[image-1]According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend $1 out of every $100 on alcohol. That’s a lot of booze. But more importantly, that’s a lot of bar tabs. Thirty years ago, a good chunk of alcohol purchases were to stock the bar at home. Since 1982, however, drinks ordered at bars and restaurants have increased by 79 percent, according to a 2012 Time magazine story.
With that in mind, you’d think there would be dozens of continuing education conferences for bar professionals. But, as Home Team PR owner Angel Postell discovered, there’s not. Which is why the former director of Charleston Wine + Food Festival just founded BevCon Charleston, a beverage conference that will premiere here this August.
BevCon, Postell says, will be an opportunity for bartenders, restaurateurs, distillers, brewers, and others across the country to meet wine, cocktail, and liquor leaders to discuss a variety of topics from how to increase profits to how to open a craft beer-focused restaurant. And the presenter lineup she and her advisory board have booked is nothing to scoff at.
“We’ve got Rajat Parr, Sabato Sagaria, and John Ragan,” Postell says. That’s internationally known sommelier Parr, chief restaurant officer for Union Square Hospitality Group (Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe) Sagaria, and James Beard winner and somm Ragan. There are other big names too such as Imbibe magazine’s executive editor Paul Clark and William Grant & Sons ambassador Charlotte Voisey.
“We’ve tried to make an equal balance of speakers so that topics are engaging,” says Postell. And BevCon won’t be a simple speaker-self promotion situation either Postell says. “Each speaker must submit ideas for us to consider.”
Attendees will also be vetted. Any F&B professional hoping to attend must turn in an application with a short bio and answer the question “Why are you interested in attending?” The 17-person BevCon advisory board will then review each candidate. The board includes a handful of Postell’s current and former clients — Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell of High Wire Distilling, Jayce McConnell and Scot Shor of Edmund’s Oast/Charleston Beer Exchange, and Joe Raya of The Gin Joint/Bittermilk/Tippleman’s in addition to others including author Brad Thomas Parsons, Brandon Plyler of Charleston Beer Exchange, Cappie Peete of Neighborhood Dining Group, Christian Krogstad of House Spirits, Dan Latimer, Derek Brown of Drink Company, Hanna Raskin of Post & Courier, Harry Root of Grassroots Wine, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso of Evil Twin Brewery, Micah Melton of The Aviary, Sara Donahue of Cross & Dot, and writer Wayne Curtis. While having a team look over applications might sound excessive, Postell says the process is to ensure all attendees are serious about the conference. Only 250 people will be selected and each will have to pay $500 to attend.
“In comparison to other events, like Tales of the Cocktail, that’s a really reasonable price,” Postell says. Spirits festival Tales of the Cocktail, which takes place in New Orleans annually, sells events a la carte and they can range from $55 for a “Breaking into the U.S. Liquor Market” talk to $125 for a rum-tasting lesson. In contrast, Postell says BevCon will include talks and tastings (though those hoping to get into a specific tasting will have to sign up on a first-come-first-serve basis). In addition, there will be eight to 12 non-ticked bar takeovers across the city each night so that guests and the general public can get a taste of the action.
What of the food? Postell says there was discussion of including a chef component, but the overriding consensus of the board was to make BevCon truly drink focused. One or two chefs may make an appearance, but attendees should expect the event to be all about booze, tea, coffee, and other libations.
BevCon will take place Aug. 21-24, 2016. To apply, visit bevconchs.com.