Best of Kent: Best Bartender

Dylan Reynolds

First PlaceMike Haney, Water Street Tavern

Known for his bad puns and affinity for creative drinks, Mike Haney of Water Street Tavern brings enthusiasm to work.

“I genuinely like the people that come in to the bar,” he said, “and I think that makes it easier for them to like me too.”

Before starting at Water Street, Haney tended a bar in the famous Athens, Ohio bar scene. He noted the differences between the two college towns, describing the Kent bar-hopping scene as more of a “regulated schedule.”

“People start at Ray’s, then they’ll walk around to The Loft or Zephyr, and then they come to Water Street at the end,” he said. “So we get very busy in a rush of things, instead of a gradual climb over the night.”

 Haney becomes super-efficient when the crowds are swelling.

“At this point I’ve been bartending long enough to take multiple orders and make multiple drinks at one time,” he said, “but I think that the creative stuff is more fun, and interacting with people is more fun.”

During his four years at Water Street, Haney has accumulated some wild stories, but none more off-the-wall than the time rapper 50 Cent visited the bar.

“We had our security staff escort him in and everything and make sure he was safe. And I think the one thing he said to them was about how bad they smelled. And they do,” he joked.

Haney is consistently ranked among Kent’s top bartenders because he cares about what he does and who he serves. He smiles while talking about Halloween night, when customers have to remove elaborate costumes to get ID’d at the entrance, and the morning after Saint Patrick’s Day, when he finds dozens of lost credit cards scattered around the bar.

In his spare time, Haney practices yoga and rock climbing, two calming activities that carry over into his attitude at work. He stressed the importance of having friendly conversations with his guests: “We’re just like glorified therapists.”

Second PlaceAlex Daly, Water Street Tavern


Another outstanding bartender from Water Street Tavern, Alex Daly says customers recognize him as a friendly face in the establishment.

“It doesn’t pay to be mean,” Daly said. “I enjoy interacting with my guests more than just serving them and telling them to leave.”

He has fun at his job and brings a lot of friends to the bar, which may inflate his reputation at the place, he joked.

Daly started his bartending career at Brubaker’s Pub in Hudson and came to Water Street a year-and-a-half ago. His favorite drink to make there is the “Golden Flash,” and he said a lot of people ask for fruitier shots like “white gummy bears” and “Vegas bombs.”

There is a friendly competition among some of his coworkers to win local bartending awards, and Daly said he’s honored by the recognition.

“I’m excited because I know that Water Street has a pretty good reputation for being one of the more popular bars with the better bartenders and more-liked bartenders.”

Third PlaceAshley Linke, Loft

Ashley Linke started bartending at The Loft Tavern shortly after she entered legal bartending age. That was only a couple years ago, and she’s already in the upper echelon of Kent bartenders.

“It’s fun,” Linke said. “I get to talk to everybody, and I never shut up, so I get super personal with everyone.”

She said customers remember her because she makes an effort to remember them.

“I always talk to everybody and actually take the time to get to know what people like,” she said. “I remember what everyone always gets.”

Dylan Reynolds is a feature writer. Contact him at [email protected].