Cedd Moses left a successful career in finance to get into the bar industry. One of his first ventures was to take over The Golden Gopher, a century old bar (originally named the Golden Sun Saloon), which had become part of the blight in a rough area of Los Angeles by the early 2000s. In his book by him, “Pouring with Heart,” Moses describes his first visit to the bar as entering a filthy, dangerous front for a crack-selling operation that had two bottles of gin and no ice. He bought the bar and turned it into a thriving part of the craft cocktail and bar scene, and did the same with other rough spots. He also opened Broadway Bar, Seven Grand, The Varnish and more.
Moses’ company 213 Nightlife continued to open bars at a rapid pace and now operates as Pouring with Heart. It currently runs almost 20 bars and microbreweries in Los Angeles and San Diego and has expanded to Denver and Austin, Texas. Moses has ambitious plans to keep growing, and the book details his approach to the bar business and what makes the industry unique.
Moses is visiting New Orleans this week for an event Thursday, April 28, at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It’s a joint book event with Dale DeGroff, who wrote the introduction to Moses’ book. DeGroff is credited with leading the craft cocktail movement from positions including head bartender at New York’s Rainbow Room in the 1980s. DeGroff recently released “The New Craft of the Cocktail,” an updated version of his cocktail bible. Find tickets to the event at southernfood.org.
Gambit: In the book, you paint a pretty bleak picture of what the Golden Gopher looked like before you took over. Why did you decide to try to make something of that space instead of starting from scratch elsewhere?
cedd moses: I had a vision for the rundown downtown area of Los Angeles thinking that if I built 10 bars, it would create a destination and really turn around the neighborhood. Golden Gopher was the oldest bar down there and had amazing bones and history. It had tremendous potential despite the rough neighborhood.
Gambit: You emphasize that people are the most important part of a bar. What are some of the better and worse reasons people enter the industry?
Moses: I think a lot of people get in the business for the wrong reasons. The main one is just to make money. If you’re doing it just for the money and not for being of service to other people, then you’re bound to get burnt out and you will never be truly successful. Getting in the business just because you like to drink is a recipe for disaster.
The best reason is that you love taking care of people; you love to make folks smile. Those are the people that really thrive in the business because their intention and passion is rooted in the most important characteristic of the business. When you’re passionate about taking care of your customers, then you’ll be passionate about making them great drinks as well.
We look for people who fit our values and are eager to be of service to others. We can train them to do everything else, so they don’t need to have a ton of experience. We can’t train people to be nice. That was up to their parents or therapists.
The bar business is all about people. Empathy is a uniquely human characteristic and key for a great bartender or leader. For most people this is counterintuitive since they assume bars are about booze, but we can drink at home. We go to bars for a deeper reason.
Gambit: You dedicate the book to people in the service industry who kept the business going during the pandemic. What do you think the pandemic exposed about the needs of service industry workers?
Moses: Service workers have been poorly taken care of for decades. If you want those people to be there for guests, then we need to be there for them. Our staff is our No. 1 priority and we are always trying to get better and take care of them. That’s why the majority of our people couldn’t wait to come back to work for us after the pandemic. And it’s why they naturally want to take great care of our customers and each other.
For more information about Moses bars and his book, visit pouringwithheart.com.
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