Cock-a-doodle new

Brittany Collison
Credit: Shannon Cornman

But, that’s what occurred about five weeks after Steve Clifton, owner of The Venerable & Historic Red Rooster Bar & Grill at 3100 N. Walker, died Jan. 18.

Collison, having worked the past two years as a Red Rooster bartender, had become a trustworthy employee. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Clifton’s surviving sibling, Susan Bivin of Ponca City, decided the 23-year-old bartender would be the best person to operate the bar and continue the legacy her brother had established.

“I just thought I was going to be acting manager,” said Collison.

Remembering how much Clifton valued the longtime bar and its clientele, Collison said the employees and customers resembled a big family.

“[Clifton] had no
wife,” she said. “He would always say all of us bartenders were his
wives because we took his money, complained constantly and never gave
him anything else.”

Since taking over, Collison has — for the most part — continued to operate the Paseo District’s iconic beer bar as Clifton did.

She’s made a few changes to the menu and the beer selections, but nothing that would change the atmosphere or traditions.

“I just handle the books, make sure the bills are paid and the beer is stocked. It’s funny, because I don’t even drink beer, but I’m running a beer bar,” she said with a smile.

With
its old-fashioned jukebox and daily lunch specials, the Red Rooster has
for years been one of the most treasured pubs in Oklahoma City.

Staying busy
Clifton, who owned the bar since 2003, was well-known in the community, but Collison said his passing hasn’t hurt business.

“If anything, it’s picked up. People
still come in and pay their respects to Steve,” she said. “I’m never
going to feel alone with this. This is what I wanted to do, anyway, but I
never thought it would begin like this.”

Since
taking over, Collison has developed a daily routine that includes a
couple of hours of office work, followed by a lot of mingling with
customers.

“I’m not afraid of this at all. I’m good at it, and I love it,” she said.

After
coming to the Red Rooster, Collison was quickly given the
responsibility of making employee schedules and handling bank deposits.

“I
remember he (Clifton) would say, ‘There’s a right way to do things, a
wrong way to do things and then there’s Steve’s way,’” Collison
recalled. “I wanted to learn all I could about how he ran the office.”

Another Cheers
The Red Rooster, which has operated as a beer dive since 1937, is commonly referred to by its clientele as another Cheers, the Boston bar made famous by the legendary television sitcom of the 1980s and ’90s.

“Ninety
percent of the people who come here are family, so I have to keep the
family going. People will say it’s their second living room,” Collison
said.

“We have lawyers
and business people in suits, and then we have random folks who come in
for a beer. The personalities here are wild, but that’s why people come
back. By the second time, you’re part of the Rooster.”

Tim Farley

This material falls under the archives category because it was imported from our previous website. It will eventually be filtered into the proper category as time allows.

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