Behind the Bar: Sean Hughes
Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th Street NW
How did you get started in the bartending business?
Aside from changing kegs and mixing horrendous concoctions at college, I got started in the hospitality industry when I came back from college in 1999 as a server. I was only 20 at the time, so I wasn’t old enough to bartend yet. But I took every opportunity to barback and help out the bartenders so I could study and learn about tending bar. I enjoy making people laugh and having a good time. I’ve been behind the bar for about 15 years now and worked in some of the busiest bars in the DC area. I’ve definitely evolved as a bartender and I’m enjoying it more now than I have from when I first started.
What is your biggest bartender pet peeve?
I think we as bartenders have very similar “pet peeves”, i.e. impatient, pushy, bossy, indecisive, just plain rude people. One of my biggest now, I guess, would have to be cell phones. Everyone is always on them – there’s no more human interaction. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind taking your picture, but when I’m slammed don’t get upset because it could take me a second to get to that. And the bar has become a charging station because everyone has to stay connected. So there are cords everywhere and you gotta be careful not to get a phone wet while were serving lots and lots of beverages. Look around folks….there are people….go connect in person. We’re here to serve you the stuff to give you the courage to do it.
What is the cleverest line anyone has used to get a free drink from you?
I’ve probably heard and seen just about anything people will do for free shots. Those tricks don’t really work. Being a fun, easy going guest goes a long way. And throwing a little coin my way doesn’t hurt either.
What is the best/worst pick up line you have heard?
I’ve heard many, many pick up lines in my days. The ones that worked the best were the ones that involved boats. There’s something about women and boats. I worked at a waterfront bar for about 6 years and man do ladies love the boats.
Tell us about an interesting encounter you have had with a customer(s).
I’ve met some interesting folks in the business. I’ve served some pretty important people. I appreciate all my guests, but the people I’ve worked with over the years are those I’ve had my best encounters with. There are too many to name and not one is more important than the other. They are what made me the man I am today.
If you could sit down with anyone in the world, past or present, and have a cocktail, who would it be?
I know this is fictional, but if I could have a drink with anyone it would be a tie between Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. It may be childish and silly but it would be a hell of a time.
When you go visit Sean at the Old Ebbitt you will have to inquire about him upon your arrival. He works at all of the different bars in the restaurant and his schedule varies! When we were at the OE to take his photo, he was awarded “Rooky of the Year” at the restaurant – quite a nice bit of recognition!
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