Kendall Jenner serves drinks at Gainesville bars promoting 818 Tequila
On a typical Wednesday night in Gainesville most students can’t expect much, but this Wednesday night students were surprised to see supermodel and reality TV star Kendall Jenner bartending at the Social at Midtown and The Swamp Restaurant.
“We are like the biggest Kendall Jenner fans ever so we were like ‘We have to go,’” said Maddie Reed, third-year student at UF from Jacksonville.
Jenner began making surprise visits to colleges to promote her tequila brand last October, when she visited four Midwestern schools including Ohio State University, Indiana University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Michigan.
Helene Nisenbaum, 20, an employee working at 7 p.m. during the Social at Midtown event, said, “We knew that we were having a special guest and I knew it was an 818 event so I kind of figured it out last week, but they didn’t actually tell us until like three hours ago.”
Speculation of Jenner’s visit began among UF students on Sunday once the two local bars announced 818 promotional events, but neither one mentioned the supermodel would be making an appearance. Speculation heightened when Jenner was spotted on the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia’s campuses the day prior.
“We came to see Kendall, waited in my car for like 3 hours before she was supposed to get here because I talked to my friend who had already seen her at another school and she told me that people were lined up hours before,” says Elle Pomerance, 20, who was the first person outside the Social at Midtown at 3:51 p.m.
According to the website used to sell tickets for the Social at Midtown, over 800 people bought admission to the advertised “Jalisco happy hour with 818 tequila” which sold out the morning before the event. Some students had no idea about the happenings around town.
“I didn’t know it was an event, but I would have gone if I knew about it,” said Maite Usandizaga, 18, a business major at UF.
At around 4:30 p.m., the doors of the Social at Midtown opened and the first hundred or so patrons were greeted with 818 branded merchandise covering the bar including hats, tote bags, coasters, plastic cups, pitchers and bar mats. Shelves behind the bar were lined with bottles of the 818 tequila, including multiple bottles of the brand’s Eight Reserve, which retails for about $175.
Once the crowd shuffled in and collected merchandise, spots quickly filled around the bar as attendees waited in hopes of spotting Jenner. The crowd’s hopes were confirmed when peers on social media began sharing images of Jenner at the local Cava restaurant just down the street on University Avenue at 5:30 p.m.
“She was nice and so was the security, and she took pictures with everyone in there quickly and left,” said Maya Karp, a first-year student at UF who met Jenner at Cava.
While visiting college towns, Jenner has been known to stop at multiple of their most well-known locations that serve alcohol. At around 6 p.m., Jenner and her team were spotted arriving outside a popular liquor store, Gator Beverage, on University Avenue in black SUVs. A crowd quickly formed behind a fenced barricade.
“I was walking home from class and I saw a big crowd,” says Rachel Glew, 21, a third-year health-science student living on University Avenue. “So I ran up to my apartment and I got all of my roommates.”
Management of the Social at Midtown were overheard to have said that 818 sent undercover scouts to Gainesville to decide which locations Jenner would appear at. The Social at Gainesville buzzed as fans of Jenner eagerly waited for her arrival.
At 6:30 p.m., Jenner arrived at the Social at Midtown and began pouring and passing out margaritas in branded 818 plastic cups. Making two laps around the bar, the reality TV star stopped to take pictures, sign autographs and greet grinning supporters. She even stopped to take shots of 818 tequila with groups of the audience.
“We were upset we didn’t get the hat but it was honestly so fun,” said Lily Turner, a biology major from Santa Rosa, Florida. “The energy was a lot higher than normal.”
Jenner later made an appearance at locally famous sports bar, The Swamp Restaurant, where she went inside to pour drinks at the bar and then came outdoors to greet the people sitting on the patio.
“After about two hours of good conversation, laughs and anticipation with friends about when she would come, there she was at the Swamp Restaurant. There she was right in front of me,” said Triston Cropp, a second-year sports management student.
The unexpected visit from Jenner not only left the crowd thrilled but also added an unforgettable twist to an ordinary Wednesday night in Gainesville.
“It was the most excited I’ve ever been to come to work,” says Jackson Thomas, 22, a barback at The Social at Midtown. “But it’s still nothing compared to a gameday.”