Off The Cuff with Feve Bartenders

The Oberlin Review caught up with Josh Wilson and Tyler Horstman, two of the three bartenders at the Feve. Both hailing from the Oberlin area, Wilson and Horstman offered up their perception of Oberlin’s only real bar — from the other side of the counter.


Feve bartenders Josh Wilson and Tyler Horstman act casual in front of the only real bar in Oberlin.

How did you guys start working here? Were you students at the College?

Josh: I grew up around here, in this town outside Vermilion, but I started hanging out in Oberlin when I was in high school because there isn’t a lot going on around here.

Tyler: I grew up around here too. I actually went to Firelands High School. I knew a lot of people who worked here.

Josh: Yeah and you skated with Kyle, who used to be a bartender here. You pretty much have to be related to someone to get a job here. It’s like the mob.

What’s the most popular theme night? Do you guys prefer working when the bar is empty or crowded?

Josh: I’d say Long Island night and happy hour on Friday, just in terms of sheer drunkenness. I definitely prefer working then because otherwise it gets kind of boring.

Tyler: Also, that’s when we make money.

[Feve owner Jason Adelman dropped his pants and flashed Tyler and Josh from behind the bar.]

Tyler: He just flashed his balls at us. That’s awesome.

So are college students bad tippers?

Josh: They are for like the first three years they drink here and then they realize that we’re working for our money.

Do you think the crowd is pretty evenly split between kids from the College and people from the town?

Josh: I’d say it’s like 60/40. Most of the townies come out later in the night or right when we open. Saturday is usually a dinner rush of students and parents.

What’s the worst kind of customer?

Josh: Oh man, there are so many. People that snap at you.

That happens?

Josh: Not more than once. I try to be nice but if they keep doing it I try to subtly let them know that it’s not OK. Also a lot of people try to get free stuff because it’s a bar. There are people who’ve been coming for a long time and think that we’re friends, but we’re not.

Do you guys get hit on a lot?

Josh: He does. [Nods at Tyler]

Tyler: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t really understand that whole thing.

Josh: I think it’s just because we’re the only bar in town and have built up this reputation over the years of being a place where crazy shit happens. But I mean, look at us. We’re all dirtbags here. We’re like a family.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened while you guys were working? Injuries, fights, overheard conversations?

Josh: A kid fell down the stairs the other day and had to get staples in his head. It’s his second time. But it’s OK though because he’s an asshole. This one time a 300-pound lady fell down the stairs and landed on top one of our friends, Little Tim.

How do you guys deal with underage people trying to drink here? Is there any way to tell someone’s underage the second they walk in?

Tyler: They give themselves away; they look at us a lot, they seem nervous.

Josh: Working here, you definitely judge people a lot because you have to — as soon as they hit the door. It makes you a really good judge of character though. We pretty much know everyone who comes in here because it’s such a small town. It’s hard at the beginning of the year because a lot of kids turned 21 when they were studying abroad or whatever. Usually the people who get caught have already been busted numerous times. If you screw up a couple of times in here, I’m going to watch you until you graduate. It’s rarely gone the other way, where people straighten up.

What’s your official policy on that?

Josh: The third time we kick you out for underage consumption, you’re not allowed in again until you’re 21. If you fight at all you get a trespassing letter and if we catch you on the cameras you get arrested. We don’t have fights in here very often. That’s why our policy is so strict, so that no one who comes up here has to be afraid of getting harassed. If you have an open container we just take it and don’t kick you out unless you’re being a dick about it. We want people who are being respectful.

While I was studying abroad I had a good friend who was a bartender. When I first met him he was drinking all the time because he and the other guys would drink on the job, but after a while he just got really sick of it and was tired of being around stupid drunk people all the time. Do you feel that working at a bar affects how you spend your time off or how you feel about drinking?

Tyler: Sometimes I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I drink.’ And then I just get drunk. It doesn’t really matter. I know not to fall into something bad.

Josh: You definitely drink a lot more.

Do you guys drink on the job?

Josh: We’re not allowed to. We close down and get everyone out by 2:30, and that’s when we start drinking. So we’re automatically considered alcoholics because we drink at like 3 o’clock in the morning. Our 9-to-5 is we come in at 3 and leave at 3.

