June 26th, 2013
There are few jobs as important — and yet unappreciated — in Clubland as the barback.
In a perfect world, they're barely seen, much less heard. They usually don't interact with customers, other than to inform them they can't make a cocktail or grab a beer. That's the bartender's job.
When they're not schlepping a bucket of ice or restocking six-packs of beer, they're cleaning up spilled drinks (or worse!) and making sure there are enough lime wedges available for the bottles of Corona you and your friends just ordered.
I paid my dues as a barback in Southern California, doing that job as a college student at USC before getting promoted to bartender (and later bar manager). I learned quick that preparation was key, as was knowing my specific role and being able to execute when it came time to get the job done.
That's why I love the premise of The Republik's first annual "Iron Barback Challenge," which follows in the footsteps of the recently resurrected "Iron Bartender" competition at the club. With support from Bacardi Oakheart, six finalists advanced through three weeks of preliminary competition for a shot at a $1,000 first prize.
» Johnny Barnes (V-Lounge)
» Mike Bostick (Bar 35)
» Haili Conn (Duke's Waikiki)
» Bryce Matsuoka (Rakuen)
» Kona Ravey (M Nightclub)
» Will Richardson (Murphy's Bar & Grill)
Under the watchful eye of judges Jesse Greenleaf, Duke's Waikiki bartender and co-author of "The Cocktail Handbook," current "Iron Bartender" champion Justin Park and Young's Market Co. of Hawaii's Maria Burke, the six finalists took part in a series of head-to-head challenges that tested their abilities to do things like carry ice and drinks, count money, prepare fruit for service and more.
In the end, it was Bar 35's Mike Bostick who won the $1,000 cash prize plus a pair of custom Nike sneakers and Stance socks. And judging by the response the inaugural competition has received, it's a good bet Bostick will be invited back to defend his newly-acquired title in 2014.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Google+.