The University of Dayton is an amazing asset for the city. It is one of the best Catholic universities in the country, educating roughly 10,000 students in a variety of disciplines. Their development has helped the city, from their incredible law and entrepreneurship programs to their basketball program with has drawn national attention. The school is continuing to grow, taking an active role in the rebirth of the Arcade downtown and providing a solid foundation for growing businesses around campus. The number of events that occur at the university, from small gatherings in the library to hosting the First Four, are staggering. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say if you go to an event at the University of Dayton, Gretchen Kelly has had some hand in the drinks being poured there.
Gretchen has been working at the University of Dayton for years, starting in the dining halls and working her way up to a supervisor for all of their catering. But when she has the opportunity, she is back with the staff pouring drinks for thirsty guests. To work some of the events there, she has one accolade that few other bartenders in the city can claim; Secret Service clearance. Serving some of the patrons at Flyer games requires clearance by some of the top officers in the country. You may have seen her more recently at The Main Event, the huge gala was thrown by the Dayton Metro Library to provide a sneak peek at their beautiful new library. You may have even noticed her at an Art Ball or two, bartending with Kohler Catering. Her skills are in high demand at some of the top events in the area. They are also in demand at the Oregon Express, where you can find her on the odd night mixing cocktails, pulling beers, and enjoying the live bands that toll through that venue.
If you have not been on the receiving end of her bartending abilities, it is possible you have enjoyed one of her other passions: working with musicians. She has been booking bands for years at notable venues like the Canal Street and her home bar, Oregon Express. Her bartending adventures have taken her as far as Loveland, OH, where she ran the stick for a bar owned by the head cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals. She is still booking talent at the Express, even as she is transitioning to a new format for her radio show. The station and the show will be launching in June. Her one-hour show will focus on up-and-coming unsigned bands from around the world.
Gretchen has been a staple at the University of Dayton for years, and it looks like she will be one for many more. From small breakfast meetings to an UD Arena filled to capacity, she will be there taking care of her guests with a smile. Yet another amazing asset at UD.
How did you get into bartending?
After three years as a server at the Oregon Express, they trained me as a bartender. I had four different people train me.
What is your favorite drink to make?
A Chocolate Martini with the chocolate syrup swirled in the glass.
Which drink makes you internally cringe?
When it’s busy, anything with a blender!
Do you have a favorite spirit you like to work with?
Vodka, because you can mix it with anything.
When you go out for a drink in Dayton, where is your favorite place to go?
Too many places to name!
Who is the most famous person you have served?
Band members from LIVE and Collective Soul.
What do you do when you are not bartending?
Work some of my other jobs. I have an internet radio show (Can I get more information on this new venture?)
What are your favorite trends from the last year?
It seems more people are drinking Tullamore D.E.W., an Irish whiskey.
What trends do you see coming to Dayton over the next six months?
I will love any trend that does not require a blender.
What advice do you want to give bartenders just getting into the business?
The best way to learn is from other experienced bartenders. Then you can develop your own style of drinks.
What do you love most about Dayton?
Most interesting thing you have seen from behind the bar?
Tending bar at an event at the Boonshoft Museum and watching my friends slide down the slides while wearing evening gowns and tuxedos.
How has bartending changed in the time you have been in the industry?
Too much technology at some places. It takes more time to ring up drinks on a system at times. Some of the pre-measuring takes away from the speed and unique techniques of a good bartender from making the perfect drink.
Any interesting stories about having to deal with a difficult customer?
I had a guy at a wedding once say to me ” If I get too drunk you are driving me home.” I replied, ” Here is your Coke.”
What do you wish customers knew that helped you do your job?
Do NOT to try and get our attention by saying “Hey baby.”
If you were not a bartender, what career would you be pursuing?
Bartending for me is like breathing. I have to bartend.