Widely-Adored Dallas Bartender Jermey Elliott Kindly Spills The Beans On Himself And The Brand New Concept Coming To The Design District.
Jermey Elliott is a really nice guy.
These days, a statement like that is rarely heard, so we savor it when we can. Let’s be frank: There are a lot of jackasses and weirdos out there. But when we find a stand-up guy, we have no choice but to hold them close and preserve their purity by any means necessary. Or, we ask them to share a quick phone call with us so we can pick their brain and catch up.
After all, nice guys (not “nice guys” — you know the type) like Elliott have a lot to offer.
The Dallas native and highly lauded bartender is back from his short stint in Arizona where he left the glitz and glamour of our city for the profound lessons only the desert can teach you. Now officially back home, folks are dying to know what’s next for the tall, handsome and gentle giant that has somehow mastered the art of balancing charisma and kindness with revered customer service.
Oh, and who better to address those rumors swirling about a brand new concept coming to the Design District than the man behind the cocktail program itself?
We caught up with Elliott for the exclusive on this and so much more.
Hi Jerm! Thanks for doing this. Let’s jump right to it: How did you get started in the industry?
Thank you for having me. I’d say I had to be like, 20 years old and recently fired from my job at a grocery store when I was in college. I went to college in Witchita Falls — shout out to the Western — but I was young, Jermey and dumb.
My homie Carlos was like, “You should think about working in the industry. You’re a nice guy.” I was like, “I don’t know anything about the hospitality industry.” He was like, “You get paid straight cash every night.” I was like, “Done!”
You can’t beat cash every night!
Since I started I fell in love with the industry. Around 24, my dad got really sick and I had to move back home and I had to make the decision of “Do I continue to go to school or further my job? What do you really want to do” I mean, I’ve always loved people in the industry and I’ve always been really drawn to the industry because of that.
So I thought to myself, “I’m gonna get serious about hospitality.” That’s when I decided to and move back home with my homie Jesse Powell.
So where did you go from there?
Although I grew up in Dallas — I was born in Parkland — it was a learning experience for me entirely. I worked at Buffalo Wild Wings for two years before I got picked up by the dudes at [Milkshake Concepts] for the opportunity to work in Uptown. All those dudes were crucial to showing me just how the Dallas hospitality industry works. Then I got a job over at Parliament and that was like, the craziest and best four years of my life.
So how exactly does the Dallas hospitality industry work, then?
Dallas really revolves around food and beverage. We know that — you can look at numbers. But the dope thing that I absolutely love about Dallas is that hospitality industry homies really support each other and the growth of the city overall.
Regardless of if you work at a cocktail bar, at a dive bar, in a strip club, or wherever, we all know each other and support each other in different ways. Whether it’s just being there to see the homies and saying what’s up to recommending spaces for people that are coming into town, like, “Hey, there’s a charity event or a pop-up at so and so’s.”
That’s the beautiful thing about our market.
That may be one of the more beautiful things about a market that is large enough to sustain itself but small enough to keep growing. There’s a lot of room for collaboration and community here.
I think Dallas is really beautiful. You know, fun to love at night and see how pretty the skyline is but then you realize how super flat our landscape is. I spent a year in Phoenix and people do eat and drink. The food and hospitality industry out west is really dope, but people’s days are centered around going outside and hiking and outdoor activities and that sort of thing. Their community is centered around physical activities.
Here, it’s like you go see the homies or someone comes into town and you want to take them out for dinner or drinks or check out some music. I really like the culture of our city.
But why did you leave us then, Jerm?!
[Laughs.] I kinda dropped the bomb on everybody when I decided to leave. It’s funny when you make those kinds of transitions. People assume that something is bad and that’s the reason you’re leaving. Everyone knows I love the city, Parliament, Lucky and all the homies I worked with. But, you get in these situations in your life where things are really good but you feel kind of stagnant and you have to kind of mix it up a little bit. Some people don’t always have the opportunity and I’ve always been a person to make myself available to the universe.
My homie Joon out in Arizona is one of the most wonderful people on the planet. I love him to death. Anyway, he put me onto this opportunity to work at Bitter & Twisted under Ross Simon, who’s great. He’s won tons of Spirit Awards and has nominated for a bunch of stuff and is just awesome. So, I talked to him and then made the decision to jump out there last January.
