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Saturday, February 04, 2006 | British native David Pressly has been pouring pints at the Shakespeare’s Pub and Grille in Mission Hills for the last four years. A Londoner by birth, Pressly came to San Diego 16 years ago and has been working in pubs since the mid-90s. He lives with his fiancée, Lisa, in Banker’s Hill.
Pressly serves punters at the English pub and restaurant every evening from Thursday to Monday. He sees San Diegans at their most cheerful and their most despondent, at times of cheer and at times of crisis. As an immigrant to California and a member of an extensive expatriate community, he brings a unique point of view to this city and its inhabitants. We talked to Pressly about warm beer, drunk driving, cricket and what he misses most about his native England.
You have to talk to a lot of drunk people. Do you think that gives you a twisted view of the American people?
I think, universally, people can be stupid or interesting when they’re drunk worldwide, it doesn’t come down to nationalities. Obviously, being a British pub, we deal with a lot of British drunks as well.
You do get sickened by some people’s behavior, but then, I’m sickened by my own behavior sometimes when I’m drunk too, so I can relate. It is funny, when you’re totally sober. When you’re out, you don’t really notice, but when you’re sober, behind the bar, you notice.
We try not to serve people when they’re drunk, that’s against the law. But you see different stages, where people at first are in a good mood, then you see them go downhill from there, that’s pretty interesting to watch.
Can you tell what someone is going to order by looking at them?
Yes. Baby boomer age, white American males tend to like the “Black and Tan” (a pint glass filled with a half-pint of Bass Ale topped up with a half-pint of Guinness). When you get a group of middle-aged males, one of them at least is going to have a Black and Tan.
Are Black and Tan’s popular in England?
No, not at all, it’s an American creation.
“Car Bombs” are also popular. That’s a new creation, it’s a half-pint of Guinness, into which you drop a shot of half Jameson’s (Irish Whisky) and half Bailey’s Irish Cream. That tends to be popular with young, male, macho types.
What do you think the reaction would be if you ordered a Car Bomb in Dublin, Ireland?
Oh, it wouldn’t be good. I don’t think it’s good anyway with what’s going on in Iraq. People are getting killed and maimed daily by car bombs. It’s just distasteful. There have been some Irish people that I’ve talked to who do find it distasteful, but it’s drinking, it’s all about fun, so you should really look past that.
Do the English really drink warm beer?
Certain ales and beers are supposed to be drunk warm. Lager like Budweiser is supposed to be drunk cold, like German and Belgian beer. But, room temperature, definitely, for ales. Not that we (Shakespeare’s) sell it that way.
There’s even one of our regulars – Howard – he’s an English guy, he will order ahead of time. He’ll suffer through his first one cold, but I’ll pour him two and his second one should have gone up to room temperature by the time he’s drunk the first one.
You must hear a lot of visitors’ views on San Diego. In general, what do visitors to America’s Finest City think of this place?
I think, generally, people love it, especially if you come here in the winter or spring when the weather is so good. I haven’t heard much that’s negative except for the traffic. The tourists just love it.
The pub where you work is right next to a freeway and is surrounded by roadways. Do you think a lot of people drink and drive, and what do you think should be done to minimize drunk-driving in San Diego?
Without incriminating anyone, I’m sure they do (drink and drive). We do have a lot of regulars who walk, which is good, but the public transportation is just shit. They’ve got good intentions, with the trolley and trying to get it out, but it doesn’t compare to a lot of cities, like London, Chicago or New York, where you’ve got good transportation.
I have got a stack of personal phone numbers for taxi cabs behind the bar, that I have on hand, and I’ve built up a rapport with certain drivers I can call.
How does the American drinking culture differ from the British drinking culture, and how would you describe San Diego’s drinking culture?
I’ve tended to notice there are a lot more shots (in the United States), especially on the weekends. Shots are not really as popular at home where guys drink beer and women drink Bacardi or something.
It’s a lot more “It’s the weekend, let’s get written off,” it’s leisure time (in the United States), whereas in England drinking is more of a pastime. It’s like a pub culture, I suppose, to be in the pub every night. We see that with our regulars who are drinking in the pub. That’s what you do in the British culture, you go to the pub as a meeting place.
Is there a large British ex-pat community in San Diego? Do they all tend to stick together? What do they get up to?
Yes, there is. The majority of them work in some sort of construction field. Most of them are married to Americans and have children who are Anglo-Americans.
The culture is that they’re in the pub a lot, chatting. But they do a lot of other things socially. We have charity functions that involve a lot of golf, and cricket as well. We have a cricket team called the Shakespeare Rogues. They play in a league out at UCSD where there are a lot of Indian and Pakistani guys who are studying here.
What do you miss the most about England?
I think the seasons. I do miss the seasons, how beautiful the countryside is in the summer. The countryside, too. A few more trees wouldn’t go amiss here, some forests and stuff.
American girls tend to be wooed by the English accent, what’s the best line you’ve heard across the bar?
Probably “Where did you learn English?”
– Interview by WILL CARLESS