By day, Matt Gorby is a graphic designer, by night a bartender at the Casino in Ketchum. To be more specific, Gorby is the best bartender in the valley. That title is practically indisputable at this point, with 2020 marking his 11th consecutive first-place prize in that category of Best of the Valley.
How many gold medals he has racked up over the years is difficult to say. He was winning back before the Mountain Express bought the Wood River Journal and took over Best of the Valley.
“I work at a great bar with a bunch of great people, and that makes it pretty easy,” Gorby said.
Gorby is one of the most consistent winners in the history of the Best of the Valley competition, especially since the Express took over.
His position as best bartender is only really disputed by himself. Gorby said he has never voted for himself in Best of the Valley, and looking at his colleagues at the Casino, he offered his own explanation for his consistent victories.
Of fellow Casino bartender Dave Penn, who took bronze this year, Gorby said, “Truth be told, without a doubt, he’s the best bartender in this town. I just think my friends are a little more savvy on the computer.”
Like nearly every other business in Blaine County, the Casino shut down operations back in March and has only just recently started welcoming customers back inside.
For most, this sudden and unprecedented closure would be cause for anxiety, but Gorby said he has always had complete faith in the Casino owners and the rest of the team at the beloved Ketchum watering hole.
“We’re all doing pretty well,” he said. “We’re partially opened up again, down to one bartender a night rather than two, but people are coming in. We got the tops off the pool tables and I think as this thing clears up we’ll be back up and running and doing fine.”
That confidence he chalks up to having such steady and trustworthy owners in Rick and Patti Rooney, who took over the Casino from the Werry family (which operated the bar for more than 80 years) back in 2018.
“We’ve got great owners taking good care of us,” Gorby said. “They have totally kept us in the loop. We knew what was happening, knew everything was going to be OK. It’s just good going into a situation like this to know that people are looking after you.”
Everything is a team effort, though, and Gorby believes the Casino—like other local businesses—will ultimately pull through and thrive once more in large part thanks to the support and dedication of the entire community.
“I’ve been there 26 years, and I’ve been privileged to have the most amazing owners and bosses, it’s been like a family to me. That’s this town, though.
“This town, I’ve been here so long, I see it come together for people,” he said. “There’s a lot of respect for everybody, no matter what your rung is on the ladder. People look out for each other in this town. I think we’re going to be OK. I know we’re going to figure this out.”