For a restaurant called “Quench,” drinks are obviously a top priority.
So it came as a surprise to Stephen Oshana, the beverage director at the brand new restaurant, when he was dismissed on Tuesday, May 29, after the place had been open for only a week.
“I was kind of blind-sided,” he says.
Oshana, a mixologist with an impressive resume (Elisir by Enzio Fargione, Quill Bar in the Jefferson Hotel, and more), was slated to bring the craft cocktail movement to Rockville, in the space occupied by the former Beale Street Grille on Traville Gateway (see my May 8 blog).
But as was first reported in the Washington Post’s May 30 All We Can Eat blog, the urban Oshana wasn’t keen on the kiddie cocktails and high chairs.
When reached today by phone, Oshana said that having grown up in Chicago, and having lived in New York City and Washington D.C., he had a hard time adjusting to the suburbs (for one thing, he moved to Gaithersburg without a car, just a fixed gear bike).
“My intention going into it was to create a very urban cocktail bar,” Oshana says of Quench. “And there are certain characteristics of urban cocktail bars. But once we got rolling and designing the menu, we kind of started adding things, making our urban cocktail bar reflect the demographics a little bit. The drinks tended toward the lighter, sweeter side—things that you might not see at a true New York cocktail bar.”
And there were disagreements about some drinks, like Appletinis, which to Oshana “were absolutely out of the question.”
He also said “the whole kid-friendly thing” was never really discussed during the interview process.
“I’m not opposed to making kiddie cocktails,” Oshana said. “And I’m not opposed to rolling my eyes. I’m a snarky bartender.”
Neverthless, both Oshana and Quench owner Michael Holstein say that he parted on good terms.
“It just wasn’t the right fit for either party,” says Holstein. “There are no ill feelings.”
While Holstein acknowledged that Oshana “might have felt we compromised his commitment to craft [cocktails] to a small extent,” Quench remains an innovative cocktail bar and restaurant, and the response has been great, he said.
As for the kid clientele, Holstein said that 95 percent of the patrons so far are not families, and that when they do come in, it’s usually during the early dinner hour.
“The reality of the situation is that we’re in Rockville, and people will come in from time to time with their kids,” he said.
As for Oshana’s replacement, head bartender Matt Allred (who has also worked at the Bombay Club, Brasserie Beck and Bourbon Steak) is at the helm.
And as for Oshana, he says he hopes to expand his cocktail consulting firm—100 Proof Strategies—and will move back to a city. “I’m not bad at what I do,” he says. “I’ll find something that’s a better fit.”