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Women-Led Chicago Style Cocktail Conference Will Stress Inclusion

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Read the schedule for the inaugural event in May

Sharon Bronstein, Shelby Allison, and Caitlin Laman
Anjali Pinto

The organizers behind the inaugural Chicago Style Conference, a four-day bar industry event going on from May 7-10 and open to the public, has released its schedule. Chicago Style is the brainchild of Shelby Allison (Lost Lake), Caitlin Laman (Ace Hotel Chicago), and Sharon Bronstein (The 86 Company). The panels take place at the Ace Hotel in Fulton Market and will address topics including reducing sexual misconduct, the best practices to eliminate waste, and a lack of inclusion of marginalized groups.

There are 11 events in all, kicking off with a party that starts after the James Beard Awards finish on Monday, May 7. The panels mix feminism and intersectionality with other educational opportunities hoping to help bar operators and bartenders improve their workplaces. The panels have provocative names such as “You Are Welcome Here: If It’s Not Intersectional, It’s Not Hospitality.” Organizers hope to capitalize on their captive audiences. Many professionals from across the country will already be in Chicago for the Beards.

“The city is buzzing with energy and excitement and we can’t wait to channel it into a celebration of our cocktail community,” Laman said. “The topics that we are addressing are just as relevant to restaurant professionals as they are to bars, so we hope out-of-town attendees will extend their stay to join us.”

Laman, the Ace’s beverage director, moved from San Francisco where she earned recognition as a Food and Wine best new mixologist. She and her colleagues sought to organize an event with bar experts, to tackle topics they felt have been long ignored or not properly addressed. These industry problems may have been overlooked at other events.

“We chose experts we have worked with in the past or whose work we admire, while intentionally creating and holding space for women, people of color, and queer folks,” Laman said.

Tickets for the conference will be available here. Check out the schedule below and check back for more coverage later this month.


Monday, May 7

Fords Gin + Del Maguey Mezcal present Bar Fight Club

10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., venue TBD

Hosted directly following the James Beard Awards, this event will highlight some of the country’s most notable cocktail bars who will create menus featuring Fords Gin and Del Maguey Mezcal, competing for the judges’ prize as well as people’s choice.

Tuesday, May 8

All panels at Ace Hotel Chicago in the Mahoney Event Space (unless noted)

Noon to 1:00 p.m.

Causing a Stir: Empowering Underserved + Underrepresented Communities Within the Hospitality Industry, presented by Chandon

Colin Asare-Appiah (Bacardi; New York), Alexis Brown (Causing a Stir; Chicago), Ariel Neal (Causing a Stir; Chicago)

Community Spirits: Cocktail Bars as Active Community Members, presented by Chandon

1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Josh Harris (Trick Dog, Bon Vivants; San Francisco), Bobby Heugel (OKRA Charity Saloon, Anvil Bar & Refuge; Houston), Ashley Novoa (Chicago Period Project; Chicago), Katipai Richardson Wilson (Dirty Precious; Brooklyn)

Moderated by Jacyara de Oliveira (La Sirena Clandestina, El Che Bar; Chicago)

A History of Black Bartenders in America by David Wondrich, presented by Chandon

2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

David Wondrich (New York)

Turn Up The Volume Without Lowering Your Standards: Bar Management in 2018, presented by Chandon

4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Nandini Khaund (Cindy’s; Chicago), Leo Robitschek (The NoMad; New York and Los Angeles), Dianna Sanders (The Promontory; Chicago), Yael Vengroff (The Spare Room, Genghis Cohen; Los Angeles)

Moderated by Erin Hayes (House Spirits Distillery, Los Angeles)

Speed Rack National Championship

6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., venue TBD

Speed Rack, the all female speed bartending competition raising money for breast cancer research, will culminate its 7th season with the grand finale of Speed Rack USA on May 8 in Chicago. The day after the James Beard Awards, the Windy City will be awash in the country’s top culinary talent, because what’s better after dinner than a good drink? All proceeds from ticket sales will go to breast cancer research, education and prevention. Entry to the Speed Rack final allows sampling our generous sponsors’ punches and tasty food from great local eateries.

Wednesday, May 9

All panels at Ace Hotel Chicago in the Mahoney Event Space (unless noted)

Noon to 1 p.m.

Do Touch The Art: Outstanding Menu Design, presented by Tequila Gran Dovejo, Jack Daniel’s, La Luna Mezcal and Woodford Reserve

Natasha David (Nitecap; New York), Iain Griffiths (Trash Tiki, Dandelyan; London), Morgan Schick (Trick Dog, Bon Vivants; San Francisco)

Moderated by Jen Delos Reyes (School of Art + Art History, University of Illinois; Chicago)

Community Accountability by Ashtin Berry, presented by Tequila Gran Dovejo, Jack Daniel’s, La Luna Mezcal, and Woodford Reserve

1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Ashtin Berry (Tokyo Record Bar, Air’s Champagne Bar; New York)

All-Consuming: Achieving Sustainability Behind the Bar, presented by Tequila Gran Dovejo, Jack Daniel’s, La Luna Mezcal and Woodford Reserve

2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Mary Bartlett (Ace Hotel DTLA; Los Angeles), Ryan Chetiyawardana (Dandelyan, Mr. Lyan; London), Kelsey Ramage (Trash Tiki; London), Claire Sprouse (Tin Roof Drink Company; New York)

Moderated by Lacy Hawkins (Monkey 47; New York)

You Are Welcome Here: If It’s Not Intersectional, It’s Not Hospitality, presented by Tequila Gran Dovejo, Jack Daniel’s, La Luna Mezcal, and Woodford Reserve

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Mony Buni (Lustau, Prairie School; Chicago), Lov Lee Carpenter (Blue Plate Catering; Chicago), Don Lee (Cocktail Kingdom; New York), Lynnette Marrero (Speed Rack, Llama Inn; New York), Liz Weck (Howard Brown Health, Lost & Found: Dyke Bar; Chicago)

Trash Tiki Disco, presented by Fords Gin and Pisco Control

10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., venue TBD

Trash Tiki is a pop-up and online platform that helps raise awareness, and more importantly, solutions, to the insane amount of waste the food & drink industry produces. Founders Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths will host a late night party focused on their anti-waste approach to the bar industry.

Thursday, May 10

11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Green Dot Workshop, presented by Campari

Ace Hotel Chicago in the Mahoney Event Space


Green Dot is an innovative workshop focused on preventing sexual assault through bystander intervention. The workshop will focus on equipping bartenders, servers, managers, and/or owners with the tools to respond when they notice behaviors that could lead to or constitute sexual assault and harassment in their bars. Additionally, they will teach how to engage in behaviors that establish a climate of dignity and respect. We can all work together to cultivate and maintain a safe environment for everyone.

Ace Hotel Chicago

311 North Morgan Street, , IL 60607 (312) 764-1919 Visit Website

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