A couple months ago, the hospitality world learned of an ambitious plan for a new industry symposium, Chicago Style. Founded by Shelby Allison (Lost Lake), Sharon Bronstein (The 86 Co.), and Caitlin Laman (Ace Hotel Chicago), ChiStyle aims to present a different type of cocktail conference, one with an emphasis on the social justice issues shaking up the hospitality industry. Now, the full schedule is out and we can finally get a look at what this all means..
As expected the lineup is chock full of some very hot topics. Words like “intersectionality,” “sustainability,” and “inclusion” pepper the schedule. Likewise, some outspoken proponents for change such as Ashtin Berry, Ariel Neal, Don Lee, and Ryan Chetiyawardana will populate the speakers’ chairs. However, Dave Wondrich, the industry’s favorite cocktail chronicler, will also be on hand to lend some historical perspective.
“I think the most important thing we wanted to do was create a platform and space for people who haven’t been historically represented to share their stories,” Allison told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s a chance for leaders and the usual personalities to take a moment to listen to another person’s experience.”
The conference begins in full on Tuesday, May 8. Highlights include a look at “Causing a Stir” focused “Empowering Underserved + Underrepresented Communities Within the Hospitality Industry” with a Colin Asare-Appiah (Bacardi; New York), Alexis Brown (Causing a Stir; Chicago), Neal. Erin Hayes (House Spirits Distillery; Los Angeles) will lead a panel discussion titled “Turn Up The Volume Without Lowering Your Standards: Bar Management in 2018” and featuring 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). Wondrich, will present a seminar about the history of black bartenders in America.
At noon on Wednesday, May 9, the education is back on with four seminars. Lacy Hawkins (Monkey 47; New York) will moderate a panel about sustainability in the bar biz featuring Mary Bartlett (Ace Hotel DTLA; Los Angeles), Chetiyawardana (Dandelyan, Mr. Lyan; London), Kelsey Ramage (Trash Tiki; London), and Claire Sprouse (Tin Roof Drink Company; New York). Activist and consultant Berry will deliver a talk about community accountability, one of her specialties. In addition, guests will have the opportunity to attend talks on menu design and intersectionality.
ChiStyle is still a drinks oriented conference. So, amidst these serious discussions, there will be plenty of opportunity to kick back. Three big names, Speed Rack, Trash Tiki, and Br Fight Club, will comprise the recreational portion of the fest.
The festivities kick off on Monday May 7 with Bar Fight Club. The event became a signature of 86 Co. during a successful run at Tales of the Cocktail. Teams from different bars create a one-night only pop-up of their home venue—and talk a lot of trash. The goal of the historically rowdy event is to take home the Judge’s or the People’s Prize.
Following the second full day of seminars, guests will unwind with Trash Tiki. The brainchild of Ramage and Iain Griffiths, Trash Tiki is pretty much what the name implies. Using materials and ingredients destined for the refuse pile, the duo create full on pop-up bars serving top tier cocktails.
After Tuesday’s educational portion, the conference will kick into overdrive with the Speed Rack Finals. Speed Rack, an all-female cocktail competition was originally designed to spotlight women in a male dominated sector of the service industry. However, the event grew into one of the leading faces of feminism in the craft cocktail world. On this night, the focus will return to making delicious drinks quickly as the winners of the regionals square off for the title of champion.
The tickets are now available at a price of $60 (plus about five bucks in fees) per a single day pass.
Chicago Style runs May 7-10. More information and tickets are available on the official website.