The Difference Love Makes: Mike Stewart of Crawford’s Bar at Keswick Hall

by Charlottesville29

“Sorry, I’m helping friends with a COVID situation.”

“Sorry, I’m hosting people and pets displaced by the storm.”

It recently occurred to me how often when I’ve contacted Mike Stewart, he has been busy helping others. Then I realized that’s why he’s so good at his job.

What does compassion have to do with running a bar? Well, everything.

For many restaurants, the top criterion they seek when hiring servers is personality, above even experience. While this may surprise some people, to restaurants it is obvious. Servers are the face of the restaurant – the ones with whom guests interact. “Does this job candidate like people?,” restaurant owners ask themselves. While it’s possible for a savvy server to fake compassion in the short term, over time true colors show. Who wants to be waited on by a hateful misanthrope?

A protégé of Nick Crutchfield, Mike Stewart has kept bar at places like Commonwealth, Kama, and The Milkman’s Bar, and also was beverage director for Ten Course Hospitality, before joining Keswick Hall last year. While he is involved in many aspects of beverages at the resort, you can most often find him at Crawford’s Bar, where he serves his own menu of stellar cocktails. But, as skilled as he is at combining flavors and developing drinks, that alone cannot propel the type of success he has achieved.

As a child, I attended a national basketball camp where the director told us: “There are two things I can’t teach: height and heart. And, I’ll take heart every time.” In the hospitality world, there’s something similar. There are aspects to running a bar that are teachable: mixology, enology, etiquette, etc. But, you cannot teach a genuine love for fellow human beings. You either have it or you don’t.

Mike Stewart has it.