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Usually these things happen in threes, but this morning comes the thunderous news that Paul McGee, your favorite bartender, is leaving the Whistler to join forces with . . .R.J. and Jerrod Melman.
Rumors have been circulating for weeks, but I certainly didn't expect to see an announcement so soon. Here it is from Whistler owner Billy Helmkamp:
After three and a half years at The Whistler, we’re excited to announce that Paul McGee is moving on to a new project with R.J. and Jerrod Melman. During our time as together at The Whistler, we’ve become great friends, and will remain so. On February 2nd, 2012, Paul will be handing over the reigns of the cocktail program to Rob, Billy, and long-time Whistler bartender Eric Henry. You can continue to expect the classic Whistler cocktails you’ve come to know and love, as well as some new and exciting creations. While it’s bittersweet to see our friend go, we’re looking forward to seeing him on the other side of the bar at The Whistler.
Says McGee in a separate e-mail blast: "Thank you so much for your support over the years, and I am looking forward to keeping you updated with the details of my next adventure. While you may not be able to find me behind a bar for the next few months, I’ll be keeping my blog updated with my activities and whereabouts."
I certainly have my issues with the Melman boys' Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. Not a fan. But I've spent more happy hours sitting in front of Paul while he's tending bar than I can (ahem) remember, and I won't believe he'd sign onto something without a comfortable assurance of creative control.
He's going out on what should be a high note, with a final Book Club on February 1, according to Helmkamp. The theme? "Best of Tiki."