Ellen Cox, behind the bar at Jackie’s. Photograph by Erik Uecke
What does Ellen Cox do at Jackie’s Restaurant and Sidebar in Silver Spring? She pays bills, she puts together private events, she tends bar—“a little bit of everything,” says Cox, who has worked at Jackie Greenbaum’s neighborhood hangout since its 2004 debut. Things she loves about her job: coworkers you can be yourself around, dancing with happy clients at the end of weddings she has personally planned, and, last but not least, adult customers who know what they like and how to behave.
To understand her appreciation for that last point, you need only ask Cox about the part of her career she spent at Buffalo Billiards in Dupont Circle, where she was a manager for years. Herewith, Cox tells the story of a singularly bad night at the hard-partying pool hall. Before you read it, however, a word of warning: This worst shift ever does involve some bloodshed.
“It was a Valentine’s Day that was on a Sunday night, and I was bar manager. We weren’t expecting it to be very busy, but it must have been a full moon or something, because suddenly what seemed like an entire college dorm came in. I worked with a bartender who was a fantastic bartender, but every time he walked behind the bar he would knock over stacks of glasses, which he did on that night. We were too busy to get anything moderately cleaned up. So about five minutes later, I did a sidestep to help some college-age ladies, and I kicked a piece of glass into my shoe—a New Balance Sneaker—and into my foot. One of the girls saw the look on my face and said, “What happened?”, and I said, “I just kicked a piece of glass into my shoe, and it’s in my foot. So let me know what you want to drink.” She turned around to her friends and asked, “Oh, what did you guys want?” And I’m standing there, and they’re talking about what they want, and finally I said, “Ladies, my shoe is filling up with blood, could you please tell me what you want to order? ’Cause, you know, I need to take it out.”
After mixing their drinks, Cox pulled the three-inch piece of glass out of her shoe and kept working. “And then the kids at the front desk who handed out the pool balls said, ‘Can you come over here? There’s a kid relieving himself on the ATM.’” So I went and snatched the kid up, grabbed the bouncers, made him clean it up. A friend of his started yelling at me about how I wasn’t not being fair. So I escorted him out, backward, by the throat. This is all while my foot was still bleeding. I shoved the kid out the door, came back in, and gave last call. This was about midnight. Everyone saw what had happened, and they left pretty quietly.”