Sara Havens has chronicled Louisvilleâ€™s nightlife – from the bottom of its bottles to the top of its time as a bourbon destination – since we were partying because it was 1999. After exactly 15 years at LEO Weekly, Havens now spills the tea at Insider Louisville, and has published her second book of columns as her nom de booze, the Bar Belle. (Journalistic disclosure: We were officemates at LEO for a few years, so yes, I have previously given her reasons to drink).
What have you learned over the last decade of covering the Louisville bar and bourbon scene?
I think Louisville’s bar scene is exciting, eclectic and is only getting better. There’s a bar for every mood you’re in. I think the bar owners, for the most part, are supportive of each other and often work together instead of seeing each other as threats. The same happens in the bourbon scene. Those guys â€” and girls â€” never talk bad about one another and are often very supportive. They’re more like family than competitors. In fact, if you drew up a family tree of the bourbon industry, it’d have no branches. But its roots are firmly grounded in Kentucky.
As far as the key to making a bar successful, I believe it entails an owner(s) and staff who respect each other as well as the business. Simple things like making sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom or that the draft beer is pouring at the right temperature is important. I’m obsessed with Jon Taffer of â€œBar Rescue,â€ and I think he has offers lot of important advice for struggling bars. You can tell the moment when you walk into a bar if it’s a warm, inviting environment or more like the DMV. I’d also like Jon Taffer to be my life coach.
How do you get any work done? Aren’t you a crazy drunk who stands on bar counters yelling “Shots!” 15 hours a day?
While Iâ€™d love to be that crazy girl yelling â€œShots!â€ all day long, Iâ€™ve learned to balance my sordid extracurricular activities with a healthy, productive lifestyle. Each year that you take a step away from 21, you realize hangovers are very real, canâ€™t be avoided and get worse as time goes by. Why we havenâ€™t invented a cure for that misery, Iâ€™ll never know. We can invent the Internet, but we canâ€™t cure hangovers? Does that make sense to you?
How did you get big names to provide blurbs, foreword, and cover art for this thing?
Sometimes it pays off being a barfly and meeting people of all walks of life. All I did was ask, and I was very fortunate that everyone said, â€œYesâ€. Maybe itâ€™s all the dirt I have on them, or maybe theyâ€™re just talented people in the industry who decided to throw me a bone. I am eternally grateful for Jeaneen Barnhart, who allowed me to use that amazing piece of art for the cover image, and for my hero (Woodford Reserve Master Distiller) Chris Morris, who agreed to write the foreword without a momentâ€™s hesitation.
Can you share a recent drunk text that no one else has seen yet?
A proper drunk text should be shared over a cocktail or two. But because youâ€™re asking, hereâ€™s one: â€œThis corn tastes like Kate Winsletâ€™s tears.â€
Hearing Debbie Gibson singing drives many people to drink. What kills your buzz?
Usually what kills my buzz is when people put down my idols when phrasing a question. Other things that kill my buzz include last call, warm beer, the Amish, drunk frat boys, Mondays, tight pants, spiders, a Port-o-Pot thatâ€™s out of toilet paper, peas, another losing season for the Bengals, Donald Trump, and drivers who donâ€™t use turn signals. VT
The Bar Belleâ€™s book tour includes stops on August 27 at Carmichaelâ€™s on Frankfort at 7 p.m. and September 9 at the Back Door at 6 p.m. Check barbelleblog.com for updates.