The Gin Joint ownership has changed hands. After four years working at the East Bay cocktail bar, James Bolt has purchased The Gin Joint from Joe and MariElena Raya.
“It’s cool because he went to CIA [Culinary Institute of America], too,” says Joe of Bolt who he calls Jamie. “We were hooked up with him through a professor we both had. The professor I did an internship with contacted me and told me about Jamie and he came in and interviewed and he rose through the ranks from server to bartender to front of house manager to bar manager.”
Raya says that with business booming with the couple’s mixer brand Bittermilk and new line Bantam Bevy, they don’t have the time they’d like to dedicate to their highly esteemed bar.
“It’s not that we have fallen out of love with The Gin Joint,” says Joe. “This requires more of our time now and we know it takes the owner being there operating that particular type of establishment to stay on cutting edge.”
That’s why the Rayas saw Bolt as the perfect owner candidate. Plus, he’s young and eager to be innovative.
“When does a 25 year old have an opportunity to own their own business?” says Raya. “It’s been a cool project. He’s been working hard, learning the business, learned to be innovative and now at 25 he’s purchased the bar he had to beg, borrow and steal from his family. To me it’s like a passing of the torch. We weren’t interested in just selling the space.
Seeing Bolt work so hard to secure the money for ownership reminds Joe of he and MariElena’s own efforts to take over her father’s former Robert’s of Charleston to build The Gin Joint in 2010. “I was 27,” says Joe. “MariElena and I both worked at Art Institute teaching classes and at Robert’s for two years to save up enough money to open Gin Joint.”
Now it’s Bolt’s turn. And the Rayas feel they’ve put their cocktail bar in good hands.
“Jamie wants to maintain the things about The Gin Joint that have given it such a good reputation, that have provided for all the loyal people that come. But also he’s got some ideas to make things better. The things we could never have asked somebody to take on because their not receiving the awards from it. That’s what’s great about it.”
In the meantime, the Rayas will continue pushing their new line Bantam Bevy, a four bottle line of mixers that the couple feels will be approachable to a wider audience than their Bittermilk concept. Bantam includes a Grapefruit Margarita, Cucumber Mojito, Ginger Smash, Agua Caliente that should be available in stores soon.