Tyler: I’m up until like 7 or 8 in the morning every day.

How many bartenders are there?

Josh: Three. There’s one other guy who’s pinch-hitting, but before there were only three. … It’s me, Tyler and Haley.

Do you guys like this job?

Josh: It has its moments. It’s gotten a little old.

Is it more what you actually do on the job or the living from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. that’s gotten old?

Josh: It’s more dealing with people — that’s the hardest part. I don’t like being mean to people and having to be put into situations where I have to be mean. I have to be an asshole to some people. Also, having to deal with people that you really don’t like and really know are not good people at all. They know we’re watching them so they ride that line where they’re not doing anything they could get kicked out for, but they make sure that it’s unpleasant for you.

Do you have any examples?

Josh: Like the kid who fell down the steps. Everything he does, he does to get a reaction out of me.

He sounds like a sociopath.

Josh: He is. He’s one of the kids I watch. When I’m walking around town I see his interactions with people and when I was outside the bar I heard two separate crowds talking shit about him, like how much they hated him. I’ve never heard a good thing about this guy — I mean his friends don’t like him.

He’s not a student?

Josh: He graduated. But it’s generally just stressful knowing that we can get in trouble for other people’s drinking.

Has that happened? Have the police ever had to get involved?

Josh: It was a lot worse like five years ago. We almost lost our liquor license. Two years ago we served this guy who gave the drinks to his kids and left. I didn’t see it happen but there were three undercover cops in the bar. One of them walked around and was carding people at their tables. I wasn’t paying attention … then I look over and this 60-year-old dude is creeping on people. I went over to him and was like, “What the hell are you doing, man?” and he said, “It’s alright; I’m a cop.” I asked him to show me his ID, and he did. Then he arrested three kids. He tried to give me all this shit like, “We could really get you in trouble.” It just sucks.

Tyler: It’s funny because I always think that if we did lose our liquor license, like if we got in trouble, the kid who made that happen would like…

Get run out of town?

Tyler: Yeah! Like who wants to be the kid who made that happen. It’s stupid to come in here and mess around.

Josh: If this place shut down for any amount of time, especially around graduation time, that would ruin shit for I don’t know how many people. We’re all friends here. This is how we all pay our rent. The bar is what provides the money to keep this place open. It’s basically what makes it possible to have food in this restaurant because food is the highest costing thing. Liquor is how we pay the rent. And we’re all family here. OT who used to bartend here, he’s my landlord.

Do you have people who you think might come here a little too often?

Josh: Yeah, we call them “regulars.”

So do you guys live in Oberlin?

Josh: Yeah, I actually live on Union with four people who work at this bar. One guy used to be a maintenance guy at this bar, the guy who owns the house used to work at this bar.

Do you ever go to Oberlin parties? How old are you guys anyway?

Josh: I’m 27. It’s been a long time. I used to.

Tyler: I’m 21. I did a little last year, but not so much anymore. I’ve gone to parties, but I always feel weird just walking up because I don’t know anybody.

Josh: You’re still in that age range, though.

Tyler: I mean I can, but it’s kind of weird. Unless I’m talking to a girl who invites me or I already know someone at the party.

Does it ever get claustrophobic, like family can?

Josh: Very. It’s kind of like war when we come to work. When we’re done we blow up and go our separate ways and do our own thing.

Tyler: And then come in and do it all over the next day.

Josh: But it’s fun. Jason is a great boss actually. We do ski trips and went to Mexico for like a week for the last couple of years. We get our own playtime.

Tyler: Yeah, it’s definitely the best job I’ve had.

Josh: I hate Tyler. I hate him.

Tyler: I hate Josh.

Josh: It is a fun job. But it definitely puts its mark on you physically and emotionally.

Tyler: You kind of see some disgusting things. You see the worst come out in people.

Josh: Yeah you do, like people trying to fight for the dumbest reasons.

Tyler: Like that guy, “You stepped on my shoe!” Remember? You’re basically a glorified babysitter.

Josh: We’re basically drug dealers but legal.