Barbara’s Pavillion patrons know Dan. For the last 10 years Oak Cliff bartender Dan has poured drinks and heard stories.
Oak cliff bartender Dan considers regulars as family
Dan thinks of the bar’s regular customers as his family, and they have proven to be. When Dan turned 58 earlier this month, regulars secretly conspired to bring cake and gifts for a happy hour celebration.
Patrons showed their friendship with Dan in December 2010, when a car hit him just outside the bar. His recovery lasted months. After a few days in Methodist Hospital ICU in Oak Cliff, Dan spent most of the year away from the bar. Barbara’s regular and good friend Mary Lou helped him to recovery, and the bar took up a collection.
Whether dressed in drag or growing a Santa-like beard, patrons are accustomed to seeing Dan bartending. Usually perched on a barstool behind the bar on his laptop, Dan will look up to greet you, or take a frosty glass to the tap of your draft choice before you have noticed he was there.
Bartender Dan’s journey from South Dakota to Oak Cliff
Dan’s journey to that barstool started in Sioux Falls, he was born in South Dakota and lived there through high school. Since he was a teen, Dan said he wanted to be bartender. He remembers serving bourbon drinks and beers to his mother and her friends during poker games at their home.
At the age of 20, Dan wanted to move to the nearest gay-friendly city he could find, so he moved to Omaha, Nebraska to bartend at The Stage Door Lounge.
Later, he joined The Max, which has been a well-known gay bar since opening in the 1980’s. In 1991 after a few years of moving between Omaha and Northern California, Dan joined his friend Sherry on a trip to see her family in Dallas.
Dan liked what he saw on Cedar Springs – men walking together in public and holding hands. Within weeks and a few notable moments, he moved to Dallas. Soon after he became an assistant manager of Throckmorton Mining Company (TMC), where he worked for 15 years.
In 1998, Dan bought a house in the Elmwood neighborhood of Oak Cliff. By 2006, when Barbara’s Pavillion had established itself as a gay-friendly club with karaoke, Dan applied for a bartending job. In 2009, the same owners who interviewed Dan, agreed to sell their share of the bar to Dan. The patrons and owners marked the occasion with a ‘Changing of the Guards’ party.
The other half of ownership has changed a few times, but Dan gave his decorative input for the bar in 2013. Barbara’s had a major face lift with a mid-century modern/bowling alley look.
Dan’s family reunion, bar joys
Dan choked back emotions a bit when he realized his last Sunday off was also Father’s Day. His father has been ill. Dan visited his family for the first time in 15 years last month. When South Dakotans ask about where he works, Dan describes Barbara’s Pavillion as a karaoke bar. To Dallasites, Dan is more comfortable to call Barbara’s a ‘fun, gay, dive bar’.
Dan’s bright smile shines big when he talks about celebrities who’ve visited the bar: Del Shores, Ted Danson, Ann Walker, Leslie Jordan, and Big Boo from “Orange is the New Black”. He also keeps track of regulars’ birthdays as he plans parties for them at the bar. However, if anyone ever wants to know what Dan thinks people should know about bartending, he furrows his brow and says, “Remember: bartenders make their living off tips!” Then he smiles big again and lets out a friendly but mischievous laugh.
325 Centre St., Dallas, TX 75208