Before we went inside Hook and Ladder, Mindy found a coupon on their website for $.75 off your drink for first-time customers. Sure, $.75 isn’t much, but with two of us, that’s $1.50 -- and then we’re talking money. After we sat down at the relatively crowded bar, Mindy showed Samantha the bartender our coupon. She told us she was sorry, but that website was from four years ago -- before the present owner bought the bar. She said there might be specials on their Facebook page, which they use as a website now.
rum & coke for me, cranberry & vodka for Mindy. We didn’t try one, but we heard that nobody makes a better Bloody Mary than Samantha). We enjoyed our drinks and watched some of the TVs (good news for me: Oakland A’s spring training. Bad news: my alma mater San Diego State went down in the first round of March Madness)
As you might guess by the name, firefighter paraphernalia decorates the place. The former owner had firefighters in the family and wanted to honor them. The new owner didn’t just keep the theme; he’s also kept staff and customers through the changeover.
One of those bartenders was filling a glass rimmed with salt with Worcestershire sauce, olive juice and lime juice along with the last of a bottle of Clamato juice, topped with what she could fit of a bottle of beer. With her yellow skirt, red belt and blue top, we were reminded of Snow White, and we realized she was making herself a red beer/michelada (Mindy was proud of herself for knowing what was in a drink she has no interest in ever ordering)
We overheard her mention that she’s a Disney fan (confirming that she was, indeed, dressed as Snow White; she said it was laundry day). When we asked, she said she’s worked at Hook and Ladder for 16 years, first part-time with the former owner. She was happy to switch over to full time when she had the chance; she’d been working retail along with bartending and was glad to quit that job.
She said she was willing to answer our standard questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?” Bob, a regular who was sitting next to Snow White, was willing to answer as well.
Samantha, who’d just come on duty and had gotten our drinks, added, “I don’t go to any other bar. I drink here.”
Bob said Hook and Ladder is homey.
Bob was friends with the old owner, but he stuck around after it was sold, and he said they seem to treat the employees right; “everyone’s the same here.”
We asked what makes for a good church. Bob said he’d gone to CrossCity Christian Church since he was a kid, but “it got too big”.
We didn’t want to miss Samantha’s answers, so we asked what she thought. For a bar, she said, “Honestly, just the people.” She’d been a customer at Hook and Ladder before working there, and she said, “They tried to get rid of me so hard, they hired me.” We asked what else she liked about the bar. She said that she likes that it’s dark and divey.
As for a church, Samantha said it’s “the atmosphere and environment.” She loved singing the old hymns. She grew up in a Pentecostal church where her family was quite active, and she had quite a bit of fun in the youth group. She still attends church regularly.
It was time for us to head out (I had to go to work soon for my night audit shift). Bob was on his way out as well, and he had one last idea about what makes for a good bar. “Did you get a look at the restrooms? You have to look at the restrooms.” If the restrooms are clean, the ownership still cares about the place. If the restrooms are dirty, it’s on the way downhill.