As first reported today by Seattle Met, Stenson has taken a job at Michael Mina's RN74 Seattle, slated to open on June 13. Stenson, named "Best Bartender in America" at last year's Tales of the Cocktail, will work his last Zig Zag shift tomorrow night.
Zig Zag owner Kacy Fitch says the bar will continue to function just as it always has on Stenson's nights off.
"People wonder why he's not here every single night, like a superhero," Fitch says. "He gets his three days off and the place doesn't fall apart."
Erik Hakkinen, who for three years has manned the bar on weekend nights, will stay on as one of Zig Zag's two bartenders. He'll alternate shifts with Ben Perri, who's handled barback duties for two years.
"Ben's been here dancing around Murray, and Erik's already had front shifts," Fitch says. "It shouldn't be too much of a change."
Hakkinen and Perri haven't yet determined a weekly schedule, although Fitch says it's likely Hakkinen will pick up four nights. Zig Zag is now hiring a third person to serve as a bartender's assistant. In the meantime, Fitch will be helping with bar prep.
"It's a blessing in disguise," Fitch says of the chance to return to the bar, an avocation he largely abandoned when he hired Stenson a decade ago.
Stenson has worked at 60 bars since he started bartending in 1976. He told Seattle Met his latest move was prompted by his desire to escape Zig Zag's crowds, which he claims have contributed to his high blood pressure.
While cocktail cognoscenti are predicting a massive turnout for Stenson's final Zig Zag performances, Fitch doubts the guest count will reach record heights.
"We're always busy on Thursday and Friday," he says. "There's not much more volume we can do."
Stenson didn't tell Fitch where he was headed when he gave notice last week, but Fitch said he heard from an employee this morning that Stenson's plans were plastered on Facebook.
"We'll miss him, no doubt about it," Fitch says. "But I'd like to sit at his bar and not be his boss for once."