Coming from the green fields of Iowa and the history laden countryside of Pennsylvania, Mark Hess and Gary Wentzel have their feet firmly planted in the sandy soil of Fort Lauderdale. It was here the two bartenders met at "Cathode Ray's" infamous Monday night beer blast, a mere twenty-six years ago.
"We were there with separate friends who introduced us to each other" Hess said. "From there we went to 'The Copa' and continued our conversation about 50's and 60's cars.” Wentzel added, “You just don't run into too many people who can share your enthusiasm about a 62' Chrysler Imperial.”
The more time they spent together, the more they found they had a lot in common, and that's how it all began.
They have been together 25 years, 7 of which as a legally married couple. The two have been bartending on the drive for nearly 30 years. Hess started in Wilton Manors at the world famous Chardees and Wentzel at a fun small neighborhood spot named "Club Classics."
When asked about those early years, Hess answers "We were bartending on the Drive when there wasn't much to it, even Burger King had closed down."
Wilton Manors turned around and more and more businesses opened and the small quiet town reinvented itself into the gay hot spot it is today.
"In addition to meeting lots of people, we've made lots of lasting friendships with many of our patrons," Wentzel added. "People from all over the world" Hess quipped.
It seems that in Hess’ case, he has come full circle. They both have joined the team of the newly opened Southern Nights which occupies the space where Chardees once was.
"It's a familiar feeling walking through these doors after so many years" he said. Both he and Wentzel will be teaming up to bring their skills and personalities to happy hour at Southern Nights.
"We enjoy the happy hour crowd, I guess that's because we enjoy happy hour ourselves" Wentzel laughed.
While reflecting on their successful longevity on the drive, the duo excitingly look forward to bringing their expertise and talent to their new family at Southern Nights. Martini's, friends, conversations and Hess and Wentzel, what could be a better way to end your workday or start your evening off?
Cheers! Happy Hour is here again.