When a friend suggested I interview her #bartendercrush, Flo from Bob’s Bar just north of Clintonville, I was hesitant. Would I even like this guy? Is he tall, dark and handsome? Will he like me back? Well, reader, as you may know, our city of Columbus happens to be creepily small for such a populous place. And as it turns out, I have known Flo for years from my days of employment at the Newport Music Hall.
Flo has many crushable qualities, like his height. The man has a 5 o’clock shadow that would make a pre-teen cry tears of jealousy. He is serious about service. No one’s drinks stay empty for long at Bob’s, and most of the time Flo replaces your beverage before you have time to ask for it. It’s obvious that getting you drunk is a priority for him. Swoon.
And let me say, this man has a following. When I arrived at Bob’s for a chat, his regulars scooted around and made a cozy spot for me at the bar in between them. There’s Doug, an expert on many things, who also does some graphic design work for Bob’s Bar. Up next is Ron, a quiet type with an affinity for Miller High Life. And Brandie, who recommended Flo to me, sits at the bar and argues with all the old men.
Name: Mark “Flo” Florig
Years behind Bar: 12
Band/Book/Beverage: Phish, Bourbon, Why We Suck by Dennis Leary
Hobbies: Going to concerts, drinking, anything outdoors, part-time magician. (Sarcasm also seems to be a hobby of Flo’s.)
Kelly Laine: Are you from Columbus?
Flo: Youngstown. I was born on the west coast but I only lived there until I was five, in Portland, Oregon. Then I moved to Youngstown because that’s where my dad is from.
KL: When did you come to Columbus?
Flo: I came in ’98. I came for Ohio State, then Columbus State. Then Ohio State, then Columbus state. Twice.
KL: How did you end up bartending?
Flo: Basically, the guy who ran the Newport [Music Hall] played guitar across from my house all day. He told me he was the manager of the Newport, and I told him I’d like to bartend. So they put me on a sub list, but at the same time I was serving at the Buckeye Hall of Fame and I eventually ended up behind the bar there. That was my first full-time gig. I was at the Newport once a month if I was lucky because they had a full staff. But that’s kinda how I got my foot in the door there.
KL: How long were you at the Newport?
Flo: Ha, well. 1998 to kind of now? I still work when they call me. But full-time, I was there from 2001 till about 2007. That’s when I stopped being a manager there. When I really started here full-time I stopped working for the Newport so much.
KL: How long have you been here?
Flo: Three years.
KL: How big is Bob’s staff?
Flo: [Counts on his fingers…] Eight people.
KL: Can I have a pumpkin beer?
[I drank a Pumpkinhead Ale by Shipward Brewing Co., and it was yums; crisp, light body, and a spicy hint of pumpkin. I’ll drink it all fall. Bob’s has a baller beer selection. Try the World Tour and sample them all. Warning: the Tour takes most people around 2 months, but once it’s complete you get a 25 ounce mug that Bob’s will refill for the price of a 16 ounce glass. Worth it.]
KL: How’d you end up at Bob’s?
Flo: I was selling beer for CBC and I came in as a beer rep. Then I moved to the area. When I lived in Grandview I lived at Byrne’s. Once I moved to Clintonville I needed a bar in my area. Somebody quit and they needed a replacement. That’s how most people get a job here.
Doug: They coulda hired a dog but dogs don’t have opposable thumbs.
KL: Does anyone ever order anything besides beer?
Brandie: Oh, tell her about that time that person ordered a Mai Tai!
Flo: I had a 21-year-old kid order a frozen Mai Tai once, and it happened to be in front of all the regulars. So for the next six months I was getting frozen Mai Tai orders.
KL: So would you say that beer is your specialty is beer?
Flo: Yeah, I mean we move a lot of liquor too. That’s kind of the whole “Cultural Hub” thing. We have a little of everything.
[By “a little of everything” Flo means Bob’s has over 200 beers, 37 vodkas, an extensive bourbon list, and of course, Mai Tai’s.]
KL: What are you favorite things about Columbus that you’d share with someone here from out of town?
Flo: I always say the Short North. And if you’re a sports or college fan I always say to go wander around OSU campus because there’s so much to do. I used to say German Village but now every time I suggest it they come back with a story about being hustled for money or something. I like Goodale Park too. We have a lot of parks that don’t get enough credit here.
KL: What do you do if a fight breaks out in your bar?
Flo: I’ve stepped in, but I run if I start to see people swinging. Just take it outside.
Brandie: But he’s very territorial of the parking lot.
Flo: Yeah, I’m a Parking Nazi.
KL: What’s the best and the worst of being a bartender?
Flo: The best part is the beer. I can’t complain about the hours. I like all the different personalities but they can also be the bad part. Being on the bus line is great.
KL: What would you do if you weren’t behind the bar?
Flo: I would probably be a schoolteacher. I used to run a pool in Grove City and the younger ones were always easier to deal with. I had kids at the pool who thought I was the dumbest person in the world and I was like “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. I deal with 25 year old kids like you that drink!”
KL: How old were you the first time you got drunk, and what did you drink?
Flo: I was 13; I had two cans of Miller Light and some gin. It was brutal.
If you’re in the area, stop at Bob’s Bar, the “Cultural Hub” and have some delicious beer. Challenge yourself with the World Tour. Happy Hour at Bob’s is 2-8 Monday through Friday. And for all you football fans: show up on game days and revel in camaraderie, Bob’s has some fun stuff in store for us this year.