Micky Valens | NIGHT OWLS | Issue 2
In this nightlife series, I’ll be primarily highlighting the individuals who are up until the break of dawn busting their ass to make us drinks, play us music, protect us from violence, and everything in between.
Most recently awarded the Best Bartending Personality at the Golden Owl Hospitality Awards, this month’s Night Owl is Tommy Grier. You can catch him a whopping 5-6 days out of the week at Republic, dishing out booze left right and centre while sporting the most contagious smile. Here is a snapshot of life behind the stick at one of our city’s busiest nightclubs.
How long you been in the game, brotha?
4 of the best years of my entire life.
What was your first gig?
Bartending at the Granville Warehouse <3
When did you realize this is what you wanted to do full-time?
Initially I moved to Vancouver from Calgary to pursue a degree in Video Game Design. I graduated from The Art Institute, and got a job at a startup making Facebook games (shoutout dimeRocker!). Even though the company was great, I quickly realized that Game Design was not for me, and overtime I became depressed. I was living in a new city, with few friends, massive student debt, and working at a job I didn’t enjoy. So I did what any 24 year old does and started going to bars. One of the first bars I went to was The Warehouse. Immediately I was hooked. The culture, the people, the music, the lifestyle. They treated every single person equally. That is the most important lesson I’ve learned that has stuck with me. I would show up alone, which forced me to be outgoing and make friends, and most of those friends ended up being staff. Eventually my good friends Barry Stanford and Brandon Halverson offered to train me to bartend, and Jeff Lockwood (GM) took a chance in hiring me. From the moment I stepped behind the bar, I knew that the service industry was where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
Most memorable moment you’ve ever experienced while working?
That I can talk about haha? Every night in this industry has the potential to be memorable, and almost every night I work I leave with a new memory to enjoy. Here’s a quick few though: Blowing my first fireball, riding a beer cooler down the big stairs at Alexander, my Chicken & Liquor birthday bash, meeting my best buddy Cam, my speech on the bar at the Granville Warehouse 10 year anniversary, stripping to my underwear for a bachelor auction, and every damn shift at Republic. It is truly remarkable what people think they get away with at a nightclub. We need David Attenborough to narrate.
What part of your job/day-to-day life is awesome?
The balance man! Being able to wake up in the morning and have a full day with my dogs and my beautiful girlfriend Katie, then heading to a job I love is incredible. Bartending requires you to be in a positive mindset 100% of the time; being able to produce that happiness during the day and then share those emotions with other customers is the greatest feeling in the world.
What part of your job/day-to-day life is the toughest?
It’s an unfortunate reality, but keeping your personal drinking habits in check is extremely difficult when you are in this industry. “Going out for one drink” is a laughable war cry for getting shitfaced. Drinking is a very peer pressure intensive activity, and being able to say no and try to live a life that does not revolve around drinking (even though it is my job to revolve other people’s lives around drinking) is something that takes a lot of work.
What was going through your head when they were about to announce the Best Bartending Personality at the GO awards?
My dad encouraged me to put the award ceremony on Facebook Live. I get very awkward when people give me praise for something I am so passionate about, so I just sat there in silence with my head down and my eyes closed. I’m glad it went my way, but to even be mentioned in the same category as some of the other bartenders nominated is absolutely insanity! Like Alex Black! He’s a god!
Advice to any newcomers to the game?
Be fucking humble. We get paid more than most school teachers to do something that takes no formal training, has extremely flexible hours, and connects us into the social framework of a city in a way that not many other jobs can. Appreciate that.
You can catch Tommy at Republic on 958 Granville Tuesday-Sunday.