Boston (and beyond) Gets OnTheBar by Jenn DePrizio

For many imbibers the bartender is as important a part of the bar experience as the drink itself. In fact, the famous, Dale Degroff “King of the Cocktail” says, “I go to the bar to see the bartender, not the bar.” Instead of resorting to online stalking, or just taking your chances, there is now an easy way to ensure your Manhattan will be made just the way you like it by your favorite bartender.  Onthebar is a free app (for iPhone and Android) created by Boston’s own, TJ Connelly and Ian Stanczyk that makes this possible.

The app grew out of a Stanczyk’s desire to stay connected with a good friend whose schedule as a bartender was the opposite of his.  Rather than tracking his friend down via phone or text, Stanczyk thought “Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if my friend had a button on this phone that he could push that created a signal for me and anyone else that cared to know this is where he is.”  He soon joined forces with Connelly, who describes the bar experience as being “based in the relationship you have with the bartender” and onthebar was born.

The concept is simple: Bartenders participate by signing up and then every time they are on shift, they “check in” so that their followers know they are behind the stick.  Guests then get notification when any bartender he/she is following is “on the bar.”  Most check-in apps are focused on the venues. Stanczyk explains the difference, “We are about the staff and human relationships that are built in those establishments. In that way, I think we offer something unique that no other location-based app offers.”  By putting the personal connection between bartender and patron at the forefront onthebar fills a unique spot in the industry.

This sentiment is echoed by the team’s third key player, Corey Bunnewith, who brings a passion for building brands and his past experience as a bartender, to the project.  For him the key is making connections, “onthebar is a tool to develop relationships and to integrate today’s tech focused communication with a bartender’s shaking of someone’s hand, knowledge of a guest’s favorite drink, and general hospitality.”  This is what is appealing to Sean Frederick, a bartender at Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar in Boston and an early user of the app.  He explains, “The app endows me with increased reliability to my guests.  I can now be a better “regular bartender” to them, and not just the other way around.”

The potentially onerous task of self-promotion therefore is streamlined. Frederick, appreciates this, “There’s an increasing expectation for today’s bartender to become a ‘one-man-band’, using every instrument available to fill bar seats and build a personal brand. But, there’s a thin line between effective self-promotion and coming across as a huckster.  With onthebar, I can connect with a self-selected audience of guests and colleagues who are keenly interested in when and where they can find me.”  Connelly expands, “For bartenders, it provides a unified solution for social media where they can check in, post things to their Facebook and Twitter in an integrated way, which is nice because it’s a one stop shop.”

Creators, TJ Connelly & Ian Stanczyk

The concept of onthebar has proven to be quite a popular one.  Stanczyk and Connelly launched onthebar in November 2011 with a handful of bartenders.  Four months later and almost 300 bartenders in Boston are now on board, and the app has expanded nationwide with bartenders signed up from New York City to Los Angeles.

So, if you’re a bartender, sign up so your regulars can follow you. And if you’re a cocktail enthusiast, get the app and start showing your favorite bartenders some love.

For bartenders, visit www.getonthebar.com to sign up. Guests visit the App Store to download onthebar.

The Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar is located at 1310 Boylston Street, Boston. www.citizenpub.com. 617-450-9000

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