“You have the right to exercise the joy,” Cecily Barrie exclaims. She’s the general manager of the newly opened Santa Barbara hot-spot Bar 29, on the corner of Chapala and Anapamu — the former location of the Hungry Cat. “I have a really great life-and-work balance,” she says, as I sip on a tasty cocktail she’s made for me. When I arrived early to meet her, she had just finished stocking the bar and getting the place set up to open. “Bar 29 is my favorite GM position,” she says, explaining that “because of the size, I can see the whole place at once and interact with every customer.” She has a great working relationship with Bar 29 owners Kourtney and Phil Wright, who also own two other downtown watering holes, Whiskey Richards and The Sportsman. Cecily was sold immediately on their concept for Bar 29, which is a friendly and sophisticated cocktail lounge that serves elevated bar food. The idea was to create an upbeat gathering place with late night food, so they are open six days a week until 1 a.m. “It has the comfort of your home without having to make the food and the cocktails,” Cecily says with a big smile. She has plenty of experience managing restaurants, having done the job at Circle Bar B and having opened what was Cielito (and is now Viva) in the La Arcada complex.
Cecily has had a remarkable life. She was born in Ventura, and for the first 10 years of her life she traveled a lot, much of the time by sailboat. As a child she sailed from Ventura to Hawaii and from Hawaii to Alaska. She also cruised down the West Coast to Costa Rica and South America. During those seagoing years she was home-schooled. She returned to live on land, first in Camarillo and Ventura, and then in Santa Barbara at Refugio Ranch, a move that allowed her to graduate from Dos Pueblos High School. At Santa Barbara City College she majored in journalism. A friend asked her if she wanted to move to New York when she was just 20, and she ended up driving cross-country and then living in Rochester for 13 years. That’s where she got started managing restaurants, and where she earned an associate degree in communication and media studies from Monroe Community College. “I took 14 years to piece an education together — having lots of fun in the meantime,” she shares. “Rochester had an amazing cultural scene — not unlike Santa Barbara.”
In 2008 Cecily’s stepfather, Fred Carr, was diagnosed with lung cancer and given a year to live, so she moved back to Santa Barbara to help with the family business. Carr invented VertiGate, a unique gate that lifts and folds. Cecily’s mother still runs the company. In her spare time, Cecily writes short stories. She now also has a degree in creative writing from Antioch. “I write continuously — less than I would like to, but it’s a passion,” she says.
“I have a knack for managing restaurants,” she proudly admits. “I’m naturally social and you’re constantly problem solving.” She also thrives in a fast-paced environment and loves the staff she works with. She still cannot believe Bar 29 has only been open for six months. ‘We’ve achieved our goals,” she tells me. “The food is good, the cocktails are good, and people are having a great time.”
Cecily answers the Proust questionnaire.
What is your motto?
Fake it ’til you make it. So much of personal and professional success is attained by simply getting out of bed each day and showing up in your life. No, we’re not always stoked to clean the bathroom or manage the people or change the tire, but if you can get out there and try to find some sliver of happiness and humor in doing all those things, the “make it” part can start to flow naturally.
What is your most treasured possession?
Slides that were taken by my mother over the course of our eight years sailing in Hawaii, Alaska, and South America, and my backgammon set from that same time. These are my family heirlooms.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Oh boy. It’s probably that I’m gregarious. I come from an extremely loud and fabulous family, and none of us has ever been accused of being quiet.
What do you like most about your job?
Human nature fascinates me, and I love that every day I get to meet a wide range of people and engage in perspectives and stories that are often vastly different from my own. I’ve found the more I learn from others and talk to people, the better version of myself I become. That, and I know where they keep the booze.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Friends gathered and laughing on my porch in the afternoon with Paul Simon playing, wine, and something on the grill.
What is your greatest fear?
Not getting it all done. I want to do and be so many things that I worry I’ll run out of time to publish the book, make the movie, own the restaurant, buy the house, travel the world, perfect the roasted chicken — and that’s terrifying. I really don’t want to miss anything.
Who do you most admire?
I’ve always really admired the women who built our family. My mother, grandmother, and aunts are strong, unwavering, loving, and selfless. They passed down unconditional love, common sense, drive, and the proper skills for hosting an amazing dinner party.
What is your greatest extravagance?
It should be travel, but the restaurant industry isn’t built for copious amounts of time off — so I buy a lot of books and concert tickets.
What is your current state of mind?
Excited, optimistic, and anxious. I can’t decide between Bloodline, House of Cards, and The Office.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Humility. I find that humble people are inherently kind and forgiving. We all need a little more of that in our lives.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Arrogance. It’s wildly unattractive and almost never improves a given situation.
What do you most value in friends?
A slightly twisted sense of humor and a willingness to keep me grounded when I start to float.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Delightful. Fabulous. Totally. Don’t make me punch you in the throat.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could sing. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I would love to be able to belt out a song like Etta James or Nina Simone.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d get my “off” switch fixed. It’s been faulty since birth.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My friends. The community of relationships that I’ve built in my life is air to me. They are some of the funniest, most honest, kind, intelligent and interesting weirdos I’ve ever met. Most of them I’ve known for 10-20 years. They’re responsible for carving out who I am, though I’m sure there are a couple who might not totally enjoy that distinction.
Where would you most like to live?
Santa Barbara is no slouch, but I’ve always wanted to live in Lake Como, Italy. Water, mountains, George Clooney. Heaven.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My friends and family are unendingly funny. Not always on purpose, but always nonetheless — and I love a good pun.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Pippi Longstocking. She’s wit, grit, and sass. Also, you should see my kindergarten picture.
On what occasion do you lie?
When someone asks me how much money I spend at The Sportsman in any given month.