Bartender of the Issue – Richie Spence

Richie Spence

Richie Spence

AJ’s Oyster Shanty, Okaloosa Island


Richie was born in Ohio, but he’s lived in this area since he was three years old. His food and beverage career started at this very location, when it was Fudpucker’s. This was in 1988—Richie was 16, and started out washing dishes and working as a prep cook and bar back.


He worked on and off at AJ’s in Destin (back when they only had one location) until 1993, when he took some time off to sell real estate. “Then the bubble burst, so I got back into bartending,” says Richie.


Lucky for us. And musician Brandon Day, too. He calls Richie “absolutely one of the coolest bartenders in the area.” We know Brandon, so we’re sure he keeps Richie very busy during Brandon’s Friday afternoon gigs at AJ’s Oyster Shanty. You’ll also find Richie keeping the barflies happy Saturdays and Sundays.


Richie loves to travel. He’s lived in Dallas, Atlanta and New Orleans, and has traveled to such exotic locations as the Bahamas, Jamaica, Belize, Honduras and Thailand. “Island life is different from Destin and Fort Walton Beach,” he says, referring to Okaloosa Island. “Every time I vacation in the tropics, I think, We have all that here!


He recently got married to his sweetheart of two years, and they have two kids, ages six and 10. Richie’s hobbies include playing guitar and bass and going to music festivals.


The most popular drink here is the Bimini Bash, which contains five rums and three juices. “Limit three per customer,” Richie adds, as if prompted by the AJ’s legal team. His own go‑to drink is Guinness, the legendary black beer.


Funny, kid, you don’t look Irish.

Chris Manson
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