Photo by Brittanny Anderson
Early Sunday morning, Richmond lost a beloved member of the food and beverage industry with the passing of Kurt Moon, 34, who was killed in a car accident on Osborne Turnpike in Henrico County. Maybe you only saw him behind the bar at Metzger Bar & Butchery or City Dogs, where he would listen, nod, smile, educate, crack jokes, make you feel like you were home. Or perhaps he was a regular at your own restaurant, where he'd always stop in for the same lunch: an egg and cheddar sandwich, side of vegetables. Maybe you bonded over bluegrass, maybe you only met him once in passing, maybe you regularly shared beers, like clockwork, at the end of your shifts. No matter where you were, how often you saw him or how frequently your ears were graced by his trademark laugh, Kurt Moon was always happy to see you. Here, friends and members of the industry share memories of Kurt, and why everyone who ever met him was always happy to see him, too.
We opened Metzger Bar & Butchery on June 25, 2014, and ever since then Brittanny, Nathan and I have spent the majority of our waking hours in that building. It is our home, and our small staff is a close family. Kurt was introduced to us that following September by his good friend Katy Best, a server for us at the time. I had met him briefly before as part of a tight-knit, down-to-earth, hard-working crew of friends from Berryville, Virginia, who seemingly all moved here at once, and over a short period of time, became an integral part of RIchmond's restaurant community. Everyone that knows Kurt knows his ability to make you feel like an old friend from the moment you meet, and we were no exception. I saw a lot of myself in him, as a veteran bartender of many different restaurant settings, maybe a little rough around the edges, and as someone eager to expand their knowledge in the classic/craft cocktail world. I was honored to teach him all I knew, and from then on, whatever I learned, he learned and vice versa. He quickly became my right-hand man, my brother and an invaluable member of the Metzger family. In the wake of this tragedy, there's only one thing that brings me comfort and that's the fact that there was never any doubt how important he was to us. He never failed to let us know the feeling was mutual.
Kurt was loud as hell. His booming voice filled every inch of our small dining room. His laugh, a deep chortle with a halting, staccato cadence that varied in intensity, could be heard outside of the building on a quiet day. It was his signature, impossible to recreate — as every member of our staff has learned after countless tries and failures. It was infectious and we laughed constantly behind the bar, told stories, clowned each other, and I'm positive our guests were treated to many an inappropriate conversation, no matter how quiet we tried to be. We didn't hang out enough outside of work due to our schedules but were in the process of trying to figure out a trip to the Kentucky distilleries or up to New York City for some important cocktail-related "research." We both wanted to improve our craft and I wanted us to learn together, as he was a fixture at Metzger and would have certainly been involved in future projects with us going forward. But life has other plans.
We worked together on Saturday nights. I would usually open, and he came in from 6 p.m. to close, always showing up at 5:45 to have a smoke beforehand. When he came in we'd give each other hard dap and get straight to work, me handling service bar and the people directly in front me, and him being the point man, taking orders for the rest of the bar and the cocktail tables. We did that not because he couldn't bang out drinks as fast as I could — he definitely could — but because he was such a damn natural during service with guests. I would be making drinks and overhear as he made instant friends at the bar, or greet regulars excited to see him, or describe items on the menu to guests in his own unique and disarming way, all while never breaking a sweat, even during the craziest and busiest parts of the night. We'd breeze through service, and before you knew it, things would start to slow down. We'd take a look around, look at each other and one of us would say "shmiggidy," his cue to smoke. By the time he was done, I'd be done restocking and refilling ice trays, and it was time for me to sit on the other side of the bar while Brittanny finished up in the kitchen. I'd have a beer, we'd do a shot together and continue to talk about whatever, maybe fantasy football, maybe argue a little bit about politics, or maybe he would blow my mind with his depth of knowledge on some completely random subject. Now I'm at Kurt's bar, and that's a good place, a place you don't want to leave. —Kjell Anderson, Metzger Bar & Butchery
When you try to memorialize Kurt, you start to realize he was truly the embodiment of those traits people usually include when writing something of this nature: “loved by everyone who knew him,” “filled up a room with his laughter,” “lived life to the fullest,” “always had a smile on his face.” While anyone would be lucky to have even one of those attributes, Kurt was all those things at once. In literature, you are taught that characterization is revealed through what a person does, what a person says and, finally, what others say about a person. A torrent of stories have flooded social media, crowded bars and late-night gatherings this week, all with Kurt as the main character, told with the real love reserved for these sacred moments — all admiration for a man who could light up a room with his smile, and celebrating his easygoing nature, which calmed us and told us that it was going to be alright. But the true barometer of how wonderful Kurt was can best be found in the loss we all feel in his absence. And in that profound emptiness that I have felt around us these past few days, I have noticed something: Whenever his friends are remembering Kurt, through all the tears — so many tears — there is always a smile and, more often, tremendous laughter. Laughter that, in a way, is an attempt at his own laugh: a laugh that could have been the prototype of a laugh, and what we are all trying to emulate when we laugh ourselves. —James Menefee, Patrick Henry's Pub & Grille
