VIP manager Joe Bradley has the honor of being one of the “faces” of Republic Garden & Lounge on King Street in Charleston, the establishment owned and operated by Southern Charm star Leva Bonaparte. So, it’s no surprise that he’s stirring up trouble as one of the stars of Bravo’s Southern Hospitality. After getting through some hiccups (like confessing his love to fellow VIP manager Maddi Reese and kissing Mia Alario hours later) in Season 1, he’s fully come into his own.
Business-wise, he’s thriving. “I got my major in nightlife without even knowing it,” said University Of Michigan grad Bradley. A chance encounter with bartender TJ Dinch led Bradley to Republic and his true passion. “I was really impressed with Leva and Lamar [Bonaparte, co-owner of Republic], not just as business owners, but as mentors,” remembered Bradley. Unlike other party cities like Miami or Las Vegas, Bradley appreciates that Charleston is a little more “accessible,” but just as fun. His hope? “That everyone who comes to Charleston comes into Republic. As long as they’re 21.”
Relationship-wise, Bradley is struggling a little bit more. While his love life is thriving (yes, he’s still seeing Summer House star Danielle Olivera, whom he calls “out of his league” and “the best”), his friendships are a bit more precarious. Longtime friends bartender Will Kulp and VIP server Emmy Sharrett feel Bradley didn’t defend Kulp enough when cheating rumors circulated. Though, Bradley believes he did. “Listen, I said was 99% sure Will was innocent. That’s pretty high,” Bradley shrugged. Sharrett’s career ambitions rub Maddi Reese the wrong way, and Bradley feels torn between the two. “I’m not fully on Maddi’s side in this case. Early on, I saw how well Emmy was doing. I care about Emma moving up in her career as well,” explained Bradley.
We spoke to Bradley in our offices about the season so far, his budding relationship with Olivera, and whether the group can recover from the disastrous Miami trip.
DECIDER: What first interested you in a career in the nightlife/hospitality business?
JOE BRADLEY: You know, I come from a big Italian family. I went to private Catholic school my whole life. When you’re a kid and you go off to college, all you do is compare yourself to the people around you. I went to the University of Michigan and immediately got into a fraternity. All I really saw myself doing was to go to the corporate route, like my siblings. However, I’m close with my mother, and she never really did the 9 to 5 thing. She was an entrepreneur. Covid was what changed everything for me. Even though a lot of places were on lockdown, Charleston was one of the only places that the food and bev/ nightlife industry kept rolling. So, I quit my corporate job, and I looked for anything I could do in the meantime to keep money in my in my wallet.
One day, I met TJ. I met Lamar shortly after that. We all just hit it off, and Lamar offered me a job at Republic. He knew I was trying to figure things out and gave me an opportunity to earn some extra money. So, I started bar backing at Republic. You’d think I would have hated it, and it was horrible [laughs] taking out the trash every night. One night while I was at the dumpster, I realized that I had booked all the tables, while keeping the bar cleaned and stocked. I realized I was doing an important job, what the host should be doing. That’s when it became clear to me. I’ve always been infatuated with nice restaurants, even in college. I was that guy who could skip the line at the popular bar. I’m like, wait a minute. I’ve been training for this my whole life. That’s what my mom says. She’s like, Joe, if you think about it, when you should have been going to class, you were at the clubs researching. I got my major in nightlife without even knowing it
Other than TJ and Lamar, what drew you to Republic?
Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be where the most fun party was. Republic is Charleston’s hottest club, and it just happens to be center stage on King Street. I wanted to be a part of that. If I’m going to do nightlife as my career, I want to do it big. Leva has that same energy. If she’s going to start a company, it’s going to be the best and the biggest. I was really impressed with her and Lamar, not just as business owners, but as mentors. They are what really drew me in. I wanted to work my way up, and I knew I could do it.
In the past, I hated going to certain jobs because I hated my coworkers or dreaded hanging out with them because they were negative. At Republic, however, I can work and party with my best friends and then party after work. The fact that I can make money partying with the people I love the most… it’s a real dream. That’s also another big draw [laughs].
Has Republic changed since the start of the show?
I’ve seen Republic transform over the years. It’s always been a great spot. What I really love is that Republic is not just a spot for people from Charleston and bachelor/bachelorette parties to hang out anymore. There are people coming in from all different parts of the world. I’ve had people from London come in because they’ve seen Charleston on Southern Hospitality and Southern Charm and wanted to see the town and enjoy the nightlife for themselves. Also, the Charleston scene isn’t as exclusive as nightlife scenes in Vegas or Miami or places like that. It’s a little bit more accessible. I want everyone who comes to Charleston to be able to come into Republic. As long as they’re 21 [laughs]. Every night, there’s something crazy happening. We’re always doing like theme parties; we’re always dressing up. We’re serious about our jobs, but we always bring the party and the good vibes.
We’ve talked about work, but now I want to talk about the show. It’s clear that you’re a romantic, which explains why you were so hurt by Salley’s hookup with Gaston. Have these experiences taught you to protect your heart?
I don’t think I’ll ever not wear my heart on my sleeve. I just need to listen to my friends more because once I like a girl, I’m all in. Thank God, I have friends. TJ was able to see red flags with Salley that I wasn’t. I should protect my heart, but I don’t really see myself doing that [laughs]. I move fast, and I get sucked in fast. My friends do a really good job of protecting my heart for me.
