“All good things must come to an end,” is an idiom that we are all familiar with. Penned by Chaucer in the late 1380’s, this quote has come to serve as a constant in understanding that nothing can last forever. Although translated more often in a negative connotation, the statement should be followed with rhetoric of better things to come.
This Saturday will mark the end of Jason Kindness’ tenure at The Revolving Door. A staple behind the bar for the past 3 years, Jason is widely regarded as one of the most talented hospitality professionals in a town saturated with great bars and restaurants. Renowned for his use of fresh ingredients, innovative ideas and consistent execution, Kindness has solidified his place in both local and national cocktail culture.
I met Jason a few years back while I was working as a manager at The Mooring. Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him as a person and more importantly as a friend. As a a young bartender, you’re always picking up on little things that other bartenders do to improve your own personal craft. Jason was always someone whom I admired watching, as his presence behind the bar is captivating and his attention to detail is second-to-none. It’s enchanting to invite a bartender to craft you a cocktail based solely on a few recommendations. When you’re able to run a bar program thats most popular drink is “dealer’s choice,” you must be doing something right.
Something that is often misconstrued by the general public is the difference between a bartender and a mixologist. There’s a stigma that states that “a mixologist serves drinks, a bartender serves people” or “a mixologist makes you what they want you to drink, a bartender makes you what you want to drink.” That is not the case. Mixology and bartending go hand in hand, especially in today’s restaurant scene where a resurgence in cocktail trends have dominated the industry over the past 5 years. When considering a ‘mixologist,’ the first things that come to mind are a hipster dude who wears suspenders, sports a handle-bar mustache and muddles herbs for every drink he creates. I think an article from Nightclub.com in October of 2011 sums it up best; “A mixologist is an individual with a passion for combining elixirs and creating extraordinary cocktails, whereas a bartender is an individual with a passion for making great drinks and creating well-balanced experiences. To be successful, you really need both types behind the bar.”
Unfortunately, due to the crass nature of media in the industry, the term has contracted a derogatory reputation and is often misused. I won’t lie, because of this stigma, I cringe when people say the word ‘mixologist.’ My good friends (good being a very loosely-used term) Rich Willis, Luke Gambale and Dakota Cowell take pleasure in busting my balls by using that term to refer to me when I’m making a drink. Make no mistake, Jason Kindness was specializing in craft cocktails and mixology before the band of upstart Brooklyn & Manhattan bartenders decided that pretentiousness and ingredients that are impossible to pronounce would now be the industry norm for cocktail bars. At the end of the day, we are all bartenders. We take pride in showing our guests extraordinary experiences and serving quality libations. It’s the experience and education that define someone truly gifted in mixology, not the costume or cockiness.
Jason leaves The Revolving Door for an opportunity he could not pass up, a chance to own his own establishment as a managing partner of Kai Bar, opening in East Greenwich in the next few weeks. Kindness joins investors Marshall Muir and his wife Nadya Koltakova, Jennifer Marinelli and Jen Colannino in the project that will take the place of the old Alex & Ani store located at 232 Main Street. When asked about the theme of the endeavor, Jason said that the partners involved are “a group of friends who wanted to introduce a unique, comfortable concept with inventive yet approachable food and drink.”
East Greenwich is home to some great bars and restaurants, with local staples such as La Masseria, Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar, Besos, Main Street Coffee and McKinley’s highlighting some of my own favorite E.G. establishments. Kindness and his partners saw something missing from the bustling nightlife scene and decided that now was the time to take advantage of the opportunity and introduce a new, fresh concept to the downtown area.
Kai Bar (Kai is the Hawaiian word for ‘ocean’ and also the name of Muir’s son), will be an approachable establishment hosting a comfortable environment, with an overwhelmingly strong focus on hospitality and simplicity done well. Artisanal cheese plates and tapas style offerings will highlight the food menu rather than a very ‘dinner heavy’ menu, allowing for flexibility while the restaurant gains momentum. Other than Besos Kitchen & Cocktails, East Greenwich does not truly have a deep-rooted reputation for craft cocktails and with Kindness manning the helm, an introduction to his style of bartending will be a warm-welcomed addition to Main Street. More details of their cocktail/wine list and food menu will be provided over the next few weeks so stay informed by following them on Facebook and checking out their website, www.kairbareg.com.
Kindness wants Kai Bar to be a place where people can congregate for conversation and cocktails. He wanted to create an environment that inspires patrons to convene and converse with one another rather than staring at a TV on the wall or getting lost in their phone screen. This is the style of old, when watering holes, taverns and saloons were meeting places rather than just a place to grab a drink. It’s this type of interactive approach that catapulted Kindness to industry prominence, where patrons are invited to participate in the craft and are kept entertained by the show that’s taking place behind the bar. The allure of what Jason and The Revolving Door were able to create over the years was that you spent your time focusing on what he was concocting and what the Chef was preparing rather than focusing on the outside world. You were invited to be a part of the moment and a piece of the experience, something that is lost far too often in today’s world of table tablets and televisions. It’s something that’s so simple yet beautiful at the same time, and a foundational element that Jason hopes to take with him to his new home in East Greenwich.
Bar ownership is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience, planning and a “pair of cojones” as my Nana used to say. Surrounded by so many good friends in the hospitality business, Kindness is using these resources to help him in his first ownership project. Whether it’s making sure margins are met or sharing ideas for menu direction, it sure does help to be surrounded by some of the most talented and passionate restaurant professionals in the state. Jason’s heart will remain in Newport and so will his address, as the commute to East Greenwich is a quick 30 minute trip up Route 4. He made sure to inform me that his time in Newport is not a closed chapter and to keep an eye out for guest appearances behind the bar from time to time.
Although the move requires an exodus from his home at The Revolving Door, Jason leaves on great terms with the Bouchard family, whom he credits for their unconditional love, support and guidance throughout their time working together. When I asked about how his absence would effect the Lower Thames Street favorite, Jason had a very appropriate response saying, “That’s the beauty of The Revolving Door, one person leaves and another person comes in, right where we left off.” I thought this was a fitting answer, one that is subtle yet assuring, especially coming from someone who prides himself on his professionalism. The Revolving Door is losing a great asset but the show must go on and I’m confident, as is Jason, that the restaurant will continue to flourish.
Jason’s last shift at The Revolving Door will be this Saturday, December 17th. Along with his final shift, Jason will also be teaching his last ‘Mixology 101’ course the same day at Noon. Don’t wait, as availability is limited and last I checked, there were only a handful of tickets remaining. It’s only fair to assume that they’ll be extremely busy this weekend with guest Chef Kevin Gaudreau’s menu making a splash around town and with Jason’s departure, so make sure to get down to share your well wishes and say your goodbyes before it’s too late.
I’m sure I speak on behalf of so many people here in Newport by saying, Cheers to you Mr. Kindness, you’ll be missed!
Tyler is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn