Behind the Bar | Meet Adam Payne at Square Bar

as told to Sarah Stubbs, published in Issue 6 (May 26, 2015)


Name: Adam Payne
Hometown: Born in Texas, raised in NEO: Portage Lakes, Manchester area
Lives in: West Akron, right around the corner from Highland Square
Works at: Bartender at Square Bar and also a studio artist on the side

Some of Adam's artwork
Some of Adam’s artwork

What was your first night like?

I worked at Swenson’s for three years before I came to bartending and when I started at Square it was actually Mardi Gras so I was sort of thrown to the wolves on my first day but I somehow survived. It was crazy, though. The regulars are characters. I had some beads thrown at me and I was trying to concentrate on how to make a screwdriver and I’ve got people saying do this do that – you can fill in the blanks there.

Name one thing, good or bad, that you wouldn’t know if you weren’t a bartender

I wouldn’t have a fraction of the connections that I do now if I hadn’t started bartending. Everybody knows the bartender and the bartender knows everybody. I know politicians and judges and lawyers and just people from all facets of life from all over the city.

Best tip you’ve ever gotten?

I got a 100 percent tip on an $85 tab and just recently. He was a very good customer. I kind of helped him out. He wanted to buy a round of shots for a bunch of people and it was on a crowded night – I offered to grab a tray and come out from behind the bar and help him disperse them. So I think he appreciated that little bit of cocktail waitress service.

Where do you go when you’re not at work?

As far as where I go to have fun, I go to my bar. It’s within a safe distance from my house, I get half off my drinks, and all my friends are there. I don’t have any reason to go anywhere else.

How do you know it’s going to be a good night?

Happy hour kind of indicates what kind of night it’s going to be. Weather obviously is a factor, too. But one thing I did learn while I’ve been bartending is that the full moon affect is a real thing. When it’s a full moon, you know it’s going to be a crazy night. I would say anyone in the service industry, medical field, works with children will tell you that it’s gonna get crazy if it’s a full moon.

What’s your favorite thing about Square?

My job seldom feels like work because I’m basically throwing a party for my friends every day. People kind of understand that it’s a gay bar but what it really is, is an everybody bar. I like to call it an everybody bar. We get people from the LGBT community but it’s not limited to that at all. The community part of that is key. I think our bar is the safest place for questioning people to go in the city because it’s friendly – we’ve got people young and old from all different backgrounds getting together and having fun. It’s fun. It’s safe. It’s clean. That’s what draws me there on my days off after working there seven years.

Has bartending at Square influenced/affected your art at all?

I get to bounce a lot of my ideas off of my patrons. Especially the happy hour people – our regulars – they have become really good friends of mine. They’ve got my back. Whenever I do shift from bartending to a more professional life with my art, I know that they’re going to help me and push me in the right direction. They’re going to give me connections. Absolutely my bar has influenced my art.

I hear you’re known for your passion fruit long island, any other staples?

I make a pretty mean margarita. We are known for our martinis big time at Square, though. One of my favorites is the pistachio ice cream martini.