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An Early Look At The Park

The Park's Beginnings
 
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The Park at Fourteenth won’t officially open until mid-November, but proprietor Dirk van Stockum rolled out the red carpet Tuesday night and gave an invitation-only crowd an early peek at his new restaurant and nightspot overlooking Franklin Square.

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Van Stockum ran the popular DC nightclubs Fifth Column and Club Zei. He returns to the area after stints in New York, Miami, and most recently Las Vegas, where he served as marketing director for Tao, a massive Asian-themed bistro-lounge in the Venetian. He’s now the frontman for the Park, which is co-owned by promoter Masoud A.—who also owns Lima, the Nuevo-Latino-themed lounge just across K Street—and Marc Barnes of the Northeast DC mega-club Love.

DC’s restaurant/club hybrids—such as neighbors Lima and 14K—usually don’t get many accolades for their food, but the Park is attempting to break the mold. Van Stockum dedicated two floors to dining and hired two executive chefs to oversee and execute the menu—which they’re still tweaking. Expect “creative American classics” like tomato soup with a crouton of grilled artisan cheese and a duo of short ribs, barbecue-style and classically braised.

On Tuesday, the well-dressed crowd included billionaire Microstrategy CEO Michael Saylor, socialite blogger Pamela Sorensen, and former congressman and NBA player Tom McMillen, who walked the red carpet into the elegant four-story space, done up with dark wood, leather banquettes, and glass-blown chandeliers. Each level offered one of the Park’s signature cocktails, all named after former First Ladies. The tongue-in-cheek Betty was a sweet but strong concoction of Belvedere, Champagne, pomegranate juice, and agave nectar. We preferred the simple, classic Jackie O—a Plymouth gin martini with fresh lemon juice and sage.

Passed hors d’oeuvres were hard to come by, but the bites we managed to snag were tasty enough, especially spice-rubbed salmon over tiny rounds of cornbread and meaty drumsticks of jerk chicken. The Caribbean accents come from co-executive chef Lois Spencer, who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and previously oversaw the kitchen at Love. The other half of the Park’s cooking team is James Balster, an alum of several Washington kitchens, including 15 Ria and the Beacon Bar and Grill.

The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner on the Park’s first two floors—prime spots are on the ground level in view of the open kitchen. Upstairs will stay quiet until nightlife hours Wednesday through Saturday, when the lounge will feature DJs and offer bottle service to high-rollers in addition to four bars.

By Sara Levine | November 1, 2007

Washington Post - Link to Original Article

 

  
 

D.C.'s Hottest Bartender

Bartender Wisdom: 'Don't Hit on a Girl and Not Tip'

Matty Espichan, 25

Head Bartender, D.C.'s "Hottest Female Bartender," and official "Fever mixologist"

The Park at Fourteenth

Washington, D.C.

It's "hottest." It's really embarrassing, but yes, it's hottest. I have been put in context where I've been best, but I think the majority of the people always relate me to that embarrassing On Tap cover.

That was in 2009. People still come up to me, and they're like, "I saw you — you're that girl from that magazine." And I'm like, Yeah. It's flattering. I'm flattered. I'll take any positive recognition. I'd rather be the hottest bartender than the worst bartender.

It's always been Matty. People nickname me all the time: Matilda, or Matts, Matt. They always want to give me any other name than Matty, but it is just Matty. I was born that way. Who sings that song? Is it Lady Gaga or something?

I'm pretty convinced that my dad wanted another son.

I wake up to ESPN. I'd rather go to a basketball game than go to the mall, or something like that. I mean, I love shopping — don't get me wrong — but I'll jump at any opportunity to watch any sporting activity.

Let's be real. I think a lot of guys come to a bar, and initially, when they see an attractive bartender, they want a shot. They want to hit on her. They want to get in her pants, whatever the case may be. But once they realize, she's a cool chick, she can hang with the guys, she can actually talk to you about stuff — she's not stupid — that's what keep men, in particular, coming back. But not even just men. Women, too.

I think everyone has a bad day. And everyone's entitled to a bad day.

I don't take it personally. I just do my job. Here's your drink, I'll take the money, make the transaction. If they want to talk, cool. If they don't want to talk, I'll give them respect.

A large part of it is the liquid courage. After a few drinks, everybody wants to talk. You always hear that story about an introvert coming to the club, and they're the life of the party. Alcohol enables people to open up about things that they normally wouldn't open up about in their everyday lives. It's an escape. A sanctuary.

What's the phrase? I wear my emotions on my sleeve. People always laugh — I have the craziest facial expressions. If something's weird to me, you're going to know it's weird from my face. But in the business I'm in, if a guest is telling you something, they don't want you to think they're weird. You just have to sit there and be like, "Oh yeah." And agree with them. I just nod my head and smile.

