Interview with the Bartender: Chug Pub's Terence Pon

By Jackie Lopez

Head bartender Terence Pon of Chug Pub on 20th and Lincoln, across from Golden Gate Park (and conveniently located next to the 71, 29, and the 28 bus stops) tells us about life on the other side of the bar as he sits down for an impromptu interview...and yes, a drink.

How long have you been doing this? And where did you start?
Roughly four years. I started in Fuzio, a restaurant in the Financial District.

What kind of food do they serve?
Italian fusion. They had some pastas and Asian entrees.

Where else have you worked as a bartender?
I have worked for Fuzio, Universal Bistro, the Presidio Golf Course and Chug Pub.

And how do you like it here at Chug Pub?
Chug Pub is awesome. It’s a total bar so it’s not like a restaurant bar. We serve food but our main service is alcohol. We’re open late so working here while I’m making drinks is kind of like hanging out with friends. Everybody knows your name here. It’s a pretty local crowd. Whenever someone comes in that we don’t know, we’ll try and make them feel right at home. I talk to people and make sure their drinks are great and that they’re having a great time.

What’s it like on a busy night?
Hectic and full. The bar can get packed, and we'll have everyone trying to order drinks at the same time. We have two or three bartenders here and we're just trying to get drinks out in the best quality as possible as well as quickly as possible so everyone enjoys the night.

I'm guessing there must be a lot of traffic because you’re right across the street from Golden Gate Park.
Chug Pub is a great place to go if you want a laid back atmosphere. We've got sports going on all the TVs, a pool table, a jukebox with all the songs you could ever want in it, and we have six great bartenders that know everything one could possibly know about making a drink. They are all wonderful people who are all very smart, very intelligent, very friendly, and great people to talk too if you want to talk to them. And if you don’t want to talk to them you don’t have to talk to them... (Bartenders laugh)

All the bartenders have their own special cocktails that they can make. There’s Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday, football on Sundays, Monday specials, oh and we have a beer tower.

A beer tower?
Yep, it’s called the Chug Tower. It’s three liters of beer stacked up.

What's a bartender's worst dream?
Waking up with a customer in the morning.

Besides Chug Pub, tell us what the best bars in San Francisco are.
Hobson’s Choice - Haight Street, they've got a ton of beers and they have this punch that’s really good.

Durty Nelly’s - Irving and 24th; a total Irish pub. They’re Irish from the bartenders to the decorations to the owners to the drinks they serve. I went in there a random time, met their head bartender -- he comes into Chug Pub and I always go there. His name is Odi. They have live music and a fireplace. It’s a total dive bar, totally Irish. I’m Chinese and stick out like a sore thumb but the people there are all really friendly and great all around.

Toronado - Lower Haight, great beer bar. They've got a whole bunch of different beers on draft.

Dream bar?
Someplace on the beach with pretty bartenders. White sand beach with those blended fruity drinks and the umbrellas in the drinks and hammocks where you can sit down and a pretty girl will bring you your beverage. A vacation with alcohol is a dream to me.

When you have overly-drunk people at your bar, how do you tell them enough is enough?
If you’re trained to spot them with their slurred speech and their fumbling and you can tell they won't be good with their motor skills at that moment I'd say, “I’m sorry. I think you’ve had enough and we can’t serve you anymore. It’s in your best interest.”

Best part about bartending?
Best part about bartending is being in control of the liquor. Everyone wants a drink, they come to you and ask you to make them a drink and you get to make it for them. You see the look on their face when they love their drink. Especially when someone doesn’t know what to drink and they ask you “gimme your special.” I’ll make them my special and see that they genuinely like it, that just makes my day.

What do you do in your free time?
I like to go bowling at Serra Bowl in Daly City. I like to watch baseball games at PacBell Park. Giants! I read. The book I’m currently reading is the “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. I have pen pals. I write my pen pals who are from foreign countries and different states which is awesome. I go fishing in the Delta in Antioch too. Stripers. Large mouth bass.

Describe your dream customer.
Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants because he’s the best pitcher.

What would you serve him?
I’d make him my drink special, the Red Carpet Deluxe. Wait, is he even 21? I don’t even know if he’s 21. I’d sit down with him and have a drink with him then go out and play catch. I always have my baseball glove with me. My second dream customer would be Audrey Hepburn. If she would come in I would start drooling. I love Audrey Hepburn. If she came in I would give her a martini and a tiara because she’s a damn princess. So classy and beautiful and I love her. And then Natalie Portman next. She’s gorgeous too and smart.

Worst customer that you’ve ever had.
Some guy would come in here and he would always be drunk before he came in the bar. He would always ask for drinks and I would tell him no we can't serve you. Or if I wasn’t behind the bar, he would order drinks and get drunk and I would have to kick him out. He threw a bottle at us one time and would just start cussing at us. We would have to take it and still be polite but get him and his friends out of here.

Favorite bartender joke that you tell people.
What did the dog say to the sandpaper?
"Rough!"

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