Speaking of women you’ve dated, I did want to ask you about Danielle. Can you give us an update on your relationship status?
Danielle and I have had four amazing trips. She’s been to Charleston twice. The last time she stayed for an entire week, and it was amazing. It’s been a year or two since I’ve spent more than 48 hours consecutively with a girl I’ve liked. Not surprisingly, I went into this full speed. All gas, no breaks. Danielle is the same way. We had such a strong connection so fast. Things are great between us. I’m still infatuated by her. I still get butterflies when I’m coming up here to visit her. At the moment, we’re taking a little step back because things were just moving too fast. Though, I’m not getting with anyone else and I don’t think she is either.
I love that. It sounds like this is a big step for you!
I just want to be smart about it. Danielle is out of my league. She’s developing a badass app. I’m lucky to be in the same room with her. She’s also been really supportive of my career and how I work on weekends. If I’m going to do this, I want to make sure I do it the right way. She’s the best.
Let’s talk about another strong woman in your life—Maddi. After her blowup at Republic in the last episode, she told the group, “You wanna play checkers, let’s play chess.” What did she mean by that?
This friend group has many underlying secrets and we all know each other so well. Maddi used to be the queen bee. A lot of her frustrations with the groups stem from what’s going on between her and Trevor. Maddi and I are best friends and allies. When I came to her with the footage of Trevor and that girl, she automatically just got frustrated and took it out on the people who she thinks have been ganging up on her. Now, she’s lost friendships with TJ, Emmy, Will and Bradley, especially Bradley.
Two things that are really important to Maddi: her boyfriend, Trevor, who’s she’s on the outs with, and her identity. A large part of her identity is Republic. She’s been working there for five years, two years longer than me. People call Maddi and me the faces of Republic, but Maddi is the OG. She helped me get Emmy her job. We brought her into the Republic family. Fast forward one year, Maddi says that Emmy is biting the hand that feeds her. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Can’t there be multiple VIP managers? Maddi surely can’t work every shift now that she’s trying to kickstart her DJ career in earnest.
Yeah, that’s what I said. I’m not fully on Maddi’s side in this case. Early on, I saw how well Emmy was doing. I care about Emma moving up in her career as well. I’m great friends with Emmy too. It feels like I’m playing the middle, but I want everyone to be happy. That’s my only wish. So I’m like, wait a minute, why can’t Emmy become a VIP manager? Emmy can transition into the new VIP manager position while Maddi focuses on becoming a famous DJ. Everyone wins.
You can’t manage a nightclub when you’re behind a DJ booth and opening for James Kennedy. It doesn’t work that way. However, Maddi is going through a lot with her boyfriend and needs the stability of Republic. Right now, she feels as if one of her close friends is trying to take her identity from her, and that’s why she’s taking it out on the group. She’s hurting.
Another different element at Republic is new VIP server Oisin. Will and the other guys seemed to be just the tiniest bit jealous of your burgeoning friendship with Oisin.
It’s like, thanks boys, I didn’t know you cared that much [laughs]. Listen, I’m a very loyal person, but I’m not the best at time management. Oisin was the new guy in town. He didn’t have a single guy friend. I was being hospitable. I think the other guys were a little frustrated, but not jealous. They saw how much fun I was having hanging out with Oisin and were like, “where that energy been for us recently?” I do love them all equally.
Emmy and Will felt like you should have defended Will when Oisin accused him of hooking up with someone in your bathroom during a party . Looking back, do you wish you had spoken up?
Listen, I said was 99% sure Will was innocent. That’s pretty high for not seeing what happened in the bathroom. At 99%, you take those odds. I don’t regret saying that. Plus, Oisin and Will are on opposite ends of the career spectrum. Will has gotten into law school, and Oisin is wearing a Speedo on OnlyFans. They’re not exactly going to get along. I think I fall somewhere in between Will and Oisin. I could picture myself in a courtroom, but I could also throw on a Speedo at the beach maybe like once a year. I’m stuck in the middle right now. It’s messy. Though I don’t think Will cheated on Emmy, other bigger things have shocked me this season.
Speaking of shocking things, I spoke to some of your co-workers about the Miami trip last week, and what they described was scary. What can the fans expect when they watch the vacation?
The party started before we got to Miami. We were already getting drunk in Atlanta. Mentally, we were all just so checked out of Charleston. We wanted to leave all of our problems behind. Instead of hosting the party, we wanted to bring the party to Miami. All I can say is that the trip starts out really fun, but all good things must come to an end. What begins as the most fun trip ever quickly turns into the worst trip ever. It was the biggest roller coaster of a trip I’ve ever been on.
I don’t think it’s a secret to say that friendships will be fractured after the trip.
Yeah. Things have not been the same ever since that trip. I feel like that says it all.
I’m really happy Southern Hospitality is getting an official reunion. Do you think some of these conflicts can be resolved with Andy Cohen’s guiding hand?
If one person is going to do it, it’s going to be Andy Cohen. So much hasn’t been resolved yet. I I’m hoping it’ll all get resolved at the reunion, but I also don’t want to make things worse. I’m hoping that Andy can put on his doctor hat and heal us all. He might even need to do a real fuck boy exorcism, like JT [Thomas from Southern Charm] said.