“I really love the controlled mayhem,” John said on a day when there was little mayhem to be seen. To be fair, it was only a little after 5:00 pm on a Saturday night, a time when mayhem would be difficult to find, but John’s love of the hospitality industry is apparent and long lived.
John Timberlake is delighted to have, after years of working in bars, a bar of his own: The Final Edition in the Larkfield Center in Santa Rosa. I knew John back at Comstock Junior High when we were managing the 8th grade basketball team, but the seed of his interest in the hospitality industry was planted before then.
John’s mother was, in John’s words, “quite religious;” Greek Orthodox. She won a trip to Las Vegas, and she decided to take preteen John along so he could witness for himself the evil and shallowness of Sin City. When John saw the lights, neon, and “the women at the Thunderbird,” the trip had quite the reverse effect. They happened to arrive when a James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever, was being shot -- enhancing even further the city’s allure. The dream of being in the bar business was planted.
John has worked in a lot of different bars through the years. He admitted that the life has taken a personal toll. The hours (afternoons and evenings) are tough on relationships, and John said there is also the “moral tone” of bar life. He’s been married and divorced several times and admitted his job has made things difficult for his significant others.
But when the chance came to have his own place, a convergence of the right opportunity with a good backer, he jumped at it. He loves the community of his bar, naming a number of regulars who have become a part of his life. John values his customers and his staff, and It was fun to watch him joke with guests and bartenders.
We were supposed to be meeting friends from our alma mater, Piner High School, but they were delayed. In the meantime, we got our drinks and sat down at one end of the bar near Carol and Keith. They were commenting on what a character John was, and I think Carol remarked on his wearing cargo shorts on a stormy, wet day. They also seemed to be discussing other regulars at the bar, such as “Surfer Joe” (as opposed to the other Joe whose descriptor I’ve forgotten). John had mentioned the two Joes as well.
Keith and Carol agree to hear our two questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go not, what would make for a good church?” Keith immediately asked what I was drinking, just to be sure alcohol was involved. I thought I understood better why he checked on this when he answered the question on what makes for a good bar. He responded, “You don’t talk about politics or religion in a bar.” (I think he wanted to be sure I hadn’t come to the place to order a seltzer water and proselytize.)
Carol added her response to the bar question, “They should have a ‘good pour.’ That’s Keith’s term. Keith knows more about bars.” She added that a good bar included, “What Keith says -- no religion or politics.”
Keith said, “What’s cool about this bar -- this time of day -- you come in, and (you’ll) be sitting next to a guy who in the trades.”
Carol said, “Like Dave! This guy!” Pointing him out, she said, “He came and fixed my lights.”
Keith talked about meeting people from other professions at the bar, building relationships that carry on outside of the bar. “It all happens at the bar...It’s cool.”
Carol said, “I actually got a job because of someon I was talking to at Willi’s Seafood bar.”
They both made it clear that Carol was the one who had an interest in church, and Keith wanted none of that question. She remembered growing up in a small town where church had an important role, “If there was a storm, that’s where you went. I was never a God/Jesus girl.” She like to go in and hear about the Golden Rule, but to her, “The Bible is more like Aesop’s Fables.” Carol said, “A good church is a place you can go and leave without being sold. I don’t like being approached. I like the message, I like the singing, but I don’t like being approached.” She mentioned “that rock and roll church,” by which she may have meant Spring Hills, but she said, “I just want to go, get what I get.” She said she hasn’t yet found the kind of church she’s looking for.
While we were talking to Keith and Carol, our friends Syd and Diane came in, and we went to join them at a table. Syd called out to John, ordering a beer. John pretended to ignore him, which Syd said was their running schtick. Diane, on the other hand, was welcomed graciously.
We asked Syd and Diane our two questions. Diane admitted she wasn’t a bar person and has only begun going occasionally with Syd. They went to The Final Edition on New Year’s Eve last year (a couple of weeks ago) early in the evening, enjoyed drinks and several bowls of popcorn, and then left before the ball dropped in New York.
Syd said that what makes a bar a good place is “an owner like John.” I asked Syd what he appreciated about John. He said, “His charisma and his friendliness. I’ve followed him to all his bars. He’s got a great attitude, and he makes everyone feel welcome.”
Diane and Syd both had something to say about what makes for a good church. Diane said that what matters to her is “genuine people.” She expanded, “They can not be perfect. Everybody has their issues,” but she felt people in a good church should be honest with themselves and each other.
Syd said that Kenwood Community Church, where Diane attends, “is really sweet,” mostly older folks, “but good folks.” He also said he appreciated Spring Hills “with a pastor like Bret, who’s so natural. He’s still a very humble man.”
As we were talking with Syd and Diane, John came over to say goodnight. He said he had to get home to his kid, “I’m not going to risk this one,” he said about his current relationship. John obviously still loves his bar. It seems like he has a number of customers who also love his bar. But maybe what he’s finding away from the bar is something he loves even more.