Cover Story: Jazzed in a Perfect World

Patti Giliese names her own tune

Lisa Bialac

Patti Giliese started waiting tables for tips and now co-owns a Jazz bar.

If Chez Nora co-owner Patti Giliese ruled the world, people would communicate better and be more aware of how their actions affect others. And only nurses would sport white stockings.

Lightheartedness aside, Giliese takes seriously her charge of co-owning and operating a vital business supported by workers who depend on her for their livelihood. She works hard and expects the same in return.

Giliese came by a portion of her work ethic the way most women do — from her family, of which she's one of 12 siblings. The other half came the old-fashioned way: work.

While financing her education at Thomas More College and Northern Kentucky University, she paid her dues as a server at Barleycorn's in Lakeside Park. Unlike most servers in the restaurant industry, however, Giliese says she wasn't scraping by for money. In fact, she never went without anything.

Although she didn't picture herself in the restaurant business while in college, serving for spending money soon got her hooked. She and her husband, Jim, Chez Nora co-owner, celebrated the Covington Jazz bar and restaurant's eighth anniversary on May 1.

Chez Nora features a renowned rooftop terrace overlooking all of Covington's MainStrasse Village. Local Jazz performers like Kathy Wade, Dixie Karas, Steve Schmidt and Eugene Goss, among others, have taken the stage there, cementing Northern Kentucky's reputation and appreciation for live Jazz.

Success has its setbacks. Restricted personal lives compounded by working 14-hour shifts are only part of the price of maintaining a successful business, Giliese says.

Power can also be a setback, she says.

"As an owner, I have the power to destroy someone's life," she says. "I was scared to death the first time I had to fire someone. But then, we also try to take care of our employees, sometimes help find them an apartment and transportation."

Another, quieter power Giliese exhibits is pleasing customers. It's the tact and warmth that the club's previous owner, Nora herself, possessed.

While the modicum of power Giliese now has won't exactly crown her ruler of this world, she focuses on the personal.

"I already rule my world," she says.