Johnny O’Donnell’s worked a number of bars in the borough, but today you’ll find him slingin’ drinks at Barnaby’s
Are you from West Chester? I’m from Exton, and I moved to West Chester when I was 13. I went to college for a year at Penn State then transferred back to West Chester for four more, and I’ve been here ever since.
What’d you study? I studied psychology and athletic coaching, all while playing football for West Chester. I was a psych major for a while, but when I decided I didn’t want to go to graduate school, I turned to athletic coaching. It worked out well, because after college I got a job coaching football at Widener University.
How’d that go? It was great, but I actually resigned recently. I’m 27 now. I’ve been involved in football since I was seven years old, so it’s been a part of my life for 20 years. I thought it was time to try something else. I’m interested in the challenge of something new.
What do you think that something else might be? Maybe something in sales. I did a lot of recruiting at Widener, and while it doesn’t have a sales title, that’s essentially what you’re doing: selling the school and the team. I’m just interested in pursuing new opportunities.
In the meantime you’re spending some extra time working at Barnaby’s. Yup. I usually work Mondays and Fridays, but, since leaving my job, I’ve started working Saturdays, as well as picking up other shifts. It’s really enjoyable; it’s a job that makes me happy to come to work and interact with people. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but the more I do it, the more I’ve grown to like it.
How long have you been bartending? I started at Barnaby’s in 2012. I bartended and barbacked at Ryan’s the next year, then I got my job at Widener. When Saloon 151 opened up, I got behind their bar. Not much later, I talked to Steak, who’s a manager here at Barnaby’s, and he got me some shifts here again. I’ve been back here since March—coming up on a year.
Seems like you know the bar scene here pretty well. Yeah, I know it from working, but I have to admit: I’m a customer just as much. I really enjoy going to the bars in West Chester. It’s a good town, good people, and a lot of fun.
What brought you back to Barnaby’s? I knew the managers really well, and I knew that they liked working with me, and I figured it’s good to be where you’re wanted. Plus, the business at Barnaby’s is always really good—it’s so big, there’s a wide variety of customers, always a good time, and we’ve got great food.
What’s your favorite night to work? Well, Monday nights are bingo nights, and Taylor and I are always at the main bar for when Ed Lover does bingo. That
means tons of free drinks, so it’s always a fun night, especially for a Monday. Friday nights are good, too. We do $3 Blue Moon and Bud Lights—that really kicks off the weekend the right way.
Photo: Sabina Sister
Interview: Dan Mathers