When Old Major opened its doors to much media fanfare at the end of February, the bar had a star-studded staff. The five starting bartenders- Courtney Wilson, Ryan Conklin, Mike McGill, Melissa Durant, and Brian Melton -were well-recognized in the bar and restaurant world for their drink-mixing skills and hospitable ways with the guests. Mike came from the Squeaky Bean, Melissa from the Green Russell, and Brian had previously worked at TAG. Courtney, who was previously behind the bar at Williams & Graham and Ryan, who led the bar at Euclid Hall, were hired as co-managers.
Less than six months into serving guests and pouring drinks, however, the team is seeing significant changes that will leave only two of the five still working at Old Major.
Melissa Durant left the LoHi restaurant before the end of July. She has picked up a few shifts at the Green Russell while she awaits to join Acorn, set to open in September in RiNo. "In the end, Old Major was just not the right fit for me," Durant says. "I talked to Alex [Parks, one of the bar managers at Oak at Fourteenth, sister restaurant to Acorn] and was very excited to join the team that she and Bryan Dayton are putting together for Acorn," she adds.
Soon-to-leave is Brian Melton who, for personal reasons, is packing up and moving to Chicago. Melton says he will not pursue a bartending career in the Windy City, but will focus on returning to his writing roots. "I want to teach High School English, returning to my reading and writing roots that I left behind once this restaurant thing started to happen for me," Melton explains. "So no big bartending jobs. I definitely want to find myself someplace great with a good program, but I'm not looking to work at the Aviary or The Violet Hour like one might think," he adds. He will continue to work at Old Major for the next few weeks.
This coming Sunday, August 18, Ryan Conklin will pour drinks for the last time at Old Major. The certified cicerone is moving to Kansas City to study under Ryan Maybee of Manifesto for the BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource) program and exam. The BAR program, a five day session of classroom work followed by a written exam, practical demonstration, and blind tasting, is recognized as a version of the sommelier testing for spirit nerds. The BAR program and exam will take place at the end of September in New York City.
Aside from spending some time in Kansas City learning and taking the exam, the Arizona native has no plans or commitments. "I get a guilty pleasure out of serving the guest, but I am not sure what the next stage of my career will be," Conklin says. "I am now taking the opportunity to be a better barman, a student, to see what others in the industry, people that I respect, are doing," he adds. Conklin will return to Colorado, at least for a visit, during the Great American Beer Festival. His departure from Old Major will be celebrated on Sunday with a tiki-themed evening at the bar.