by Kirby Lindsay
Marta McDermott works as Special Events Coordinator for Hale’s Ales Brewery & Pub, booking and managing the banquet room (also once referred to as ‘The Harvest Room.’) The job, she recently explained, “completely fell in my lap.” Before arriving at Hale’s she had worked in restaurants, but here she gets to work in the office, “with the seasoned stockholders,” as she described owners Mike and Kathleen Hale.
What Is Seen
During banquet room events, she stands in the room upstairs, above the restaurant/pub and overlooking the brewery, to welcome visitors and serve food and drinks. Anyone who has attended an event at Hale’s – Fremont Rotary meetings, Moisture Festival volunteer orientation, radio show broadcasts, retirement parties, etc. – has met her, even if just to say ‘thanks’ for the beer she pours.
“It’s considered to be a casual environment,” McDermott explained. “The rehearsal dinners have been pretty tame,” she reflected, and people choose the space as a place to “lay low and cut loose.” Or a place just to cut loose, like a recent pirate-themed wedding reception, which she described as, “like the Fremont Fair, but in the banquet room.” The appeal, McDermott insisted, is “not just the good beer. It’s the environment, the price, the location…”
When she first rented the space for a bachelor party, she admitted, “I felt a little nervous, because of the stereotypes.” Yet, when “the groom-to-be came [dressed] as a transvestite,” she knew she had to drop her pre-conceived notions. They did have a blow-up doll, but spent most the evening at casino tables (with dealers) that they’d rented and brought in. In the end, McDermott admitted, “the guys were very nice.”
For another bachelor party, McDermott dressed up - ready to smile, flirt and make some tips. “I really felt like a floozy,” she recalled, when the men began their evening gathered in a circle as they recited the Lord’s Prayer. The group, of “hard right Christians,” according to McDermott, appeared to have a good, if slightly subdued, time – and bought a total of three beers the whole evening.
In her job, McDermott does represent Hale’s, and sometimes has to educate visitors – especially those who ask for a Mac & Jacks or Red Hook. “We make the beer right there,” she’ll explain, and point to brewing vats visible through windows. She’s had to learn tolerance about ‘foreign’ beer traditions, like the Mid-West habit of mixing beer with cola, 7-Up or lemonade.
To run events, McDermott admitted, requires flexibility. “Something’s going to flop,” she said, “you have to go with the flow.” A high school reunion was booked for 40 people, and 80 showed up. “Planners usually overestimate,” McDermott admitted, but that time she had people lined up “out the hallway, down the stairs.”
Then there are guests who deliberately make problems, as McDermott laughingly recalled organizers who booked Jet City Improv for a company holiday party. The performers took roles - a ‘Head Brewer’ (who spouted complete nonsense about beer), an annoying/flirty guy, and a ‘special needs’ server/busboy - and blended in among the guests. “I was trying to pour beer,” McDermott recalled, “while trying not to laugh!”
What Is Felt
Hale’s is “not just a fun job,” McDermott explained, “but a fun place.” She holds close Mike Hale’s motto, “keep the main thing the main thing,” and feels fortunate in her position. “We’re really like a family there,” she said sincerly.
Yet, “yoga’s been my main thing,” explained McDermott. She sold her studio - Rain City Yoga – when she and her husband moved to Hawaii. When they moved back she continued to practice every day, and teaches when she visits the islands, and in Hale’s banquet room to (mostly) staff. However, she likes where she is now, and has no interest in trading it for her own studio again anytime soon.
“I love it,” she said, about Hale’s, and being in Fremont, “I love being a Fremonster; being Fremocentrist.” Originally from Washington D.C., McDermott and her husband, Bob McDermott, live in Fremont – as she has for a few decades. When we spoke, we got into reminisces of ‘old’ Fremont – from her apartment, then, above M & S Deli, and friends who worked at Still Life in Fremont Coffeehouse while she worked at the Fremont Classic Pizzeria (not the Classic Tavern.)
McDermott’s varied restaurant experience includes a brief stint at the Space Needle, which she described as “the hardest job.” In the rotating restaurant she would clear her tables, then step into the stationary kitchen. When she went back to find her tables, they would have wandered off. Yet, something else she can enjoy about at Hale’s, where her guests can always find her, up the stairs.
- Fremont Rotary Acknowledges Past, Present & Future
- by Kirby Lindsay, October 30, 2009
- Fremont: Center of the Beer Universe, Too?
- by Kirby Lindsay, February 18, 2009 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.