Patrons of Moriarty’s in Center City can thank their lucky stars that Jennifer Richart Michaels found the 9-to-5 grind so restrictive.
“I tried working in an office, and it was horrifying every minute for me. I did it for two years and I couldn’t wait to get out of it,” she says. “I felt like I was locked in a cage. Every minute, every day. I would get up in the morning and I would think of 20 reasons not to go in. I would make the turn into the parking lot and it felt like somebody had hit me with a two-by-four.”
For the last 15 years, she’s been the day bartender at Moriarty’s, 1116 Walnut Street. Before that, she tended bar at Havana and the Logan Inn in New Hope—she’s from that area—before deciding to give Center City a try. Michaels had been working at a bar that closed when they expanded the Convention Center. That’s when she applied at Moriarty’s.
“I happened to be walking by, and I thought, well, I’ll just step in. I filled out an application, and I’d only just got around the corner when I got a phone call, in the middle of 11thStreet, and then I came back,” she recalls. “And I got hired that day. I guess it was meant to be, you know?”
We asked her a few more questions about her life behind the bar.
What do you serve most often?
What do you serve least often?
Why do you suppose that is?
Maybe because it shouldn’t be on the shelf any longer.
What do you like serving?
I like making cocktails. We’ve been doing cocktail menus since around Thanksgiving last year, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I’m one of those people who can think of them, how they’re going to taste. I dream about cocktails. I’ll come in here and be like, “I have a list of 15 cocktails. I dreamed about them last night.”
What do you least like serving?
Girly shots, I would say.
Ones that take more than one liquor to pour, or a pickleback. (A pickleback is a shot of whiskey followed by pickle brine, or a bite of pickle.) They’re a pain to make.
Have you seen a lot in the 15 years you’ve been here?
The clientele is continuously changing because Philly is continuously changing. There’s a new influx of people every three months, but I would say the biggest change is when I started working here. It was a huge local bar; we had a ton of regulars during the day and at night, but as the neighborhood is changing and people are moving out, we still have a lot of regulars coming in, but it’s not like it used to be. Now it’s more tourists, people from the hospitals. We’re surrounded by Jefferson now.
What do you like about tending bar?
I’m a people person, I’m a talker. I like the sense of freedom about it. I like meeting new people and learning things from people.