May 31, 2006

A Day In The Life Setting The Bar: Dennis Maguire

Bartending is more than a question of shaken or stirred.

"You're carrying on 15 different conversations at one point, while you are doing your job, while you are making cocktails for everybody," said Dennis Maguire, the bartender at World Pie in Bridgehampton.

From his vantage point behind the curved, wooden island filled with alcohol and glass, Maguire holds a courtside seat to an ever-changing tableau.

"You take in so much during the course of those hours. You take in so many different personalities, so many different people and human stories, which is a lovely way to make a living," he said.

The "interesting play every night" is one Maguire has participated in for many years. He started as a busboy in a restaurant in Queens at the age of 17, and continued bartending through college. He owned and operated Blossoms, a restaurant in Bayside from 1976 to 1997.

"I remember in Blossoms seeing kids when they met, dated, and then they got engaged, and got married, and had kids, and we did their christenings, and so on and so forth," he said. "You grow with the community and you grow with the people. It really is a lot of fun."

Maguire and his family moved to Hampton Bays, where they had long had a summerhouse in 1997, and he became a part owner of a beer distributor in Hampton Bays. He has worked at World Pie since 1999. "I went there for a part-time thing and ended up staying there four nights a week for the last seven years," he said. The work is a family affair: his wife, Linda, runs the floor at the restaurant.

Last Saturday, amidst the madness of Memorial Day weekend, Maguire worked the bar with practiced ease, taking orders and pouring drinks without missing a beat in the conversation, sharing anecdotes and jokes, though, he said, "I'm not sure that you can print all of them."

When Mel Brooks stopped by one evening, Maguire went to his table to thank the funnyman for making the film Blazing Saddles and to bring him a glass of water. When Brooks returned the next night and greeted Maguire with a "Hello, Dennis." Maguire replied, "What, I buy you a water and now you won't leave me alone?"

In terms of drinks, Maguire said people have gone the way of James Bond. "Martinis. Oh God. They've come back. Dirty martinis, apple martinis, French martinis, espresso martinis. And wine."

A night in the bar is "very similar to that Billy Joel song, but on a more positive note," with a wide and ever-changing cast of characters, Maguire said. "At eight o'clock you get your regular couple from Manhattan who are coming out on the Jitney to their weekend house. You see a regular guy who's single, who comes to the bar, likes to make conversation. A local appraiser who's just a wonderful, wonderful person who tells you how his day was," he said.

Summer brings a new group of faces, and some of the regulars fade to the wings. The chaotic nature of summer is "disruptive, but nice," Maguire said, but added he missed "that Sunday dinner with the family" of regulars and "the little daily bits of news you get from people."

The news that he does keep up with comes from the network of bartenders and restaurant people who trickle in to swap stories as the night winds down. "You establish very, very close relationships with these people over the years," he said.

It is a community that he won't be leaving anytime soon; bartending is a job he wouldn't "trade for anything in the world," Maguire said. The banter, the interaction, and the opportunity to observe are too good to miss.

"For those few moments or that hour [the customers] are together, sitting next to each other at the bar, eating, they develop a friendship and a bond that just keeps on going throughout the course of the year," he said. "It's fascinating to see the whole thing."

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