You’ve been waiting for the announcement, and now here it is! Econo dates are here, and we’re probably coming to a city near you! Dates are all listed below the map.
How does all of this work? During the day, we’ll host classes to help you become a more successful member of your bar team and community. Then, at night, we host pop-ups to raise some money for charity. Last year, we raised over $30,000 and we expect to beat that this time around!
It only costs a $5 suggested donation (with all funds going to CORE) to get in the door for classes AND the event. So, bring your fellow bartenders, servers, bar backs and anyone else who works at your bar. You do not need to pre-register to get in. Just bring $5 (or more!) for CORE.
Check out our dates below, and we’ll see you on the road!
Hope to see you soon!
3/12/18 – Tucson, AZ
3/13/18 – Phoenix, AZ
3/14/18 – Las Vegas, NV
3/19/18 – San Diego, CA
3/20/18 – Orange County, CA
3/21/18 – Los Angeles, CA
3/27/18 – Oakland, CA
3/28/18 – Sacramento, CA
3/29/18 – Reno, NV
4/09/18 – Detroit, MI
4/10/18 – Cleveland, OH
4/11/18 – Pittsburgh, PA
4/16/18 – Washington, DC
4/17/18 – Baltimore, MD
4/18/18 – Philadelphia, PA
4/23/18 – New York, NY
4/24/18 – Boston, MA
4/25/18 – Portland, ME
I just flew in from Texas and boy, are my arms tired. (wakka wakka wakka)
Back in Baltimore I am finally unpacked and reflecting on the incredible adventure I was fortunate enough to be a part of last week, driving through Texas with the Lush Life crew on the second leg of their Bar Institute Econo Tour. The theme of this leg centered on Mental Health and Wellness. My role, aside from leaving a trail of bright red hair and talking incessantly about flamingos, was to speak on functional movement and physical self-care for bar industry folks. Each stop brought a diverse crowd and vibe, but the reception was consistently enthusiastic. People wanted to make habitual changes to prolong their careers, but most did not know how to go about it. We talked about simple, economical, and practical approaches, and many shared their own remedies, helping add to my teaching arsenal when I speak to future bartender populations on this subject.
Through these classes, getting to know the Texas bar community, and my time in the van, one theme stuck with me that could also be seen emblazoned in gold at Juniper Tar during our San Antonio stop—Stay Humble. I am not sure any other ethos can properly capture this experience. Determined to promote social justice and its myriad of forms, the Lush Life squad has taken to the road to bring day long education to 25 cities at a suggested donation of $5. Where the hell else are you going to see that? And while this is fiscally approachable education at your doorstep, do not think for a moment the quality is diluted. The classes are downright baller.
I acted like a giddy child listening to a distilling legend (twice), learned advanced bartending techniques by both well-established and rising bar professionals, had frank discussions on “comp-ing”, got to geek out over spreadsheets for costing cocktails and tracking financials, discovered what some of our respected community members consider essential for owning and operating a bar, and reviewed how to execute an effectual charitable event (such as the one I was immersed in). There were more classes, but my word limit for this blog must be abided by. I engaged with bar owners who cared immensely for their team members, struggling to ensure they could send them to educational events to grow, and relishing in their achievements like a parent would their child. I met a dear friend of the van’s occupants, who drove all the way to Austin, then back with us through to his home in Houston, just to support his pals’ endeavors. Each night after the classes had ended, Lush Life threw a fundraiser in conjunction with the host bar of the day. The proceeds from this and the education portion earlier in the day went to benefit Children of Restaurant Employees (C.O.R.E.).
What are the habits of humble people? At the very base of it all, they put other people first and focus their energy on those who need it. They are conscientious, assume responsibility, and possess emotional and situational intelligence. This crew is living out of a van with a duffle bag’s worth of worldly possessions, sleeping a maximum of 4-5 hours a day, sacrificing personal time for seven weeks, and eating a less-than-wholesome diet (though I am happy to have met up with the team in Texas, where the diet consisted solely of tacos). But why be a glutton for punishment? Is social justice in the bartending community their burden to bare? That is a loaded question for sure. What I can say with certainty is this group not only recognized the role of the bar in reproducing and challenging the major social issues each leg of the tour centers on, but also their dynamic position within our community and ability to highlight and facilitate the discussions surrounding them. Through this tour, and calling on the respected leaders of our community to engage, the Lush Life team is helping to disseminate empowering forms of knowledge and understanding related to social injustices.
