Born to bartend 

Southside's Johnny Nolan

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON

Who better to become a tavern keeper than a Wyoming boy named Johnny Nolan?

Best known as just Johnny, Nolan has welcomed, entertained, nurtured and knocked back shots with a wealth of Colorado Springs customers since 1991 and his first bartending gig at Bennigan's. In 1992, he was snatched up by the Ritz Grill where he ruled the bar for 10 years, cultivating an enormous group of regulars.

Earlier this summer, Southside Johnny's opened in the converted trolley barn at 528 S. Tejon St. and Nolan's loyal customers followed him in droves to the new bar and grill that's his namesake, co-owned by his former bosses at the Ritz. Now, instead of just running the bar, Nolan runs the whole show including overseeing a new, young wait staff. "It's kind of like being their dad," he laughs, watching as one of his new hires serves the next table.

What's so great about being a bartender?

"It's different every night," says Nolan. "Every customer that walks in is different and new. It's not like a desk job where you do the same thing every day."

And what makes him so successful?

Nolan blushes a deep red and shakes his head. He glances around the bustling room at his customers.

"You gotta treat people well on a consistent basis," he says, "whether they've got five bucks or five-hundred bucks in their pocket."

-- Story by Kathryn Eastburn,

  • Southside's Johnny Nolan


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