A New Mix
Under new leadership, this year’s Tales of the Cocktail will focus on giving back and helping the hospitality industry learn from recent scandals.
This will be the 16th year of Tales of the Cocktail, an annual event that celebrates the art of the cocktail and all those involved in bringing it to life.
At this year’s event — held July 17-22 — however, you’re going to see evidence of some changes.
Now under new ownership — founder Ann Tuennerman sold Tales of the Cocktail to Gary Solomon Jr., head of the Solomon Group and Neal Bodenheimer, owner of the bars Cure and Cane & Table early this year after resigning due to a social media scandal involving blackface and associated inappropriate remarks — the event has been restructured as a nonprofit.
Addressing questions on the changes, an open letter from the Caroline Nabors Rosen, the new executive director New Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, was published on June 5 that included the following:
“Ann and Paul Tuennerman completely divested from the trademarks and all business associated with Tales of the Cocktail. Additionally, there was a complete overhaul of the board of directors for the nonprofit called New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society.”
“We took over on February 15 with the goal to run not only a great event, but one of the foremost foundations in the country,” said Rosen in an interview I had with her mid-June. Rosen came to Tales of the Cocktail directly from having served as the executive director of the John Besh Foundation, another group that had a rough 2017.
Much more than just a big industry party, Tales has always meant a strong economic boost to New Orleans in a time we need it most — July. According to a report by the University of New Orleans, 2017’s Tales of the Cocktail had an $18.9 million impact on the city, drawing an estimated 15,000 attendees.
This year, however, thanks to the restructuring, the economic boost will also be extended to those in the industry.
“We’re giving back $250,000 this first year,” said Rosen. “We’ve reviewed 144 letters of intent and 54 full grant opportunities have been offered, all focused on the three pillars of our organization — support, advancement and education.”
Rosen emphasized that local business professionals will find plenty of educational opportunities this year.
Along with plenty of parties and tastings and “celebrating the Margarita of the Year,” this year’s Tales of the Cocktail will address issues associated with both the Tales of the Cocktail and Besh scandals. The foundation has even formed a partnership with Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), a Louisiana nonprofit dedicated to providing support, education and advocacy to those affected by sexual trauma.
Among the free seminars this year are, “A Seat at the Bar: Social Justice through Cocktails” — which aims to help participants use cocktails to “help unify our communities and narrow the gap of cultural representation.” Included in the seminar’s description is the question, “Where do we draw the line between appropriation and creative expression?”
Another free seminar is called “Green Dot: Bystander Training for Bartenders” – designed to help bartenders reduce the chance for violence of any kind in their bars.
Among the paid seminars ($65 each), is “Building a Healthier, Happier Bar Industry” – (which as of mid-June only had two seats left). This seminar focuses on drug, alcohol and mental health issues prevalent in the industry and how owners and operators can use specific techniques to promote wellness.
There’s also “Inclusion in Hospitality: Why and How to Build a Longer Table” and “Dollars of Diversity” — a look at how to create both a diverse workforce and customer base.
Being that both the Besh and Tales scandals centered on issues with leadership, it’s maybe not surprising that one seminar dealing specifically with this topic had already sold out more than a month ahead of the event. “Leadership and Influence in the Bar Business” will address issues like organizational culture and “being a leader in your community.”
It looks like this year’s Tales will be mixing together equal parts sensitivity, inclusion, generosity and accountability — not such a bad recipe.