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Working multiple jobs is a reality for many Clevelanders. Some turn that grind into pursuing a dream or simply finding community. Our Side Hustle multimedia series aims to capture their hustling spirit. Watch the video or read the Q & A of my interview with Mikael Ellis below.

Tell me about yourself.

Hi, I’m Mikael Ellis and I’m a bartender in Cleveland Ohio. I just started bartending within the last five years mostly to have a social life. And it turned out that I gained a community in that.

Why is this your side hustle?

My roommate was coming home with lots of money as a bartender and I was like,  “How are you doing this?” 

So I started looking nearby for jobs that were hiring for bartenders and I stumbled into Shade. The owner kind of gave me the rundown. The rest of it is customer service. It  kind of came naturally in that I’ve been in customer service for like 20 years. And giving people customer service while serving them drinks is apparently something different than than people are used to. So it makes me stand out as a bartender and why people kind of attach to me a little bit. It’s nice to be able to be nice to people. I bartend here at The Hawk. I work at High Society Boutique next to The Hawk. I also bartend at Shade in Old Brooklyn. And then I also work at Flex downtown, which is a bathhouse. I would say bartending is the main hustle and the other jobs are just supplementary.

What difficulties do you have doing this job?

Some of the difficulties with having so many jobs is getting around to each of them and keeping my schedule straight. I work six days a week between the four jobs. I also don’t drive. I spend what the average person spends on a car payment on my Ubers but I don’t have the maintenance and all of that so sometimes that’s difficult but I’ve gotten very good at timing myself and making sure that I can get to work on time wherever I’m at.

What does success look like to you?

I have guests that bring me food and people that go out of their way to make sure that I’m taken care of when I don’t ask them to do that. Those are the good nights. Those are the ones that that actually stand out for me not the ones where I you know make lots of money. That’s lovely to do but it’s more so about the connections with my community.

How does it make you feel?

I work at mostly queer businesses and so furthering that message and kind of being a light for people in the queer community. They know they can come across town and see me at one place and then five hours later I’m I’m at their local spot right around the corner from their house. Those connections with people and the connections I made through my side hustles are what give me reason to stay here in Cleveland and make it feel like home. 

There’s more to bartending than just slinging drinks and making dollars. I’m Michael Ellis and bartending is my Side Hustle.

Multimedia Director (he/him)
Jeff, a longtime producer and Cleveland resident, will be working to bring stories to life with videos and animation. He comes to us from Ideastream Public Media, where he oversaw on-air promotion, digital content, and design. Jeff has launched multiple digital series that have led to national distribution and five Emmys.