Tucked in on an unremarkable stretch of Richmond, Velvet Melvin's isn't the kind of bar you hear a lot about. "When I describe this place to people, I say it's a neighborhood bar. It's kind of a hole in the wall. You could see somebody in pajama pants or you could see a guy in a nice suit," says bartender Katie Statlander. Statlander has been behind the bar here for more than three years, when she's not studying elementary education at the University of Houston. "'Til then I pour drinks!" she laughs. "Actually, bartending definitely gets you ready for standing in front of people and talking. You can't be shy when you're a teacher. You'd be surprised, I have some teaching classes where people stand up and nothing comes out of their mouths. I'm like, how are you going to do this in front of 30 kids?"
Of course, kids aren't the only ones who'll try your patience. An older man in a suit sticks his head in to complain that something is wrong with his Crown and water. After trying and failing to persuade him that he was drinking a perfectly good Crown and water and offering to make him something else, Statlander makes another (identical) drink. She hands it to him with a smile and then shoots me a look that says she's perfectly ready to deal with children of all ages. Nevertheless she has nothing but good things to say about the bar patrons.
"It's really laid back, everybody is really friendly, most of the people you see in here are repeat customers. We have the same clientele pretty much every day, so it's nice. I'd say on the weekdays we serve a lot of beer, and on the weekends it's more shots." Anything crazy? "People ask for ridiculous shots. I've had people make up names like 'Bend Me Over A Wheelbarrow And Take Me Twice,' and I'm like, what is that? And they'll say, 'I don't know, I just heard about it, I don't know what it is.' I just say, 'You tell me what's in it and I'll make it, but no, I don't know what's in a Bend Me Over a Wheelbarrow.'"
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As far as laid back, neighborhood bars go, I ask Katie what sets Melvin's apart. "Trivia night on Monday is probably one of our best nights. We have like 15 teams, each team is five people and we do $1.75 domestic bottles. The trivia is actually really fun because it's live with someone reading out the questions. And there are bonus questions where you get free shots and drinks--it's really hard, but it's really fun," she says. "There's one team that comes and every week they are probably at the bottom or next to the bottom but they probably have the most fun."