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Bar Keep: How a Bar Becomes Your Own

The staff of Esquire put away plenty of drinks at the bar in the San Domenico--and the bartender became their (somewhat) silent partner.

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This story appears in the July 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

All of us at Esquire used to drink at this bar a few years back. It was the key-shaped, '80s-era, marble bar at San Domenico, an Italian restaurant just off New York City's Columbus Circle on Central Park South. It was the closest and best bar anywhere near the office. We'd go there, we'd drink, we'd moan about work. The man who served us was Renato, San Domenico's head bartender. We decided he was the best bartender who ever lived. Two reasons: No one has ever worn a better-tailored double-breasted red jacket, and our glasses were never empty. Which is not a metaphor. Our glasses were literally never empty. We would turn around to look out the window and turn back around to find our drinks heavier. Renato was stealthy to the point of shifty. It was beautiful. So, we drank there a lot. San Domenico was our place.

A place is a useful thing to have. For all of the obvious reasons: camaraderie, joy, etc. But also because having a place pays off when you meet there for business. We had many meetings at San Domenico. It was where we preferred to have meetings. Because having a place in which you are enthusiastically greeted and served indicates to the person you're meeting with that you have done something right over a long period of time. It means you are important somehow. It means you're probably trustworthy and you're definitely consistent. (Also, potentially locatable: If you were to try and pull something, this is where you might be found.) The crucial thing: What seemed to be a neutral territory when you proposed the meeting isn't a neutral territory at all. It's your place--which amounts to leverage. A place is very useful. It's a satellite office, really.

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