In Stephen Yorsz’s first life, he trudged through the daily grind as a financial advisor. His job was less than stimulating and devoid of reward. “Basically all I did was talk to old people all day about retirement planning and mutual funds,” Yorsz explained, “and it’s just like watching paint dry.”
So he quit and never bothered looking for another job in finance. Enough was enough. It was time to dream bigger. Yorsz and his friend Brett David wanted to own their own bar. A bar of their own vision. Both men had a background in hospitality and nightlife and shuddered at the prospect of wasting away inside a cubicle as 9-to-6 clock punchers.
After some planning, scheming, fundraising and location scouting, the pair found the perfect spot to open a new establishment — Chrystie St on the Lower East Side of New York. Now all they needed was a name. The two creative directors scratched out a bunch of ideas but finally settled on a name that connected the two in an odd way. When they were in the initial planning phase, Yorsz insisted the bar’s name connected the two and their shared skills. David responded jokingly “well, I can think of 100 shared things right now, but let’s leave Rochelle out of it.”
Rochelle was a woman both men dated.
A few months later, Rochelle’s doors opened for business. Originally named “Leave Rochelle Out Of It”, the bar now just goes by Rochelle’s because it’s just plain easier. Now, how to tell Rochelle…
“To be honest, I never had planned to tell her until we were open,” Yorsz laughed.
Yorsz’s vast knowledge of spirits, especially whiskey and tequila, has afforded him the opportunity to teach classes and seminars on the subject at places like the Culinary Institute of America and Whiskey Live. Yorsz is now a brand Ambassador for Santera Tequila, a brand new 100% blue agave line of tequilas, made in Jalisco, Mexico.
Yorsz served up shots of honesty when we talked about the bar business, his distaste for some current drinking trends, the most expensive booze in the world and people making six figures being dicks and stealing stuff.
What are the misconceptions about owning a bar?
“That all you do is meet girls and have fun . Owning a bar is the same as any business — the positives are “it’s all up to you” and the negatives are “it’s all up to YOU! ”
Everyone thinks they can/should open a bar. What does a person really need to survive the business?
THICK SKIN. Also a sense of humor. They must be incredibly detail oriented. They also have to be able to do all the jobs you hire people for. If you can’t actually bartend, don’t open a bar. Open a restaurant or a nightclub or just have a shitload of money.
How did you get away with naming it after an ex you both shared?
“I figured if she freaked out, we would just come up with some story to tell the customers who asked where the name came from. My business partner leaked the name to her early and turned out she was cool with it. She thought it was a little weird but in general she was cool with it and even did a bunch of press stuff with us when we first opened. ”
Tell me about tequila. Anything. Shock me.
“The most expensive bottle of booze in the world is a tequila. And it sells for $3.5 million!”
Give me a fool proof tequila recipe right now
“The Santera Margarita. Take 2 ounces of Santera Reposado Tequila, 3/4 ounce of fresh lime juice, 3/4 ounce of Combier and 1/4 ounce of Cointreau. Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Serve in a cocktail glass.”
Name some current drinking trends that really piss you off
“Like most bar people out there, I agree with the notion that drinking cinnamon flavored whiskey is pretty silly, but the one trend that really kills me is the Moscow Mule.
Don’t get me wrong I have no issues with the drink itself, I have no beef with people that want to drink vodka cocktails. However, I think it’s crazy that customers making six figure salaries at their jobs CONSTANTLY STEAL THE COPPER MUGS! Why would you go to a bar and steal the glassware?
I think some people think it’s funny, and for some reason, a lot of people don’t see a bar a business that incurs costs.”
Have you ever caught somebody in the act?
“Yes, I have caught people. I usually ask them for their cell phones first. When they ask “why?” I simply reply that I am going to call their mom to tell her that their child makes enough money to afford $15 cocktails but needs to steal my glass wear to furnish the apartments they are over paying for. That usually doesn’t work. So I simply kick them out.”
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