Hello and welcome to our first blog post!
I wanted to write today to all about what’s been going on in the bar industry, The World’s 50 Best Bars and Charles Schumann. I think it’s important for US, the women in the industry to discuss this type of behavior, gas-lighting and just overall treatment of women, both behind the bar and on the other side of the stick.
Let me just tell you a small part of my bar story, how i got to be behind the bar. My first experience behind the bar was at a Lone Star Steakhouse, and I thought I knew how to make a margarita. Boy, was I wrong. From there my curiosity only grew. I wanted to learn as much as I could and I was lucky enough to meet someone who taught me the building blocks as I served at another restaurant that I had moved onto.
This restaurant would be my first experience in just how hard it would be to get behind the bar for a real shift. It wasn't because I wasn’t able to tend bar, or that we didn’t have a need for another bartender. It was because I had rejected one of the owner’s advances and efforts to have a romantic relationship with me. This was never discussed outright, but it was obvious the owners did not want me there soon after I told him I wasn’t interested. I was a great server, however, and they didn’t have any other reason to let me go. So I stayed, for 8 months, plugging away, learning as I went.
From there, I worked at a local dive bar, where I learned how to be fast behind the bar. I was hired as a server and made my own drinks for my tables. They also gave me control of a small bar for live music on Fridays. I was so happy to finally be able to show some of my skills, however, this didn’t overshadow the fact that the owners and managers expected the servers, all female, to take shots with the guests to bump up check totals and make it seem like we were ‘available’ to the customers. Being able to drink at the job, there were a few times guests took advantage of that fact and I felt like I was unable to say no.
Eventually, I moved on, having to move back to my hometown to both rebuild my life a little bit, and to help my mother go through a divorce and move. I ended up managing a dive bar and agreed to help build up the business. I wasn’t informed that the bar had a checkered past, having recently been busted for selling drugs and prostitution. This indirectly put me in harm's way, I had customers asking for sexual favors over the bar! I left soon after I found out, but not before I started to actually get some business for them by planning nightly specials, new drinks and even live music. I moved back to Cleveland and started back on track, or so I thought.
I began working at a popular craft cocktail bar in the city, prominent in our USBG chapter and the local industry. I learned so much more than I ever thought possible, they educated me regularly and helped me learn in leaps and bounds. This all sounds great, right? The only reason I got the job is because the owner-operator had forced himself on me during the Christmas party and he wanted to keep me quiet. I was desperate to get back to working in a bar. Unfortunately, even after promising I would be safe and taken care of, this proved to be false. When I told them about guest who were groping me inappropriately and asked him to say something, the confrontation would end in free shots for the guests who made me feel violated. Way to make me feel like my voice is heard!
This was also where I met my abusive ex-boyfriend. I won't go into all the gory details of our relationship, that’s not what this is about. What I do want to bring up is the fact that no one warned me about his reputation, and he still remains prominent in the industry, even trying to make his own ‘chopped’ inspired cocktail show. It makes me sick to think that people support him still, and that people don’t believe me and the suffering he has caused, all for the sake of possibly being on TV.
I have worked extremely hard in my chosen career, spending my own money on several different trips for conferences, classes and certifications. I am a professional in my craft and I’m proud of the initiative I’ve taken to learn everything I can, even when it feels like I’m swimming upstream sometimes.
And that is where World's 50 Best Bars and Mr. Schumann come in, both the remarks of his and the gaslit response from World’s 50 Best when the industry was rightfully upset over his winning. I can tell you personally that I felt like the wind was knocked out of me, like all my hard work for the last few years meant nothing. “A bar is no place for a woman. The important characters are always men” he was quoted in saying to The Spirits Business and The Shout as well as “[there’s] no place for a woman behind the bar after 3 p.m.”. I’m sorry, sir, but I’ve been going to work after 3 pm for years, and will continue to do so. I have earned my place here, I have fought through all of the Charles Schumanns and still made a career out of it.
In response to World’s 50 Best Bars, shame on you. How dare you take the cowards way out? They responded to Charles’ rejection of the award - also the coward’s way out - by saying now no one gets the award. Isn’t that the way you deal with children? If he doesn’t want it, no one gets it?’ What about all the people who have put sweat and blood into their careers? They don’t deserve a nod because big baby Charlie gave his award back? Unbelievable.
I will say, through all this heinous commentary, I have seen an outpouring of love and support of women behind the bar more than ever. It makes me proud to be in a community with voices they aren’t afraid to use. I commend every single person that has said something, it means so much to the women in our industry as well as myself.
In conclusion, we need to be supportive of the women in the br industry. Remember, there was once a time when we weren’t allowed behind the bar by law. We have come so far and have so much farther to go. Let this be a stepping stone, a log on the fire of the passion we all have for our work. We are invincible when standing together. Thank you all for reading, it means more than you know.