Behind the Bar at the Anthill Pub

Chris Sinclair/New University

The room was just a tiny bit hostile. The low din of chaotic conversation mixed with incomprehensible music and filled the room. A line of several dozen students snaked around tables, their normally colored clothing painted rust by the crimson lights of the room. Impatient and uncomfortable, they glared at the front of the line. A small moment of silence, then an eruption: half the room cheering, half the room cursing.

This was just a normal Thursday-night happy hour for Nancy Kantzavelos, one of the eight bartenders at the Anthill Pub.

“It gets busy almost immediately,” she tells me, as she fills a glass of white wine. “First, we announce that it’s happy hour and people cheer. That lets us know whether or not it’s going to be a good one.” Tonight, the cheer was “Those are the magic words.”

Average height for the campus, Nancy is dwarfed by the constant buzzing around her. Simultaneously consumed by the sheer size of the crowd, she darts back and forth between the patrons, weaving around her compatriots. Bolstered by 12 years of competitive basketball, working in unison with the three other bartenders surprisingly has not always come naturally to her.

“Scott used to tell me that I needed to turn my head and look [before heading back to the bar],” she admits. But now, after a year of experience pouring drinks, she moves with the grace and form of an experienced dancer.

The four of them work in tandem, dishing out pints at an astounding rate.

Standing at the taps pouring a pitcher, she glances in the mirror. The entire room, normally visible, is obstructed by the mass of people still crowding forward. For a moment, one can see a hint of fatigue. The slightly inebriated crowd is a stark contrast to the intense concentration of the bartenders.

“I’m usually thinking to myself, ‘how much does this pitcher cost? Eight or nine dollars?’ Then it’s getting ready to be personable again. ‘Hi, what would you like, can I see your ID?’”

By the time she turns around, she’s all smiles, ready to help even the most inexperienced newly 21-year-old junior. Though she lacks the physical stature to force her will on the anxious students, her charm easily makes up for it. As she glides back and forth, she nods and smiles at her regulars, invoking a smile on each of their faces. As each new student approaches the front of the line, their demeanor slowly changes, first by the thought of beer and second by the grace with which they are served. The barkeeps at the Anthill are all wonderfully top notch.

As happy hour ends, the crowd slowly thins out and rotates, replacing sports fans with trivia buffs. Her shift ends. She pours herself a glass of merlot, bids goodbye to each regular and leaves the back of the bar, only to join them on the other side. Sitting down, she glances to her left and to her right. With a bit of a smirk on her face, she begins to blend into the crowd, tired, harried but comfortable. As she relaxes, friends begin to appear out of the woodwork. Surrounded by companions, regulars and friends, she’s no longer working, she’s now part of the noise.

The New U loves us our pub. But beyond the eclectic selection of beer, what is utterly wonderful about our watering hole is the amazing staff, the endearing atmosphere and the unforgettable memories formed there. If you ever find yourself wandering campus without the least bit of direction, the Anthill Pub and Grille is a wonderful place to recollect yourself. You won’t be a vagrant for very long.