I think my smile saves me a lot of the time.

If you ask for my opinion, I'm going to give it to you. I'm a very straightforward person. If you come to me with a problem, and you ask what you should do, I'm going to tell you what I think you should do.

Any worst twenty-first birthday is when someone throws up on your bar. That's the worst.

On Saturday nights at my bar, people always chant my name. My bar has so many regulars that consistently come in — it's a very fun night at the bar. And people can tell when I'm busy, so the busier I get, people start chanting my name. The fact that you're 21, and you just had three shots, and you still remember my name — I'm impressed.

The cornier the name, the worse the drink.

People automatically assume that men tip the best. I think, to a certain extent, they absolutely do. For a female bartender. But I have women regulars that tip me fifty, sixty, seventy percent tips consistently. They'll come to me, and they will only come to me.

Do men tip a hot girl? Yes, they do. Do a lot of men not tip a hot girl? Yes, it happens. A lot. And those are the worst men ever. I'd just like to say that to everybody.

Don't hit on a girl and not tip her, P.S. I think that needs to be a public service announcement. You do not hit on a bartender and then not give her 20 percent. You're not going to get her number.

The guy that won On Tap's hottest male bartender works on my floor. We're best friends.

I'm so lame outside of work. People think I'm so cool in the club. No, I'm lame as shit outside of work. I work at a club, so I try to stay out of the club. I'm very family-oriented. I'm actually kind of low-key. Don't get me wrong, I will go out, and I will go out hard. But that happens, like, once a month.

I'm not being biased. We are the best.

MAY 6, 2011

Esquire Interview - Link to Original Article

Meet Jessie Barnes

 Jessie Barnes grew up in bars and clubs. Mind you, she wasn't sneaking in to party or get her first taste of alcohol. Her father Marc Barnes, owner of Love and The Park on 14th, was once known as the king of D.C's clubs. His daughter became a fixture at these hotspots, working and learning the ropes so she could excel in her family business.

That insider knowledge and experience led to her role on the Spike TV show "Bar Rescue." The makeover program takes failing bars and uses industry experts to turn them around. Barnes was hired on as the service expert. She's been featured in a handful of episodes, and the third season begins airing next month.

When exactly did you start working in nightlife?

I started working with my parents as soon as I could. So whether it was coat check, busing tables, or working in the kitchen learning to [expodite], I began learning early. I think I was 8. My parents never sheltered me from the nightlife. And because of that I think it became much more business-oriented for me. I saw the bad side, but then I saw the good side. Since I know it so well and it is such a fun business, I learned to love working in nightlife.

How did the show come about?

They were filming in Silver Spring, the episode about Piratz Tavern — one of the highest rated episodes ever — and they needed someone to train the pirates on service. So they reached out to me, because they knew of The Park. Jon Taffer is the president of the Nightclub & Bar Convention. They do things like rate nightclubs. They have lists that come out like highest grossing nightclubs. So The Park ranked very high on that list, especially for a D.C. club, which made them reach out to us. And it went from there. We did one episode. A great relationship developed and I've done a bunch more episodes since then.

When they called you up at The Park, what were you doing?

Mostly hands-on managing and front of the house. And I still do that but I'm also working on the brand as a whole — expanding, evolving it. I also do some consulting in the DC area. At the end of the day, each new place you go into – whether it's great or terrible – you learn so much and you can bring back that knowledge.

So what's it been like for you being on "Bar Rescue?"

A lot of fun. Every single bar is so different. Sometimes you go in and the people don't want to to change. The first episode I did in Silver Spring at Piratz, it was almost a slap in the face. We felt like, "Didn't they even care?" We were there to help them. And we really did a good job. Yet they turned it back into a pirate bar right after we left. I talked to Jon about that one and he says he can barely watch it because they were so rude and ungrateful. It was a bit upsetting. The most recent one I did in North Carolina, on the other hand, the girls were great, very sweet. The guy who opened the bar has another business and just wanted to open a nightclub. I think that's what happens a lot. People think it's just fun and easy to open a bar, which is the farthest thing from the truth. I think it's one of the hardest types of businesses to open and run. It takes a lot of work and if you're not personally invested in it or you don't know what you're doing it's really hard.

What's been the worst bar you've helped to turn around?

There was one in Austin. It was recently aired. That (HeadHunters Club) was the most disgusting bar I've ever seen in my life. We were filming and there were literally cockroaches at my feet. That was not so much fun. But the renovation was great, and we set them up for success. The owner was just terrible. I'm not really sure how that one will turn out. The staff was great though. A lot of times the staff will be great, but if the owner's not on board then it's very hard to get everyone going in the same direction.