Kurt and I didn't have what you might call a traditional relationship. We had one of those special bonds like Cliff and Norm, and we would catch up at our own private Cheers, Patrick Henry's Pub, as we both did the slow exhale of the Saturday-night service industry. We would share our battle stories over a couple beers and he would smile and nod as I excitedly told him about whatever nerdy book I was reading, ever the gentleman politely feigning interest, even if he had none. I could never tell the difference. Kurt would occasionally stop into my bar for a drink or some food, and I would get brief snippets of his life outside of our common ground. I would sometimes get to join him at his, alone or in the company of others. That was the beauty of Kurt: You could be with other people or all alone, and that guy made you feel like when it came to friends, you were a wealthy man. He was so hospitable, something I'm sure will be echoed by multitudes of people. He was the golden rule when it came to hosting guests, always with a smile on his face and a warm welcome. One of the hardest parts of losing him, for me, is that we didn't get to spend more time getting to know one another. But maybe he was exactly who I needed in the way that he was, and all I can hope is that in some small way, I was also that for him. —Brandon Peck, The Roosevelt
What couldn't I say about Kurt? I feel like there is nothing I could say that would amount to the force he is. He is a beacon of light, good vibes, knowledge, wisdom and, of course, laughs. You knew Kurt was in a building by his booming laugh. It rippled through the air and no matter what you were doing, made you laugh too. I've also never known someone who could school me on bluegrass, hip-hop and football in the same sentence. Kurt Moon is truly one of a kind. He is a part of my every day and will continue to be, forever. —Krystle Montes, Metzger Bar & Butchery
He was the guy I wanted to take good care of. Kind beyond what seemed possible. Patience for a putz like me. Worry-free, thoughtful and always full of laughter, and we had several interesting conversations. I once ran into him on a patio; seemingly he was on a date that wasn't quite working out, but Kurt just laughed along. He was easygoing that way. The following week we would laugh together about it, and I would serve him his usual coffee, water, and egg sandwich with the vegetable of the day. Take care, friend. —Ryan Clatterbuck, Liberty Public House
Kurt and I weren't super close friends, but he was one of the first people I met when I moved here. It didn't matter if you were a stranger, a regular or a close pal; you always felt welcome in his presence. There were countless times I'd see him out and he'd always make room for me to sit and hang, and I know many others who have experienced the same. He was an anomaly for sure — always smiling, always positive, and tried his best to make sure the people surrounding him felt the same. —Ian Merryman, The Jackdaw
There's not too much to say about Kurt that hasn't already been said, but it all bears repeating. I can't find one bad word to say about him and at the same time, I wouldn't care to search. I saw him regularly for years and even had the fortune of hanging out with him outside of work. It delighted me to see him happy or amused or even passionately riled up about something. He loved music and travel and West Virginia, so much so that he's convinced me that it's the best place on Earth. People like him don't come around often, if they do at all. He was smart, kind and fun without any complications. This is what it feels like when people say that someone was gone to soon. It was never more true than about the life of Kurt Moon. He will be deeply missed. —Shamoniki Ellison, Patrick Henry's Pub & Grille
I had the pleasure of working with Kurt over the last three years. I know in loss, people typically tend to say things like "they were so full of life" and "they could light up a room with their laugh." But Kurt truly embodied those, and so much more. His positivity was contagious. In his honor, I promise to always speak kindly, live fully and laugh way too loudly. —Jordan Waller, City Dogs
My post-shift walk from Metzger to Patrick Henry's Pub takes roughly eight minutes. On some nights, over the course of those eight minutes, I can barely collect my thoughts. Other nights that same walk drags on, seemingly endless. The only constant is the route I take. On several nights I had the distinct pleasure of taking that walk alongside Kurt Moon. During those walks, eight minutes at a time, we hashed out all the problems with that night's service, talked politics, philosophy, religion, solved all the world's evils, but most importantly just tried to make each other laugh. Those walks, where we could talk honestly about anything on our minds or just crack a joke or two, are what matter most to me. It made no difference that we hadn't known each other for very long. Ours was a rapport that came from a lifetime of understanding. I felt as comfortable talking with him as I do with my own brothers. Much more has and will be said about all the ways Kurt graced us all with his love and compassion. But for me, the memories of those short walks with a wonderful friend, too few as they were, are what I will hold on to. I am proud to call Kurt Moon my brother and I will miss him dearly. —Mike Houder, Metzger Bar & Butchery
I met Kurt when he started working at Metzger Bar & Butchery. As a regular who lived two short blocks away, I feel like I got to know Kurt pretty well from our talks at brunch and sometimes dinner. I was also lucky enough to catch a meal or two and many drinks with him outside of his work, at places like Patrick Henry and Saison. The first time I ever met Kurt, I called him Tim, and more than once that day. He finally corrected me as I was leaving. “Tom, my name is Kurt, by the way, not Tim.” I was embarrassed, but Kurt quickly changed that with his trademark laugh. Safe to say, I only called him Tim a few times after that, always on purpose, and to get a good smile or laugh out of the both of us. Last fall, with football season starting, I always talked to Kurt and Kjell about their fantasy football league, my leagues, what busts we drafted, waiver wire gems we picked up, and who was going head to head in the match-ups that particular week. We also always found some time to talk about hot sauce, mezcal and whiskey. I think I wore Kurt out a few brunches from making me mezcal Bloodys. In fact, one time, my table of six all ordered them and eventually Kurt came over to the table to make sure we were OK with tequila instead of mezcal, because we had drunk all of the Mezcal in the house! In a few months I'll visit Richmond, my first visit back since moving. It will not be the same. It never will be the same. It feels like yesterday, walking into Metzger and getting a “MY DUDE!” followed by the hardest high five of all time and a quick but intensely tight hug. Kurt had a lot of love and positive energy to share with the world. It has been tough being away from Richmond during this past week. I really want to give a lot of our friends big hugs, cry with them, and tell Kurt stories. We have so many amazing memories of Kurt that we must hold dearly. There will always be a piece of Kurt Moon in all of us. RIP Kurt Moon, I will never, ever forget you, my friend. —Thomas Whitt, formerly of The Answer Brewpub
If you have any memories or kind words you'd like to share, please do not hesitate to send them to StephanieB@richmag.com for inclusion.