One of Pioneer Bar's almost-perfect bartenders has departed — but he didn't go far.
You can now find Conan Dolezal at Club Oasis, a three-tiered party palace generating increasing buzz since the recent start of its massive overhaul. The basement is a dance club, the ground floor a showcase for bands, the top floor a mellow sporty spread.
It's pretty much the opposite of Pio, an established downtown watering hole that rarely books bands or stages come-hither gimmicks — basically because it can. Pioneer is packed every weekend.
Ironically, that's sort of why Dolezal left.
"It didn't need me anymore," he said. "That was a big risk for me to change jobs. It was hard. It was an emotional decision. I was there for almost seven years. But I didn't leave because I don't love the Pio. I left for opportunity."
His departure has made news in club-hopping circles. He's one of those well-known bartenders who's recognized by his first name alone. I bounced over to Club O to chat about the job change:
Q. Why work at Club Oasis?
A. At Pioneer, you just open the door and people show up. So this was exciting for me, to try something completely different. This place is not reliant on foot traffic. It's all about promotions and events. I love the (bands) they have here. Music has always been something I've dreamed about being involved in. If I was to have my own place ever, it would have to have a stage with music.
So (Club O) was exciting to me, to try something completely different. Sometimes you have to step up to see what you've got.
Q. So are bartenders like hairdressers? Will loyal clients follow you?
A. Absolutely. Because going to bars, it isn't just about drinking. You can go to the liquor store and get your buzz. Bars are about atmosphere, socializing, and people like it when they walk in and you know their name. When you’re a bartender, the drink is just one of the things you offer. Anybody can pour a drink.
Q. What’s the biggest tip you ever got from a single customer?
A. One night we had Scott Gomez come into the Pioneer. It was like 2:15 a.m. He bought 75 shots of Jäger(meister). We had them poured, drank, and everybody out in 20 minutes, on time. We were pouring Jäger into shot glasses, pint glasses, pitchers, whatever we could find. When Scott left, he tipped 100 percent. And the bill was like $400.
Q. What bar do you hang out at when you aren't working?
A. I don't go out. I hang out with my son, Blaize. That's fun for me. Otherwise, I really don't tend to get out much.
Q. How many customers do you think you knew by name by the time you left Pio?
A. Tons over the years. The Pio has cycled where you know less and less on the Friday and Saturday nights. But it's always been a regulars' place.
Q. You told me once that you remember people by their drink orders. True?
A. Oh yes, that's true. That’s the Jack and Coke girl, that guy over there is the Bud Light guy. At the end of the night, we'd all talk like that. "Hey, did you catch the crazy Coors Light guy?"
Q. The Pio crew seems to get along so well. Was it hard to leave?
A. We are really close. We would all go hang out at someone's house after a shift and unwind. We do stuff together in our spare time. So that was the hardest thing, to leave the family. I love those guys. I miss those guys.
Q. If people want to see you, when should they pop by?
A. I'll be bartending Friday to Monday for a while, working after 9 p.m.
Q. What's your biggest goal now?
A. To create a new establishment, give it a new touch. Anchorage needs something new, and I'd like to be a part of creating it.
A. Ha, that's a funny question. I'll say, Conan the Bartender.
-- by Katie Pesznecker