For each episode, how much time do you have to put in?

Anywhere between one and two weeks. It's long filming hours, 12 to 16 hour days. But we have to turn it around very quickly. With the renovations they usually do it in 24 hours and work straight through the night. It's crazy. A lot of these renovations would normally take four months in real life, but they're turning it around in a fraction of that time.

What does the audience not get to see?

We film for hours and hours and then cut it down to a one hour show. I think a lot of the training that gets done on the show. It's shown quickly but we go over and over and over it. 

There's also a lot of effort behind the scenes that happens to make sure these places are successful. I think all of us who are involved in the show are very committed to making sure we don't just do this for TV. At the end of the day, these are people's livelihoods that we're talking about. It's not like walking in there and trying to make good TV. 

People think reality show and they wonder if it's real. And a lot of the shows, they probably aren't. But this one's very real. There's not a lot we can fake about this. Trust me; there's enough conflict at these failing places that we don't have to fake anything.

Jon Taffer is a strong personality and a colorful character and he's portrayed on the show yelling quite a bit. What's he really like?

You know, I get asked about Jon all the time. The first thing I say is he's nothing compared to my Dad. Number two, Jon is — and maybe it's because of my family background — but when we're at work, we're at work. It's about getting things done. It's not about sugar coating things. He's not just yelling for the cameras. He's yelling to get a point across to move things forward and make them better. We only have a certain amount of days to turn a business around. There's no time to sugar coat. He has to let them know they messed up. It's not a joke. 

People say, "He's so mean." And I'd rather, if I'm a failing business and $200,000 in debt, have someone come in and be mean and fix my business than come in and be nice and not do anything. That's what it comes down to.

Working with him, though, is great. He also has a ton of experience. He has literally been in this business for 50 years, so he has a story for everything. He has run everything from super high-end nightclubs to corporate chains like Rainforest Café. You don't necessarily see him as being a corporate guy, but some of those chains have the formula so down. I learn so much. And honestly he's a really nice guy off camera, really intelligent and super genuine.

Are there ever bars incapable of being rescued?

We have yet to come across one, let me put it that way. The roach one was close – because they ended up having to debug the whole place and bring in exterminators. We couldn't go back in right away because it had to be aired out. There was power washing inside the building and the wood was rotting. It was so terrible. There were times when I thought "Can we quit this one." But we ended up getting through it.

So, no, no unrescuable bars yet. But we'll see.

There are updates at the end of the show, usually letting the audience know how the bar's doing a few weeks later. But do you check back longer term than that?

Yes. They check back usually around the 2 month two point. With Tracy from the pirate bar, Jon has no interest in keeping up with her. But we keep in touch with most everyone else. Sometimes I'll get emails from the girls I've trained asking certain questions — we ran into this problem or that, can you suggest something. I always leave my contact information, and often I'll become friends with people I train.

Do people recognize you now from the show?

They'll stare and then sometimes they'll say something. It's usually the day after the show airs. It's a little embarrassing, but they're nice about it.

You're in some of the episodes, but not all since the producers switch off which experts to bring in each time. How far in advance do they tell you they want you to be in an episode?

Sometimes it's a few weeks before, sometimes a month. It depends. The original format was a bartender, a mixologist, and a chef. And I was the first time they brought in a service expert. Since then, they've brought in DJs and other experts. It all is based on the venue and what they need. They brought in a security expert one time, a karaoke expert. I'll be asked to come in if it's a nightclub where they're more focused on service.

Do you go in cold, or are you told anything about the bar in advance?

We pretty much go in cold. I think they like the reactions. I don't like to be prepped for it necessarily. The training is going to be similar, tailored to the place a little obviously, but the basics are across the board. I kind of get there and I don't get to go into the place until it's on camera. So when you see us going in the first time it really is the first time we get to see it. When we're outside sitting and watching the recon we're really sitting outside watching and waiting. It's pretty much real time.

New episodes air next month. What can viewers expect?

The cool part is I get to hear about the episodes I'm not in. I can't give away too much, but it's going to be good. I don't know if the renovation budget has gotten bigger or they've gotten more creative but the renovations are much more drastic, a much bigger contrast. Now they really have it down, and that renovation is getting faster and faster, so they're getting more creative.

One they took this really janky bar and by the end you felt like you were in Vegas. But we were in Raleigh.

Any D.C. area bars that are going to be rescued?

We have the next 25 identified and none are in D.C. But you never know. Maybe down the line. I can imagine some bars that need rescuing?But I won't name names.

—Dena Levitz

Washington DC Eater - Link to Original Article

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