One thing I want to say is that Arizona is absolutely beautiful. The West Coast is gorgeous — so much natural beauty.
Well, we’re just happy you’re back home with us. Speaking of home, there’s been some rumors swirling around about this new concept coming to Dallas. Can we talk about that?
One of the main reasons I came back home, besides missing my family, of course, was for this opportunity with Brandon Hayes and Phil Schanbaum. I’m super stoked about this project. It’s going to be in the Design District.
There’ll be more details to come, but really it’ll be a space with a focus on the classics. We think that it’ll be an interesting dynamic in that area. We’ll be having a little bit of a different dynamic where the industry and working-class homies can have a great drink for a reasonable price. I always hated that feeling where a bar has a beautiful build-out but the cocktails are like, $16 or $17 and you get this feeling like, “I don’t belong here.”
So, if you’re looking for a nightcap after a night out in the Design District, you can come to us for a reasonably priced and really well-built cocktail. Or, if you just got off your shift and you want to go have a beer and a shot, we’ve got your back. You know what I mean?
Does this new space have a name?
Double D’s. Double D’s in the Design District.
Oh, man. That’s a great name.
Aesthetically, what are we talking about here? Because with that name, it sounds like this is a place that wouldn’t let you in with sweatpants, if you know what I mean.
[Laughs.] Aesthetically, we’ve been kind of playing around with beautiful ’70s style lounges. Not like kitschy-disco, but a lot of wood and plants.
Like fern bars?
Yeah, like fern bars. We’re doing pizza, too, for you pizza sluts.
When can we expect this to open?
Spring. More details to come!
That’s fair. Back to you: Do you see yourself staying in the hospitality industry?
Oh yeah, for the rest of my life. I’ll be involved in this in some form or fashion. I really love this stuff. From the operations to the business to the people — all of it. I think it’s one of the most beautiful industries to be in. I feel really fortunate to get all the love.
There it is! The million-dollar catchphrase. You’re credited in the industry and widely known for kind of coining the phrase “all the love.” How did that come about?
It’s really funny because even when I’m out of town or in the city, and someone says “all the love” they immediately think of me. [Laughs.] But I started saying it because it really came out from a genuine place. I remember it was at Parliament.
Regulars came in and I’d ask them about their day. Whether it be good or bad or whatever, the message I wanted to convey was that if you come in here, I want you to give and get all the love you can receive. I don’t really like it being a catchphrase, you know? I genuinely mean it. Especially when I say it to the homies, like if they’re going through some tough stuff or need someone to talk to and understand them, I want them to absorb all the love they can get.
Absolutely. You know, the people want to know where you get all of your sweetness from.
I tell people all the time that I get it from my momma. She’s the sweetest person in the world.
But life is really hard. Last year, for everyone on the planet with COVID and with all kinds of stuff going on this year, you really have to take control of your mindset and be just be empathetic and understanding toward others and yourself.
Mental strength is very necessary if you want to survive these wild times. Which leads me to my next question: How has the experience of being a person of color in the Dallas hospitality industry shaped you or your experiences?
I think I’m on two sides, right? I’ve been really fortunate in this market. I’ve gotten a lot of love and support from all kinds of folks. I really don’t think that I’ve ever run into any kind of pushback for the color of my skin, specifically similar to mine. I think it’s a testament to the city of Dallas if you work hard and do everything with love and kindness.
However, with that being said, in other markets and for other people that’s not the case. I have seen situations where really good servers who are people of color or even barbacks don’t get the opportunity to move up or get behind a bar like a mustached white guy with suspenders would get. But, I think this has changed in the last five years with more women and people of color behind the bar.
My homie Eric Castro runs and owns Raised By Wolves in San Diego, and brought up a good point that bar spaces have to start looking at their neighborhoods and I think that’s happening here.
That’s a good point.
I think there’s always more work to do in every industry, and especially our industry. We have to stay mindful of people that are being disenfranchised and not given those opportunities. It starts with owners and operators and taking a good look at your staff and giving opportunities for everybody to grow. Showing love equally to everybody.
All the love, right?
All the love!
Cover image by Sung Joon Koo.