Bartenders offer more than drinks

Published 12:16 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Candice Brashier might as well work at Cheers — a place where everybody, knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

That’s how she describes The Corner Bar, where she has worked as a bartender for six years.

As she flips on the neon lights to signal the Friday night crowd, Brashier, known as “Cheeks” among the regulars for her signature smile, said she has one of the best jobs this side of the Mississippi.

“Somebody pays you to hang out with your buddies while they’re having a good time,” Brashier said.

Nursing a bottleneck beer, Wade Stephens, the lone man at the bar, interjects.

“She’s a hell of a bartender,” Stephens said of Brashier. “I like walking in Friday afternoon and seeing her smiling face.”

“Natchez is big drinking town, and there’s nothing else to do in this town besides drink — that’s what we’re known for,” Brashier continued. When you tell somebody where you’re from, they always say, ‘You’re from Natchez? You’re either crazy or you drink a lot!’”

Some here regard drinking as Natchez’s unofficial pastime. Others say it’s not so much a frowned upon pastime as it is a worthy, family-bred tradition.

Whatever the case might be, the bartender is always there to serve another round, and share in the joys, sorrows and sheer embarrassments of Natchez proper. But they won’t dare spill the details.

“It’s what we call bartender confidentiality. It’s like doctor-patient confidentially,” Brashier said. “You can’t tell the stories that you hear.”

“That why there’s such a close bond between the bartenders and the regulars — you don’t ever repeat what they tell you when you’re behind the bar.”

Brashier then points to a framed picture of herself with bar regulars during a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico in December.

“See, we’re like family,” she said.

As keepers of the town’s most scandalous secrets, Natchez bartenders know to stay mum. Everyone who walks through the door is family, and who would dare unearth the family’s deepest, darkest secrets?

Beth Hite, who works the day shift at the Under-the-Hill Saloon, the oldest alcohol serving establishment on the Mississippi, has also taken the bartender confidentiality oath. She’s seen and heard a lot in her decade-long stint at Under-the-Hill, and attests she has enough material to write a bestseller.

“I could write chapters over chapters!” Hite exclaimed. “Sometimes I don’t think my brain can take it anymore. I’ve seen so much I don’t want see anymore.”

As Hite takes a drag from her cigarette and serves regular “Tattoo Tim” Buckley a shot of dark Jamaican rum, Hite said being a bartender requires quick service, a quick wit and a sharp tongue.

“Bartending is very hard,” said Hite, whose bartending career spans more than 30 years. “You’re an RN, you’re a psychologist, you have to listen to everybody’s problems and keep your mouth shut.

“But I love what I do. I love meeting people.”

Connie Buckley, “Tattoo Tim’s” husband, said Hite’s love for the job shows.

“Beth won’t let nobody get over on her,” Connie said. “She’s an excellent, excellent bartender.

“This is the only bar we come to because there are no other bars in town in my opinion,” Connie said. “This is like our second home where we find peace and tranquility. You can enjoy the company of friends, enjoy the music and not even drink.”

“Speak for yourself!” a man shouted.

Hite corrects Connie, “This is not really bar. It’s a saloon.”

“We have a pretty regular crew in here,” Hite said, taking another drag. Then Hite points to the left corner of the bar to just before its midway point.

“Most people who sit from here to here we call family,” Hite said. “Well, actually we call them the trashy side of the family! We have lots of fun here.”