Roughly five years ago Warren, the only other bartender at Elizabeth Billiards, looked across the bar at Dean "Dino" Baskin and said, "Why don't you come on over here and see if you can reach the top shelf?" It was only when Baskin, coming in at a whopping 5'5", proved successful in this challenge that Warren asked if he'd like to help out behind the bar for a little while — and he's been there ever since. This Mississippi-born bartender is a perfect fit for this off-beat and beloved Plaza Midwood spot. When Baskin's not pouring, he's playing a game of 9 Ball as a partaker in EB's in-house pool league, where he holds founding status.
Creative Loafing: With a clientele that spans generations, EB's is a staple in the Charlotte nightlife scene; what do you think it is about the bar that makes it this way?
Dean Baskin: The initial draw is free pool and inexpensive drinks. People come for that specifically, but when they get here the vibe is unlike any other. We're not a cliquey place; there's no judgment here. Different groups of people mesh well over pool and cheap drinks. We're your neighborhood bar with pool tables, and pool is the ultimate social game. It's an easy ice breaker; anybody can pick up a stick and give it a shot. As for our clientele, they're great — both an eclectic and super intelligent group. Plus, there is a safe vibe to it that even our newcomers notice. It's a welcoming place; the people here protect each other. I started out as a customer, and even though now I'm the employee, I will always be a customer. For as long as I live in Charlotte, you'll find me here on Thursday nights for league and it's because of the people.
So, tell us about the pool league on Thursday nights.
Some of us had been playing pool together for eight-plus years, so we figured, why not run with the in-house league? We play 9 Ball on a handicap-ranking system of two to eight, eight being the best and two being novice. The league has been pretty successful running with six teams, eight players per team. It never fails that each time we start the league up, new customers will see what's going on and want in, so we rotate in when we can. And very seldom does a new player join for only a year. Once you're in, you're just kinda in.
So when you're not pouring on the opposite side of the bar or playing in league on Thursday nights, what are you doing?
I've trained Tae Kwon Do for most of my life, and lately I've been doing a little Jujitsu training. Also I'm teaching myself how to cook, and every now and then I like for someone else to pour one for me. Recently though, I've decided to brush up on my archery. I really enjoyed it as a child. I've found that the busier I am, the less trouble I can get into, which is no easy feat for a single man.