by Marie Doyon
Eight months after Danielle Freer had her son, she decided to go back to work. She was in her early 20s, living outside of Wurtsboro, and she was just going to bartend one night a week. That turned into six nights a week and six years as part manager-bartender-bouncer-event coordinator. “It was an amazing experience. I prided myself on how much we made every night. I remember our best night ever, I went upstairs and woke the owner up. ‘Wake up!’ I shouted…I wouldn’t be where I was if I didn’t work there and learn everything that I did.”
Danielle is fiercely loyal and protective of her own. But eventually growing pains set in and she started looking for a place she could build her own business with her own rules, her own vision. In 2007, a building on 42nd Street in Kerhonkson came up for sale. It was in rough shape, but it had been a bar since 1940 (Herman’s) and it had the right feel. So at 27, she got a mortgage, bought the place, and she started her own business.
Bartender Brittany Sanches serves a Rebel IPA at Hot Shotz.
Photo by Marie Doyon.
Now Hot Shotz is the local watering hole, where everyone from contractors to cops to school teachers come for a beer. But it’s more than that—it’s familiar. It’s the kind of place that’s built on the backs of regulars. “We have an older customer whose wife just died—the person who did his laundry, cooked for him. And we’re kind of like his kids. When he comes in here, we ask him ‘Did you eat today?’ Because if he didn’t, you better believe we’re going to make him eat!” She laughs, and after a minute says, “Everyone works. Everyone has stress. When they come here, they can take their mind off it for a little bit, let loose. Everyone deserves that.”
The easy welcoming atmosphere does not come without work though. “In the beginning it was rough to try and weed out the trouble-makers,” Danielle remembers. She is an imposing-looking woman with dark curly hair. She still bounces for her own place, maintaining a strict zero-tolerance policy for drugs and violence. If you step one little toe out of line, she’ll boot you out the door herself. But if you’re well-behaved, she’s got the biggest heart in town.
Hot Shotz donates to every charity and cause that knocks on their door. “Whether it is bigger or smaller amount we donate to everyone.” She does for Toys for Tots with Sheriff’s Department every holiday season, as well as a Meet ‘n Greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus for the kids. Halloween, Danielle goes all out with decorations for the children. She has a whole night just for them—music, food, pizza, giveaways, costume contests, and of course treats. (The grown up party is on a different night.) In a town that doesn’t do holiday decorations, you can see Danielle’s Christmas lights a half a mile up the road. “It puts a smile on kids’ faces. It makes them feel like Christmas is really coming.”
She really works hard to foster community. Kerhonkson isn’t known for its bustling business district, but somehow Danielle has created a gathering place. “I am not getting rich quick. I’m holding my own, maintaining. Out of anyone who could of bought this place I care about it, I want to see it succeed. If you only have $20, you know you can come here and have two beers and a meal and still have two bucks to tip the bartender. We’re not just trying to upsell, upsell, upsell. There is always something you can get.” Speaking of which, you should definitely get the wings. Hot Shotz is the 2015 champion of the Hudson Valley Wing Bowl—both “Most Creative” and “Overall Best”. They’ve come in first or second all six years they’ve participated!
“We don’t pretend to be anything we’re not. But I also tell people: Don’t judge a book by its cover. It may not be the Five Seasons, but it works. We have great loyal customers who love it.”
For more info and events visit facebook.com/hotshotzny.
Monday: Crack the Safe. Tuesday: Pub Poker
Wednesday – Wing Night.
Thursday: $5 All-You-Can-Eat Taco Night
Saturday: Spaghetti Saturday, 5-8pm
Sunday: Waffle Day
First Friday: Latin night
Second to last Friday: Line Dancing
Last Friday: Karaoke