Chicago will host a new cocktail conference this spring. Called Chicago Style, it will take place May 7 to 10, after the gala for the James Beard Awards.
While the convention’s format is familiar — seminars, parties and competitions for bartenders, bar owners, spirit makers and others in the industry — its philosophical mission sets it apart. The three founders, all women, plan to use the gathering to address social problems, including sexism, substance abuse and a lack of diversity, that the bar business has started to grapple with over the past year or so.
Its website sums up the mix as “equal parts think and drink.”
“Where we will differ from other conferences is the diversity of our panelists and participants, and our inclusion of discussions directly addressing race, gender and sexual identity within these panel topics,” said Shelby Allison, an owner of the Chicago tiki bar Lost Lake and one of the event’s founders.
The other two are Caitlin Laman, the beverage director at the Ace Hotel Chicago, where many of the convention’s daytime events will take place; and Sharon Bronstein, directing of marketing for the 86 Co., which makes and imports spirits.