Inspired by a unique moment in Mexican history, Jasper’s offers a deep collection of mezcal, whiskey and other liquors in an Irish-style pub
Sometimes the world comes full circle in the oddest ways. Take the journey of Damian Clopton, one of the co-owners of Jasper’s, the handsome new bar in Sebastopol that has taken the place of The Star, which in turn took the place of Jasper O’Farrell’s — a popular watering spot for more than 30 years.
Clopton and friend Noah Andrus, who is now the general manager at Jasper’s, hung out at Jasper O’Farrell’s after school because Andrus’ mother worked there as a cocktail waitress.
“We’d sit at the bar and eat bangers and mash. It’s pretty surreal being there now,” Clopton said. “We started there as kids and went drinking there as young adults so we’ve always had a fondness for that place.”
When Clopton learned that the owners of The Star were planning to sell the business and move to Spain, he jumped at the chance to buy the business.
“I’m the guy that never knows how to say no to an opportunity, and I overfill my plate,” he said.
Jasper’s isn’t his first foray into the food-and-drink business. He also owns the food truck, Jam’s Joy Bungalow, and its small, brick-and-mortar analog, operated by chef Jamilah Nixon-Mathias on the Sebastopol plaza.
Before that, Clopton said he’d had “sundry odd jobs” as a business consultant, an abnormal psych tech and addiction specialist. He’s also a licensed Realtor, who does real estate investing part time — except for the last few months, when he’s been working on or thinking about Jasper’s pretty much round the clock.
“I really love remodeling and decorating and interior design,” he said.
Jasper’s has given him plenty of scope to exercise these passions.
“I wanted Jasper’s to look like an Irish bar that could come out of D.C., Chicago or Manhattan: the gold and black design and lots of wainscotting, the antique-looking wallpaper and tin tile ceilings and dark, oil-rubbed fixtures, with gold picture frames and frames inside of frames tying it all together. I wanted to make it nice and classy, but approachable and comfortable and not intimidating. That’s what I was going for.”
There’s also an interesting historical theme to the bar, which ties its East Coast décor to its California location.
“Part of the impetus for this was I really like mezcal and all things Mexico, and my partners in the business also love all things Mexican and mezcal as well. So we were going to do this Irish Bar because that’s what it’s been, but we really wanted to do a good mezcal selection.
“I’m a history guy — that’s sort of what turns my crank — and there’s a piece of history that’s always intrigued me called the San Patricios, also known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion. It was a group of Irish soldiers that defected from the American military and joined the Mexican army, and then formed a brigade and fought against the U.S. in the Mexican-American war.
"They fought with Mexico for a number of reasons, but largely because of the discrimination by Protestants in the American military. They were Catholic and the Mexicans were Catholic and that made for good bedfellows. They ended up losing that war, obviously, which is why California is now not Mexico. Their final battle ended just outside of Mexico City, and they were all hung for sedition. It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.”
He and his partners toyed with the idea of naming the bar after the San Patricios, but decided that since it’s been known as “Jasper’s” for years — even though that was never its official name — they’d stick with that.
Clopton said the cocktail menu reflects a blending of Irish and Mexican culture.
“The cocktail menu is largely based around specials of whiskey and mezcal, so we have lots of mezcal-related cocktails and lots of whiskey specials,” he said.
Because the bar’s kitchen needs a lot of work, Clopton says they serve very little food for now, “just popcorn and charcuterie and happy hour stuff that I send over either from the bungalow or from my food truck,” he said. “We’re figuring out the menu within our legal boundaries as best we can.”
He’s also trying to figure out what else to offer at the bar; they’re going to try a sports package, movie night, karaoke and live music.
“We’re really going to see what works,” he said.
In terms of ambience, Clopton hopes to reproduce the laid-back, intergenerational vibe of Duke’s Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg. He said the crowd at Jasper’s currently skews a bit younger — 30-somethings like himself and his friends — but he said, “I want to make a place where everybody is welcome. At Duke’s, you can have elderly tourists and farm workers drinking in there, and there’s nothing weird about that, you know? That’s really what I’m hoping to propagate — a place that everybody enjoys.”
Though Clopton has spent a lot of time in Sebastopol over the years, this is the first time he has actually lived here. He moved to Blucher Valley after he lost his home in Coffey Park to the Tubbs Fire in 2017. He loves the idea of both living and working in Sebastopol.
“Having two businesses and a house in Sebastopol, I’m pretty tickled,” he said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity that all sort of started from a tragedy,” meaning the loss of his Coffey Park house. “So, yeah, we’re blessed. I’m getting married in June and my partner is a co-owner with me in the bar. She, ironically, doesn’t drink alcohol so she’s a great business partner for a bar,” he said with a laugh.
“This is as local as local gets,” Clopton said, noting that all of the staff at Jasper’s are good friends.
“All the staff, we’ve all partied and had good times together socially, and now we’re all in there running a bar together. One of the bar backs is my godson. The general manager is my best friend since I was a kid. One of the bartenders I’ve been traveling with for years on vacations. It’s just all family in there right now. I’m sure there will be some staff turnover, obviously, but initially it’s just as family as family gets.”
The bar had a soft opening the night before Thanksgiving, and they’ve been open ever since. Clopton said they are planning to hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, Feb. 15.