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Check Out Jay Sanders’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jay Sanders.

Hi Jay, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I started as a server at Rm39 when I was 19.

The head bartender was (and is) named Jared Murray.

He made cocktails so well I wanted to be just like him.

He let me behind the bar to learn how to do it and eventually, he let me take Monday and Tuesday nights.

I used those shifts to learn everything I could about craft cocktail bartending.

A few years later, Jared moved on and I took over the bar program. I started putting out full menus of my creations… I bought my own glassware, tools and printed my own menus on special paper. I paid for all my special ingredients out of pocket. I just wanted to learn.

When I was 28, I got a job offer to move to Florida to run a bar program- building it from the ground up. I took it and moved across the country.

When I was 30 and living in Florida- learning all the how to (and how not to) open a restaurant a hurricane struck the area and I was displaced. I decided to return home to KC…

A local cocktail bar called SoT offered me the general manager position. I packed up whatever wasn’t taken in the hurricane with my mom on a Saturday and drove it all to KC. I started work that Tuesday.

After six months, I was starting to make things happen at SoT and I was offered my dream job, running Manifesto.

I happily accepted.

I worked perhaps the most stressful and most rewarding 14 months of my life there until I was again offered another job- this time as the director of bar development for a new restaurant group. I was offered a very generous salary and creative control over all the bars and concepts we planned on opening.

I kept switching jobs and moving up the ladder because I wanted to own my own bar. I was tired of working for someone else’s dream and I wanted to realize my own. This was the final opportunity to achieve that.

My friend Jill Cockson (owner of Swordfish Tom’s in KC) and I were contacted to meet the owners of a small building in downtown Shawnee.

I was commuting back and forth from

Iowa City at the time but we scheduled our meeting and all of us clicked. We were going to open a bar.

In January of 2020, I quit my job to focus on Drastic Measures (a name I had kept in my notes for many years)

We opened in June 2020, in the height of the pandemic.

And we just celebrated our first-year open last week.

That’s my story so far.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It’s never been easy but I am also privileged with an easier path than most.

I survived a hurricane and a pandemic and was still able to realize my dream.

And I could not have done that without support from everyone I encountered on my path.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a craft cocktail bar owner and bartender.

I am known for doing interesting but approachable cocktails with dramatic presentation but in low stakes environments.

I am most proud of being able to learn from and educate other bartenders in the city.

What sets me apart from others is that I bring a tenacity and work ethic not only for my craft but for hospitality. And I pay attention and obsess over details in drinks and service that wouldn’t bother others.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Surround yourself with people smarter, nicer and more qualified than you. Stay hungry. Don’t stop learning. When you stop growing, you will be outshined by the next thing.


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