Q&A With Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Gary Solomon, Jr.

Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Gary Solomon, Jr.The Tales of the Cocktail Foundation (TOTCF) welcomed new leadership at the start of the year with a mission to educate, advance, and support our industry. Bar Business Magazine recently spoke with Gary Solomon, Jr. , Board Member for Tales of the Cocktail Foundation, about the changes the board is making and what attendees can expect at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail event.

Bar Business Magazine (BBM): This new leadership team emphasizes giving back and has pledged $250,000 to the spirits community through a Grants Advisory committee. What is the importance of supporting organizations that give back to our community?

Gary Solomon, Jr. (GS): The cocktail industry is a dynamic and historic sector that has become a popular career option in the past decade. People are genuinely excited about building this industry further. Whether it is through craft cocktails and a dynamic bar program, being a rep for brands, or restaurant/bar ownership—the spirits community is more than just a segue to another career nowadays.

With this sector of careers evolving and growing, so must we. It is imperative that we support organizations that want to address issues that are affecting not only our personal communities but the greater industry globally. Awareness around diversity, sexual harassment, healthcare options, mental and physical health, and education are a few major topics where the Grants Advisory Committee is committed to making a difference. If our spirits industry can lead and sustain change around these important matters in our sector, then we might also become the example of leaders advancing these important issues forward for the wider hospital industry.

BBM: What are some of the ways Tales is helping to advance our industry?

GS: Our commitment to $250,000 in grants support is a meaningful first step toward advancement in this industry. And it’s only our beginning. As we produce this year’s event—the first under new leadership—we are not only taking note of how to improve the event for 2019 and beyond, but also how to better support the needs of the industry year-round. The Foundation will nurture and support Tales as a powerful platform for emerging minds and leaders of the hospitality industry committed to making meaningful headway to tackle the mammoth issues inhibiting the success of the industry.

BBM: Education is a big push at this year’s Tales. How have things changed?

GS: There are a greater variety of seminar topics this year, including important matters such as diversity and mental health. We want to educate our attendees not only on the craft they love, but how to be leaders in their community on these issues. In addition to the advanced topics about the craft, we’ve also added a 101 track for more foundational education around certain categories of spirits.

We also offer free seminars and trainings this year starting with two Bystander Training Sessions for Bartenders sponsored by Green Dot. The Green Dot Strategy is a comprehensive approach to violence prevention that capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influence. Another is “A Seat at the Bar: Social Justice through Cocktails,” which is a discussion centered around intersectionality and representation in the drinks industry moderated by Earlecia Richelle.

The foundation is also activating a new space off-site at the New Orleans Athletic Club called Beyond the Bar. This activation is completely free and open to all attendees. Programming will include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, yoga and movement classes, health screenings, and discussions surrounding healthy lifestyles, nutrition, addiction, suicide, and mental health.

BBM: What does it mean to have new board members with such strong ties to the city of New Orleans? How will this affect the event and its relationship with the city?

GS: The concern that Tales might leave New Orleans under new leadership is what originally prompted the Solomon Family to explore the possibility of acquiring it and fully converting the organization to a Foundation. Now with native New Orleanians, including the Solomon Family and Neal Bodenheimer, as leadership, Tales will certainly remain in New Orleans. The Solomon Family ties to civic and philanthropic organizations throughout New Orleans will ensure that the local community is fully benefiting from hosting the event each July and that the Foundation will make lasting impact on the further development of the hospitality industry locally. Due to the leadership team’s strong ties in the community, additional support and new local partnerships for the event are anticipated and expected to grow.

BBM: There have been a number of changes to this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, including going strawless and partnering with Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR). What are some of the other changes that have been made to this year’s event?

GS: These are just a few of the new initiatives we’ve put into action for our 2018 event. Others include our new Beyond the Bar program, focused on free educational programming, training, health, and wellness. Also the new image and brand of Tales will be on full display at events and throughout the city.

This year is more about stabilization than change, and we anticipate more developments that change the architecture of the event may come in future years. The biggest changes that will be felt this year are the communication of our mission and purpose: to support, educate, and advance the hospitality industry. While the seminars, tastings, programs, and parties may be why you choose to attend personally, we will take all opportunities this year to remind attendees of the positive impact that they are having on their global peers by attending Tales supporting the entirely non-profit Foundation.

BBM: Anything else attendees should know about Tales?

GS: Our ticketing process has been improved based on prior event feedback, so we encourage all new and returning attendees to download the Tales of the Cocktail app [download the free app for iOS or for Android] before arriving in New Orleans and to read the ticketing FAQs. You’ll use the app to follow the schedule, activate tickets, and more. Most of all, come have a great time this year and continue to let us know how we can improve for the future. We’re all ears and here to support you!