It was an honor to be with you on this journey, friends. See you again on the East Coast. And stay humble.
Musical Tales from the Econo Van… Our van’s musical adventure didn’t truly start until we passed John Mellencamp Way somewhere on 65N driving from Louisville to Indianapolis. We were filled with energy and excitement to finally hit the road after months of planning the Econo tour. I was pleasantly surprised to find out Liz Porter knows the lyrics to pretty much every classic rock song that has ever been written. We started with classic Americana sing-a-longs, post-Cougar Mellencamp, The Boss, Tom Petty, and after a lot of digging and downloading we finally arrived at Bob Seger’s Night Moves, just in time to check into our first hotel. Our entire tour ethos is based after the Minutemen’s We Jam Econo way of life. Do it yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you, do it on a budget and get your friends to help.
There’s been a heavy rotation on our speakers from bands featured in Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life and bands inspired by them. If you’re in our van and weren’t already a fan of The Replacements, Husker Du, Mission of Burma, Big Star, Fugazi, Archers of Loaf or Pavement, you will be soon. And let’s not forget Minor Threat. At some point on our rainy drive to St. Louis Miss Liz Porter was driving, and David Kwon was supposed to be her co-pilot. The trusted co-pilot is the driver’s hype-man, navigating, keeping them awake and entertained with jokes and a Spotify DJ set. At some point during the winding drive, our co-pilot fell asleep. After the third time through the Minor Threat discography I had to speak up! I couldn’t handle it anymore, I was Screaming at a Wall. I was exhausted, and Ian MacKaye was keeping me up, forcing me to sing along and finger point in my mind.
Earlier in our drive we stopped off at a gas station to refuel on gas and snacks. We see a bunch of ragamuffins wondering around doing the same. They we clearly in some band, but not a band of bartenders. Many of the residents of the Econo van toured with bands in our younger days, so it’s easy to spot other traveling vagabonds. Arturo walks up to one of our shaggy haired musician friends and asked if they ever got mistaken for “touring bartenders.” It fell flat with them, but I thought it was hysterical. Blake asked the guys what band they were in, they mumbled something that sounded ridiculous. Liz asked where they were from: LA. Of course, they were from LA. Our attractive young friends’ laminates boasted that they were on tour with Bastille, so I did some internetting and figured out our run in was with their opening act MONDO COZMO. So now we go straight to our trusty comrade Spotify for a listen. “Let ’em get high, let ’em get stoned, everything will be alright if you let it go,” the chorus belts out. Pretty moving stuff guys.
At this point, we’ve stalked all of their social media. I tried to order us some merch, but they don’t have a web store up. Get it together COZMO! It was one of those things that started as an inside joke, something you’re making fun of, but we now we can’t stop listening to this wretched song. Liz Porter has moved into full on trolling, and we’re not quite sure if her new love for Mondo Cozmo is a joke, or if she’s suffering from a bit of Stockholm Syndrome.
The entire ethos of Lush Life can be summed up in a version of a DIY slogan.
“Show up. Get involved. No one is going to build it for you.”
Do It Yourself culture, in the truest of DIY ethos, is appropriated to fit the needs of communities everywhere. DIY obliges its followers to think for themselves and build ideology themselves to shape their world to align with the result. It’s reflexive; DIY communities are only DIY if you build it yourself with your own ideas.
This blog will document the adventures of Lush Life Productions as we embark on this tour called Bar Institute Econo, but will argue the larger and more essential idea that the DIY ethos is the best vehicle for the bar community to progress.
Progress looks like more bartenders starting successful bars. Progress looks like more people finding sustainable career paths within our industry. Progress looks like more partnerships with brands to become an inclusive community with equal opportunities for everyone. Progress looks like more community led events and initiatives supported by all of us, not just with social media “likes” and shares, but by showing up and offering willing hands, organizational minds, outspoken voices, and the resolve to follow through with all three.
Bar Institute Econo is separated into 5 legs, each with a focus on a social justice cause. If our community is truly committed to hospitality and inclusiveness, these are the issues we must tackle to fulfill that promise. None of these themes should be a surprise. Every night of service behind a bar is a microcosm of these causes being advanced or defended. All the conflict resolution, customer service, production chain optimization and small business management can be applied to bigger ideas, and this tour is that call to arms.
We all have been sharpening our tools for quite some time. Let’s teach each other how to use them.