By RJ Johnson
Chris Fernandez, known in bartending circles as “Pootie” is quite possibly one of the friendliest men to ever serve you a drink. Fernandez has been at the game for over a decade. After starting his career at TGI Friday’s on Tudor road, he soon moved to the downtown area with a job at Platinum Jaxx. He is also known for his time at the Last Frontier Bar, and on July 31st he will celebrate his fourth year with Williwaw. He has seen a lot of change happen in the industry both in what he does while making drinks, and the culture of all of it. “When I first got into the downtown scene, Pride wasn’t as big. Even the drinking is different” he says. He remembers a time when customers came out simply for the atmosphere of a bar, or to be around new people. He reminisces about legendary bartender outings called Sunday Funday that happen less frequently. “Now, there has some sort of gig, or gimmick to come out.”
This constant need for events is part of what makes Williwaw so popular, and also among the favorite things about his job. “Concerts — they make it worth it,” he says. “There is no monotony. Bartenders do the same thing repetitiously, over and over, when it comes to the atmosphere aspect of it. Here, every weekend, it switches up, from a live band, to a private event, to them bringing an amazing DJ up. There is never that boredom aspect.”
This week, for Pride, Williwaw will be part of some of the biggest events that Identity, Inc. has to offer. Promotions guru Susynn Snyder said, “Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and we will have the beer garden for Pridefest, and this year there will be two! There are two stages so there is going to be a beer garden by each. You won’t be stuck while having a beer.” Snyder also gave us a sneak peek of what offerings will be in those beer gardens, and it is a good example of utilizing corporate sponsorship, while still showcasing Alaskan products at the same time.
“We will have four of the Brewed with Pride Beers, that will be most of the beer, we might a couple of domestics, we will have Double Shovel Cider, and we will have Smirnoff Spritzers, so there will be some of those delicious malt beverages that everyone loves, low sugar, low calories. Of course, we will have mimosas,” Snyder said.
At the House Party event on Friday night, be sure to ask about the rainbow fun that will be available. Snyder says the featured rinks will be “Smirnoff Drink features, the Yass Queen, the Rainbow Jello Shots. You can’t have a house party without Jell-O Shots.”
Three years ago, crowd favorite event Drag Queen Bingo made the move to Williwaw, and it seems there still is not enough space for the always sold out party. Williwaw has also been host to three of the past headlining Drag Queen acts that have been to Alaska.
“We had Bob the Drag Queen, and then Ginger Minj, and now we have Thorgy Thor and Lardi B, and DJ Hotpants all the way from Miami. That should be awesome. I am excited to see what he is going to bring!” Snyder exclaimed.
With three headliners taking the stage on the same night, the rest of the party had to rise to the same level. Local favorite salon the Beauty Room decided to help add a little extra sparkle to the party.
“At the Brick Bash, the Beauty Room will be doing an activation where you can get your beard glittered, and get some hair color done,” Snyder said. “They will have a little glitter station activation going on. I love having that sort of thing incorporated, and bringing more people into what we are doing. Double Shovel wanted to be part of the beer garden, and we said of course, we love having the local beers that are benefitting Identity, also.”
At 2018 events, Fernandez took some inspiration from his knowledge of the bar and nightclub industry and creating a drink so popular that they had to bring it back for this year’s parties. The YAASS QUEEN is a throwback to sweeter drinks that were all the rage in the early 2000’s.
“When I made that drink last year, I wanted it to be different. It was risky, because of the sweet factor, but the playful aspect is a seller,” Fernandez said. “People get sold visually first.”
The tasty libation is beautiful, and just like it’s base alcohol, it starts off red white and blue. As you drink it, it becomes layers of purple, pink, and lavender that dance in the glass.
“It starts with Smirnoff Red, White and Berry, some in house pomegranate grenadine, lemon, Sweet and Sour, Blue Curacao — It’s almost like a blue otter pop.” Fernandez said. “It’s like an ode to the old school sweet drinks. Of course, the town is in that direction of the craft cocktail, but when they come out they still want a sweet drink. Pride has it!”