Lyndsey Varvatos: Island Girl



Benny and Tommy had quite an adventurous 2017. The dogs survived Hurricane Irma at a boarding house on the island of St. John while their owner, Lyndsey Varvatos, was on vacation in New York City. By the time she found out about the approaching superstorm, all flights to the Caribbean were canceled. Minute by minute updates of their rescue appeared on her Facebook page as a large number of Key West locals watched anxiously with their fingers crossed.

St. John suffered immense damage and is still recovering. The property where Lyndsey lived along with Benny, Tommy and her boyfriend no longer was a house to come back to when the skies cleared. As soon as she was able to fly to Puerto Rico, she arranged for someone to transport her dogs via dive boat to a neighboring island. Lyndsey was reunited with her dogs and was able fly them to where she grew up in Connecticut. Three days later, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

Lyndsey Varvatos’ dogs, Benny and Tommy, rode out Hurricane Irma at her home in St. John, Puerto Rico, while she was on vacation in New York City. COURTESY PHOTO

Lyndsey Varvatos’ dogs, Benny and Tommy, rode out Hurricane Irma at her home in St. John, Puerto Rico, while she was on vacation in New York City. COURTESY PHOTO

It is now a couple of months later and the dogs are about to see snow for the very first time. Clearly, their adventures aren’t over yet.

Her journey south to Key West started at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she majored in criminology. A few Florida Keys vacations were enough to convince her to turn the short- term roundtrip into a long-term one-way once she graduated. As luck would have it, she quickly landed a job at the SPCA doing animal control. From there, she worked at a vet clinic, until eventually, one bartending shift turned into another which turned into a full-time gig. These days you can find Lyndsey filling in at Rick’s, at 801 Bourbon Bar on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and across the street at Bourbon Street on Wednesdays. Almost all of her shifts are late night until just a couple hours shy of sunrise.

“801 is highly entertaining and a lot of fun,” she explains, “but at Bourbon it is kind of fun to be one of the only women to have worked there.”

Lyndsey had a Key West area code for seven years before she moved to St. John, so it makes sense that this was the place she came back to after the hurricane. Having already worked at Rick’s and 801 Bourbon Bar made her a familiar face no matter what side of town you were on.

If Rick’s is Old Town’s essential entertainment complex in the 200 block of Duval, then the 800 block bars where Lyndsey works are bars you’ll want to visit to just be yourself with no strings attached. There is no falsehood or pretentiousness. These bars are all about self-expression in whatever way you choose and, for Lyndsey, it’s a hospitality that is casual.

“I like to created cocktails, but I’m more of a people person and I’m high volume,” she tells me. “I love interacting with people and meeting people from all walks of life. I’m not a cubicle lady; moving around is something that I enjoy. And it allows me to travel.”

Though she has traveled all over the world, including throughout Europe, the most important travel for her might be the trip she makes up the Florida Keys to see her horse, Freddie. Lindsey trained horses at the age of 6 and owned her first horse at the age of 13. Freddie is her second horse, now of 17 years. She keeps him close by in a stable in Islamorada, where she can visit him as much as possible.

Along with her love for animals, Lyndsey enjoys scuba diving, going to the beach or the pool, riding bikes, spin class, fishing and shopping though not necessarily in that order. And of course, bartending. It’s what she did when she moved to St. John at the Beach Bar on the waterfront of Cruz Bay, what she did when she scored her first job at Club Hedo in Tampa and what she does now and seems to really enjoy doing.

“So how do you even get a job in a place like this? Isn’t it pretty difficult?” I ask, knowing that these are two of the busiest bars in town with hardly any staff turnover.

“I don’t know,” Lyndsey answers, while considering the question. “At first, I was hired at Rick’s and then the manager of 801 had been my friend for a while, so when they needed somebody I just started doing one day a week and that just turned into more.”

Obviously, the gig stuck, and not once but twice. It seems to me that she fits right in.

“Key West is a very special place with unique people and an awesome sense of community,” Lyndsey says. “I love that I’m able to walk or ride a bike everywhere, the beautiful weather and definitely the people. And I’m an island girl at this point.”

I’d say that she’s definitely earned that title. ¦

One response to “BARTENDER OF THE WEEK”

  1. Petria Clester says:

    Awesome Lindsey . You were always super friendly with smile that is a mile wide. Look forward to seeing you again this spring.

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