Behind The Bar with Omri
We got into the thick of action of Tel Aviv’s famed nightlife and cozied up to Omri Zuckerman, former lawyer turned successful bar owner of the Cerveza.
By Wani Azahar
Tel Aviv is famous for its vibrant nightlife and bustling bar scene. So we weren’t surprised to see it packed even on the last night of the weekend when we headed down for a drink and an exclusive interview with Cerveza’s bar owner, Omri Zuckerman.
Previously owned by a different group, Cerveza used to be an indoors-only rock bar which has seen better days. That is until Omri and his two partners gave it a much-needed update and have now turned it into one of the locals’ favourite go-to bar. Over soft rock tunes and dim ambient light, we got cosy with this charming 34 year old bar owner to hear his share of stories.
Omri, you took the bold step to leave the law firm to pursue a career in the bar industry; what made you move?
After being a lawyer in Ramat Gan for two years, I found myself stuck in a routine. Going in everyday, saying hello to the same nine people, cursing about 10 times within the hour you get in; it just wasn’t giving the job satisfaction I wanted.
We initially wanted to open up a coffeeshop, and I wish I had something more intellectual to say but Cerveza was a stroke of luck. It was a vacant at the right time and together with my two partners, we just went straight for it. I would like to say it was really a lot of luck.
Tel Aviv is famed for its nightlife. Is this also another reason why you opened up a bar?
I personally don’t consider myself part of the nightlife scene. Truth be told, I’ve only been to about another two bars occasionally in the past year. As for nightclubs, I don’t even go! I like heading to restaurants for a good time; maybe I prefer the “soft core nightlife”.
That’s a surprise considering you’re a bar owner. So what does keep you going?
If there’s one thing I like about the nightlife is the people. Unlike law where people come to you frustrated with angry faces, the people here come to you to have a good time. It’s just more uplifting. The idea of being able to pass along this happiness, no matter how small, is great.
I love it here in Cerveza specifically. The staff is more than amazing. It’s tough to find a job you love and even tougher to find colleagues you can work with but I’ve been blessed with both. The Cerveza family is really close.
Talk about Cerveza, it is known to be one of the locals’ favourite bars. Is there any secrets as to why?
There’s no secret to it! We don’t snoop around to see what the other bars are doing and later take it back home here. We do what we know our customers love and pride in making Cerveza very comfortable for all.
Our customers can dress up or don’t. Whatever that makes them feel at home, they know they can do that because we’d love to welcome them in any way. There’s nothing complicated here and that’s what we call the Cerveza style.
It is indeed very cosy here indoors. Any difference in experience if we’ve sat outside?
The outdoor area is great for groups or mingling as the seatings are more close-knit. It’s for people who want to be with other people. As for the indoors, it is perfect for customers who are here for a more intimate setting or maybe, just enjoy the music.
With that said, how would you describe Cerveza as a place?
It’s a bar where you can kick back at the end of the day. A comfort bubble between your job and the house. It’s home, before home — but with alcohol. [Laughs]
We’re also the only bar here that has different draft beers from all over the world; such as Belgium, England. Amsterdam, Israel (of course) and more.
Throughout your years with Cerveza, what would you say was the craziest thing that happened?
We have a lot of fun, exciting events regularly but the craziest thing is how we’ve already had four couples that met here who eventually got married.
Some of them would come back to reminisce or even include us in their wedding videos. It’s always nice to see your customers find happiness and knowing you’ve played a part.
Tel Aviv offers fierce competition for bar owners, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs of this industry?
Stay modest, understand every day is a new day and more importantly, appreciate each customer and know that every customer is as important.