I used to rarely visit the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery, despite living only a few blocks from the establishment at 1535 Pearl Street.
The pub has been around since 1993 and is always crowded, so others seem to sure like the place. For me, that was the problem. The pub was always crowded and it was impossible to get a table or even hear my tablemate.
Then I discovered their service. I had heard the service at the Mountain Sun was different but it wasn’t until I went in a few times over the past months that I really noticed a difference.
It starts when you walk in the door. There is no host or hostess waiting at a stand at the front. Instead, the first person who walks past – and there is always someone walking around the busy restaurant – greets you. “Are you looking for a table? We have a short waitlist but if you go up to the bar they’ll put you on it and we’ll get you a table in five or ten minutes.” I was greeted with that recently as soon as I walked in the door.
The bar is intimidating, again because of the crowd in front. Four deep, it seems impossible to get my name on any list. “Can I help you?”, yells one of the bartenders to me before I have the opportunity to reconsider. I edge forward and he quickly writes my name on the waitlist, telling me they’ll have a table soon.
The next thing I know, a second bartender has walked around the bar to my position four-deep in the back with a beer menu in hand. “Let me know if you need any samples first.” The bartender scoots off busily.
I take a quick look at the beer menu, deciding between a good selection of house brews plus a few guest beers on draft. Within two minutes, another staffer walks by, takes my order, and delivers my beer.
Wow. I have been in the Mountain Sub perhaps six minutes and have already been served by four different people, all of whom were friendly, efficient, and fast. Five more minutes and I am seated at a table.
Here’s what the Mountain Sun and its sister the Southern Sun say on their website: “At the Mountain Sun and Southern Sun, our mission is to offer five-star service, fresh, high quality pub fare and finely crafted brews for affordable prices in an environment that’s comfortable like your living room. We believe our approach to the service industry is unique and worth noticing. Your server today may be cooking your food tomorrow, or even managing. Every employee does every job here.”
It works. I have eaten in most restaurants in downtown Boulder and the Mountain Sun has the best service of any of them.
Of course, there is always an apparent dark side. In 2009, a former employee sued the Southern Sun because, in part, tips were being shared with the cookstaff. Apparently Colorado state law does not allow tip sharing with both the front of the house servers – who can earn less than minimum wage because of expected tips – and those in the back of the house, such as cooks.
The lawsuit didn’t seem to sway patrons, who are clearly fans of the place. (The lawsuit article in the Daily Camera brought out more comments than any article about the University of Colorado football team or a race for city council.) I believe that lawsuit was settled and the two establishments were able to restructure their tip policy to not violate state law but still continue the excellent service.
For me, I still find the restaurant crowded and noisy during prime hours. I purposefully visit just before happy hour starts or just after the rush, when it is busy but not crowded. The service is worth the wait.
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