Chicago Style 2018: A Few Words From The Organizers & Speakers

In May of 2018, many of the the beverage industry’s thought leaders gathered together for the inaugural Chicago Style conference. Billed as “Equal Parts Drink and Think,” Chicago Style seemed more necessary than ever with critical discussions arising from questionable moves by former ownership of Tales of the Cocktail and USBG as well as social change movements like #MeToo and the March for Our Lives. With so many important issues taking over social media and everyday conversations, the call for change has never seemed louder.

Founded and organized by Shelby Allison (Lost Lake), Sharon Bronstein (The 86 Co.), and Caitlin Laman (Ace Hotel Chicago). The first Chicago Style was three days of social gatherings and guided dialogues centered on the state of our local, national and international cocktail communities. Through panels and workshops, the goal was to foster thoughtful conversations to hopefully lead to growth and change. So now that it happened, we wanted to get some insight from key players in the conference about next steps to keep the movement going and make further steps towards positive change.

Chicago Style 2018

Sharon Bronstein, Co-Founder of Chicago Style

Take what you learned at Chicago Style and do something with it, but also share it. If every person who attended a Chicago Style seminar could take one insight that hit home with them, be it a change they plan to personally make or a book they plan to read, and share it with even just one person who wasn’t in attendance, the cumulative ripple effect of that could be so impactful. Small changes lead to bigger, long-lasting ones, so my hope is that everyone will take at least one step towards making the hospitality community better.

Josh Harris, Founder and Owner, The Bon Vivants, BVHospitality, Trick Dog, Bon Voyage!, Pig & Punch

Quote: The element of the Chicago Style mission that resonates most with me is, “…Chicago Style is designed to nurture the genuine connections and thoughtful conversations that lead to growth and change…”

Chicago Style succeeded in bringing together a group of bar professionals with an array of life experiences to engage in conversation about topics that in some cases include, but more importantly, are bigger than those of each individual. The challenges we are facing are greater than the sum of their parts, and certainly the solutions are bigger than the sum of their parts as well. The panelists and their commentary on each topic are not the answer. Rather, the spark of ongoing dialogue ignited by the panelists, and their commentary on each topic traveling home with each attendee to their respective bars is. Change doesn’t happen in one room, but it certainly can start there by, as Chicago Style set out to do, “nurture the genuine connections and thoughtful conversations that lead to growth and change…”

Lov Carpenter, Mixologist, Blue Plate Catering

The part of Chicago Style’s mission that resonated with me the most was around nurturing genuine connections and fostering thoughtful conversations that lead to growth and change. For an industry that revolves around human interaction, there is still so much isolation and a lack of community for all. Bringing people together from across the spectrum of the industry is important, and the conversations are paramount, because that’s the only way to bridge these gaps. But most especially, if there’s two things we can be doing to effect change within hospitality and our communities, they should be listening and making room for others. Being quiet and truly hearing other’s voices, and then clearing space for others — whether that be through hiring practices, creating supportive and inclusive cultures in our establishments, or actively supporting and promoting those in the industry that may be on the margins or share a different experience — is ultimately how we can begin to progress as an industry, and as human beings.

Lacy Hawkins, National Brand Ambassador, Monkey 47 Gin

Quote: Chicago Style is setting a new standard for what it means to be in the beverage industry. They have created an opportunity for face-to-face conversations around intersectionality, sustainability, design, race, community engagement, and more. Powerful conversations that generate individual and community growth is becoming a way for beverage professionals to help shape the future of an industry they want to be a part of. To do this all while having a cold drink in your hand, well, I’d say that’s really changing the term “bartender” for the better. Engaging in conversations with a diverse group of people around any one topic is the action. The seminars at Chicago Style were only 1hr long, however the discussions around the content and topics carried on throughout the week. I liked that Chicago Style focused on some new and challenging conversations. Those topics empowered people and fueled some incredible knowledge and growth.

Kisira Hill, Assistant General Manager, Lost Lake

Quote: Caitlin Laman, Sharon Bronstein and Shelby Allison all advocate for and participate in promoting opportunities for people of color, women, and LGBTQ folks throughout the work they do, and Chicago Style was no exception. The three of them pulled-off an incredible cocktail conference and did so by ensuring a vibrant diversity in the people they partnered with. It is imperative that any successful business, organization or larger scaled event, such as Chicago Style, give a platform to those underrepresented in more commonly elite spaces – If you are in a position of power, hire people of color! Hire women! And hire queer folks! Because, if the demographic of those employed does not match the demographic of the community then, Houston, we have a problem!

Claire Sprouse, Tin Roof Drink Community

Quote: The cocktail community has built itself up by dedicating a lot of care to the quality of our offerings and the hospitality we provide to our guests. Chicago Style is helping expand our industry’s focus to other issues that affect our profession – our social responsibilities to the people that intersect our professional lives, our environmental responsibilities to our current predicament and future, and so on. I talk a lot about sustainability, so I will opt to speak on behalf of an ideal that resonated with me as an observer – These conversations can sometimes feel uncomfortable, foreign, or overwhelming. By entering the doors of each of those seminars, attendees were actively saying “I’m open to listening and learning.” The first step in being an active member of a community can be as simple as that. From there, we can build on that foundation to equip ourselves to face these challenges more effectively.

Ashtin Berry, Bartender and Activist

Quote: The part of the mission statement that resonates with me, is the thoughtful conversations that lead to growth and change. As someone who tries to lead discussion I can say spaces constructed to help people think can have a significant impact on how they approach issues. There is no ideal way to engage, every person has to figure out a way that works for them. But one of the ways that anybody can start is by exploring and understanding how they communicate and identifying their communication pattern. By understanding how you communicate you can better understand how you receive information.

For more on Chicago Style, visit HERE

Connect with these Chicago Style 2018 Leaders:

  • Sharon Bronstein – @sharbreezy86
  • Josh Harris – @josh_the_bon_vivants
  • Lov Carpenter – @glasshalf_whatever
  • Lacy Hawkins – @word2lacy
  • Kisira Hill – @gemini_rising
  • Claire Sprouse – @clairesprouse
  • Ashtin Berry – @thecollectress

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