Teri Porter is a spitfire and a whirlwind of energy. This is only the second time I’ve met her, and I can already see this clearly. As I conduct our interview, Teri answers the phone about five times, prints up tabs, and greets a customer. Such is the life for the manager of The Distillery, a Midtown Sacramento bar and restaurant. But I have a feeling there’s no where else she would rather be than behind the bar, making people right at home.
Teri, how long have you been in the bar industry?
A long time?
I’ll be 55 in August; subtract it out, that’s your answer. Thirty-what? Four? 34 years.
Bar Patron #1: Holy Moley.
I’ve been here for 15.
OK, I was going to say how’d you first get…
I was working at Birdcage Bowling Alley, it’s no longer there anymore, and in Sales, they were looking for somebody down here. And the salesman, my liquor salesman, who’s the same one from here, sent me down here, and I’ve been down here ever since. I don’t know whether to kill him or thank him. (laughs)
What does it takes to make a bar survive in these times, and just make it?
Good drinks. Good service.
Good personality. (phone rings) Let me finish, (laughs, takes phone call).
So what do you know about the history of the place? I know it goes back to ’64.
It was called Pink Slip. Ronnie’s had it 48 years. His father had it. And it was Pink Slip for I don’t know how many years. You’d have to talk to Ron about that.
Okay, okay. Me and my friends always come here; we like The Distillery because it’s really relaxed. What does it take to create that, like, in a bar? Is it the patrons, the staff, what are all the factors that go into that?
Well, you know it’s also a restaurant, and they’re famous for their food here. The half and half sandwiches, okay? It’s a half French dip, half steak sandwich.
So they kinda have something different?
Mostly, that’s what a lot of people know it by. If not, they don’t distill their own beer, which everybody thinks they do. They don’t. (laughs) I mean, it takes a lot. You have to be consistent with it for a long time. It’s always been a friendly atmosphere. And it’s a local place, and people always like local pubs.
You know, It’s not a chain, it’s not a foofy place.
This is it, take it or leave it. (laughs)
Okay, give me thirty seconds. (attends to some business)
Okay, you might have already answered part of this. What—If somebody asked you, “Hey, why should I go to The Distillery? What makes The Distillery the very best bar in the whole Sacramento region?”
’Cause we’re here. (motions to the bar patrons)
Am I right?
Yeah. I like that very much. Awesome. Okay. And finally, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in your whole time in the bar industry?
Bar Patron #2: Don’t say me.
No need to name names.
Man, I have to think about that. Hi there. (greets customer) How are you?
Bar Patron #3: Yeah, I’m looking for a bartender named Teri.
She’s that way. (points towards back, smiles, takes order)
(back to interview) Let me think about that for a minute. Like when I was swinging from the rafters at the Black Angus. They wouldn’t say nothing to me because I worked there.
Bar Patron #1: Well, besides the crazy people that just wander through here and cuss at the customers?
That just randomly come through here?
We got all the nutcases that come through here.
Bar Patron #1: Occasionally they’ll come through.
Like that crazy woman that came through here last week, got thrown out of St. Francis. She was whack, man.
Bar Patron #1: We kick ’em out every once in a while.
Bar Patron #2: You ever been robbed here?
I haven’t, no. One of the other gals was, thank God I wasn’t here. Never came back. Hey Ronnie. (greets owner, and introduces me to him)
(to Ron) What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened here? Don’t blame it on me.
Ron: Hell, I don’t know. (everyone laughs)
Bar Patron #1 (to Ron): We’re talking about the crazy people that come in.
I’m trying to think. Stupidest, craziest, nuttiest?
Any. Any of those. Just a good story.
Bar Patron #1: I think the weirdest part is when we get bands and people leave their pants here, like jeans.
People actually leave jeans here?
We had a pair of jeans here for months! Finally we just gave them away.
Bar Patron #1: They were wearing them in the first place, and what they were wearing when they left?
That’s a pretty good story.
I like that one.
Use that one. I can’t think of one right now.
I will use that one. Well, thank you very much for your time. Can we do this again, down the road, whatever, a few months down the road?
Come on down anytime, okay? All right young man?