RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond man who committed the last decade of his career training bartenders in the River City has created an online business that has taken his teaching virtual.
Mike Love, who owned the Richmond Bar Academy where aspiring career bartenders learned the tricks of the trade, had to change course because of the pandemic.
“Mid-March, I had to close my school, and quickly pivoted towards a virtual happy hour that I hosted... through the school,” he recalled. “My paycheck was cut off right when the school was closed, so it's been a little bit of a challenge, you know, financially.”
Love said a quick decision because of his uncertain future prompted him to launch BarChefCocktailKits.com.
The online business, which is a box filled with everything needed to make cocktails -- minus the liquor -- ships directly to customers, launched in July.
“After I closed my school, I was like, 'Well, where are people going to enjoy a cocktail?'” he said “I mean, you know, having a drink with, you know, friends, family, colleagues. It's a bonding experience... that was quickly taken from us when the bars and restaurants closed.”
Those bar kits also include a key to join a live Zoom with either Love or a guest bartender who teaches the art of crafting cocktails.
“It’s not only, you know, creating a future for myself, but also a free future for other bartenders as well,” Love explained.
Regardless of the pandemic, Love believes it was just a matter of time before virtual happy hours started popping up on people's screens.
“It gives the customer an opportunity to have that, you know, personal experience,” Love said. “...And ask any questions that they've been dying to ask, you know, when they've been sitting at the bar, but the bartender is too busy.”
And as for the bartenders trying their hand at teaching, the cocktail kits explore a different theme and liquor for each session.
“They thought, you know, ‘Well, you know, I'll give it a shot,’” Love said. “And then afterwards, it's typically like, ‘Wow, that was a lot of fun.’”