Tales of the Cocktail has announced the Top 4 Finalists for the 14th annual Spirited Awards.
Industry awards aren’t top of mind for most professionals right now. After all, restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues are closing at alarming rates.
Full- and part-time industry professionals have had their lives turned upside-down. Some—far too many—have lost jobs. Others are facing shortened hours at venues with significantly reduced traffic, resulting in severe reductions in hourly pay and tips.
That’s to say nothing of the risks front- and back-of-house teams take every shift to serve guests, from the possibility of being infected to confrontations over mandated coronavirus health and safety requirements.
Given the dire situation the industry is facing, some may see going forward with any awards as tone deaf. However, an argument can be made that bars need recognition right now for what they’re doing right to help save them.
Chain and independent restaurants have been garnering most of the attention when it comes to news coverage of the hospitality industry. Both the National Restaurant Association and Independent Restaurant Coalition are seeking billions of dollars in relief for their businesses. For the most part, their efforts have been met with support from government officials, the public and celebrities (although the RESTAURANTS Act or a similar bill has yet to be floored for a vote).
Bars, on the other hand, have largely been vilified during the pandemic. There are bad actors in restaurants, bars and other businesses, yet bars have been singled out and faced repeated mandated closures.
Recent media coverage hasn’t been flattering. A desire to assign blame is nothing new in our society, and fingers have been pointed at bars for spreading coronavirus over the past few days.
Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, for a high-profile example, allowed the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—a weeklong event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people—to take place as planned. Coronavirus cases predictability followed, and news outlets blamed bars visited by rally attendees for infections.
The Spirited Awards, which will be fully digital for the first time in Tales of the Cocktail history, is attempting a more mindful approach this year, reflecting the industry’s mindfulness in this time of catastrophe and crisis. Multiple mentors—responsible professionals and operators—will be awarded for 2020, for example.
To put it plainly, bars need more support. Bars don’t enjoy the same amount of influence and power as chain restaurants because they’re largely owned by independent entrepreneurs. If fingers are going to be pointed, they should be aimed at individual businesses flouting the rules and their responsibility to operate safely, not an entire industry. Operators who take a cavalier approach to the health and safety of the public and their employees certainly deserve to be punished—hurting all bar owners is a severe overreach.
Blanket closures put undo strain on individual operations and their team members, which in turn hurts their families, friends and communities. Local, state and federal officials need to listen to bar owners and operators and adjust their approaches, because at this rate the bar industry as we know it won’t just be “different,” it will be extinct.
Responsible operators and their commitments to safe, responsible service need to be recognized. To that end, we want to congratulate the Spirited Awards Top 4 Finalists. Good luck to all of you! We hope all of you will use your voices and visibility to advocate for safe, responsible bar operation and push for bars to be included in relief conversations.
Because we’re located in Las Vegas—a city that has been vilified along with bars recently—we want to recognize industry icons Tony Abou-Ganim (Libertine Social), Francesco Lafranconi (Mr. Coco) and Nectaly Mendoza (Cleaver) for making it to the Top 4. Congratulations and good luck!
For the full list of Top 4 Finalists, please click here.
Image: Tales of the Cocktail
I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.
After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.
A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.