The Story of Us (Elle’s Version)

Monkey’s Bar. Where everybody knows Monkey’s name…

It didn’t start out that way — a dream and an impulse decision resulted in something beautiful.

Let me tell you about it.

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It began in 2012.

I didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted to study in college. I knew a few keys things about myself:

1. I love to work with people.
2. I need change in whatever job I work.
3. I feel most alive and satisfied when I’m creating spaces for connection.

After finishing my undergrad with a degree in History and a double minor in Geography and Education, I was pretty much set up to be a high school teacher.  Respectable career, it fit most of the requirements above, but I wasn’t sold on it completely. Going to the same classroom 5 days a week for 8 hours a day felt too monotonous to me. 

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One of my past boyfriends in college was a server on the weekends, like many students are. He was excellent at his job and made great money on tips. I was intrigued by this and wanted to try, but I was spending my time outside of classes tutoring students, coaching basketball, and competing in intramurals. My biggest athletic success to date is winning the intramural league MVP and probably biggest success in college overall. 🙂

In a life plot twist, I chose not to pursue a career in education. It was then that I needed money and started serving in a restaurant downtown. I discovered it was true — even though the restaurant I worked had average-at-best food and was managed poorly, I made great money on tips. Better money hourly than I would make teaching.

Serving felt like a great in-between thing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, but I was having fun in the meantime.

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Fast Forward, 2018.

I moved over to Chivo. It had a great energy, excellent food, and wonderful people to work with. Also a shit ton of tequila and that always helps. It was there I was promoted bartending and absolutely loved it. I never knew who was going to sit down at my bar and it was my job to provide excellent service to people from all walks of life. It tested my people-skills, increased my multi-tasking abilities, and challenged me to create a memorable and enjoyable experience to each guest.

I was hooked.

Suddenly, what was in the meantime didn’t have an end time.

A dream started brewing… What if I opened my own bar?

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I did the research required — I worked at a high-volume tequila bar, a fast-paced bourbon bar, a unique craft cocktail bar, and an old-fashioned focused corporate restaurant with 24 beers on tap. I was working to learn the industry, expand my spirit knowledge, and study bar/restaurant operations. Seems like the best option to get paid to learn what you need to learn.

My time working in various bars refined what I wanted to do; I just needed the right space or opportunity.

The best thing about me is all of the people I know. After learning from a friend that the owner of Central Depot, the previous business before Monkey’s Bar, was planning to relocate in June the following year, I saw an opportunity to improve the bar’s already promising location and setup. My years of experience in the industry came to life as I began to envision making my dream a reality.

I wanted to get paid to learn what I needed to learn; I started working at Central Depot. I was upfront with the owner, Will. I told him I wanted to move into the operations side of the business and wanted to work behind the bar first to see if it was a good fit for a partnership investment and/or ownership. He agreed that was something we could talk about in the future.

January 2022

Andrea, my lifelong friend and future interior designer, was trying to persuade our mutual friends to adopt a a golden retriever puppy from the same litter she was getting a pup from. Two puppies needed new homes due to previous owners backing out, but my late-night bartending schedule made it seemingly impossible for me to care for an 8-week-old puppy.

I decided to do it anyway.

Meeting Monkey

Throwback to Fall 2011. Season 5 of Gossip Girl was airing. A masterpiece of the elite private schooler in NYC. One of the male leads, Dan, gives his former enemy-turned-friend Chuck a dog after his girlfriend breaks up with him. The only time we see Chuck express emotion/tenderness in the show is in his relationship with Blair. He is devastated when she breaks up with him. Dan said the dog he gifts Chuck with was to help him remember how to feel.

Chuck named the dog Monkey.

I was obsessed. I made the pledge I was going to name my first puppy Monkey.

Monkey is the best impulsive decision I’ve ever made. He came to work with me at Central Depot and was raised in the bar, fully recognizing 103 W Depot Avenue as his second home.

That Summer…

After realizing Central Depot’s untapped potential and failing to agree on a partnership with Will, I decided to transition out of full-time bartending and accepted a Project Manager position at a government contracting company, providing me with the mental space to plan for my future bar and keep an eye on potential commercial spaces, particularly hoping for Central Depot’s availability.

That October, the day came. Upon learning that Central Depot was closing, I wasted no time and swiftly took action by visiting the Dewhirst office the following Monday with Monkey, my morale-boosting companion, and successfully secured the lease for 103 W Depot, quickly opening my LLC and embarking on a whirlwind of tasks to make the opportunity mine.

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November 2022

Through a very faithful army of friends and family, we started renovations on the bar.

The biggest question — what was I going to call it?

Most of my best ideas usually start out as jokes. Wouldn’t it be funny to call it Monkey’s Bar? It’s like a double pun. There is nothing to do with monkeys or monkey bars. The ultra importance of the apostrophe sets it apart: Monkey’s Bar.

The joke stuck with me and I had a one year old golden retriever that owns a bar.

My dream and my impulse collided.

What an unexpected surprise.

Andrea and Morgan made the interior design palate. Morgan made the bar logos. Mike and Taylor gave all of their spare time to help renovate. Valen made my liquor shelves and installed the art shelf and molding designs. My parents and my aunt and her significant other helped build, install, and paint everything. Kristin was a sound board and extra set of hands for all of the above. Various other friends popped in to lend hands and paint trim or bring snacks. It takes a village and I had the best.

My objective was to open the bar quickly, although balancing full-time work with rapidly establishing a new business proved to be a daunting task, resulting in stress and sleepless nights. Thankfully, my girlfriend Shandra provided unwavering support during this challenging period, helping me prioritize self-care.

Needless to say, I was super fun to be around. 🙂

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December 2022

We were almost there. Most of the renovations were done. Everything was coming together. Monkey’s Bar logos were in the windows. It was starting to feel real.

We opened on December 23rd, beer and wine service only. The regulars we inherited from Central Depot threw a Christmas-Eve-Eve singalong. Our first day of business was filled with Christmas spirit, fantastic humans, lots of beer, and a celebration of the countless hours of effort and heart put into opening Monkey’s Bar.

By stroke of miracle, we scored our liquor license two days before NYE. We submitted our orders to stock our liquor selections immediately, stocked our shelves, and we were ready to sell liquor on the highest revenue day of the year, 12/31.

Monkey’s Bar was completely packed on NYE. We were three rows deep of people elbow-to-elbow at the bar trying to order drinks. It was absolute chaos.

My team, my wonderful friends and now staff members, had a moment of frozen time in the chaos. We all looked at each other to breathe in the chaos: we did it.

Monkey’s Bar was alive and we were just getting started.