this man took her seriously and had to be escorted out. Cave consistently shares three or four shifts with leach every week. “He’s interacts so well with the customers. Just goes about his business and listens to them,” she said. “he’s a great therapist for a lot of people, and really helpful to the rest of the bartenders in awkward situations.”
Throughout the evening, Leach mixes drinks and socializes with the customers. As time passed, he became more of a therapist than a bartender. “Its all about understanding the customer,” he said. In one night Leach will hear the ups and downs in someone’s life multiple times. He pours the drink and then listens intently as the customer gives him a play-by-play on life. Being a bartender is, “remarkably chaotic. It takes a lot of patience and empathy,” he said. “You need to understand where other people are coming from in order to understand how to wait on them or whether or not you want to let them stay and continue to drink.”
One of the toughest things a bartender faces on any given night is having to cut somebody off. It doesn’t always end well for the customer or the bartender. Leach considers himself lucky because he rarely has to cut people off, “Our customer base is pretty well behaved.”
Leach loves his job and enjoys his customers. That’s really all a bartender could ask for. “I started in coffee, and transitioned into bar-tending,” he said. He doesn’t anticipate staying at Sam Bond’s long term, but made it clear that for now he is happy and wants to continue to be a part of the Whiteaker family.