Charitable Donations Snapshot: Legs 1 and 2


This is the ongoing tracking of your charitable donations to CORE. As part of our charitable efforts on the Bar Institute Econo Tour, we are asking for $5 donations at the door (just like you would have paid at an all ages show in 1993) and $5 per drink (ok, we added this. There weren’t many cocktails at straight edge shows).

The generosity of our friends in the midwest (Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City) brought in:


Our friends in Oklahoma City and Texas (Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston) brought in:


If you haven’t heard of CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees), please take the time to get to know them and the good work they do. CORE offers grants to hospitality professionals who are struggling with injuries or illness. Applying for a grant could not be easier, so head to the website and please refer anyone you know who might need the help.

This post is brought to you by our partners at Crown Royal who remind you to live generously. They’re also running a really fantastic campaign to #crownyourbartender where you can nominate a bartender for their generosity. You can find out more here:

On houses and homes (and the storms in both).

Home is a loaded word. For some of us, home is a fondly remembered place where we grew up, where our family still lives and where we know we can always go. For others, home is a complicated place loaded with complicated memories and serious triggers. And, there are many who can’t or don’t recognize a place they call home.

For me, home has always been a flexible concept dictated by the people more than the place. As a kid, my family moved every few years to a new city with a new home, which, for many, might seem like it would make me rootless, make it feel like I didn’t have a home. But, in moving, my family taught me how any place can be home, any place can house support and love.

I recognize that I come from a place of extreme fortune and privilege. My family unit is supportive and strong. We never wanted for anything (particularly when it came to emotional support), and I was (and still am) given more love and care than many experience over the course of entire lifetimes.  This unconditional love and support is something I try to bring with me to every discipline in my life — particularly in the consideration and care we put into growing and building communities. And, my sincere hope is that the work we do at Bar Institute (and Camp Runamok, Cane Camp, our daily lives, etc.) is that by bringing everyone together we can lay the foundations for these homes. The simple action of getting together, learning and sharing viewpoints opens up conversations and builds support systems. And, those support systems, ultimately, are what make a house a home.

Structurally, these places already exist. In fact, I’m writing this post from a place I recognize as one of my homes, Bad News Bar.  This place, like all of my homes, is a place of warmth and support, friendship and care. All of our hosts for Bar Institute Econo share this common thread. They are all my homes in their respective cities, and I’m so grateful that they exist in this transient, nomadic life I’ve chosen.

But, not all of you live in a van with six of your favorite people (aka our seven week home). Some of you are fortunate to have carved out space that’s yours, a more traditional home, a more traditional community. I challenge you to think about how you can help coalesce and build out your communities to accommodate those who might be struggling with the support systems you enjoy. You already know how to make spaces inviting, how to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Find ways to apply those skills to your bar community. It could be as simple as hosting a game night like our friend Steve Yamada does in New Orleans–making time and space to be together and connect over something other than work, other than alcohol. It could be something more complex like starting and maintaining a thriving USBG chapter in your city. But, the call here is action. You all have the power to impact and build your community, and we hope that our visit to your town is a reminder of that.

So many of you are already doing the work. You’re already successfully building something that matters for the people you’ve chosen as your community. Those actions are not going unnoticed. Know that you’ve provided shelter for people who may not have it otherwise.

The Minutemen song we picked for this leg of the tour is “Storm in my House,” which of course, has very little to do with an actual physical structure. It refers directly to the storms we all find within ourselves and the challenges we face whether they be in taking care of ourselves either in mind or body. And, that’s what we’ve focused on during our educational portion of this tour.

Amie Ward offered up advice and best practices for self care for bartender bodies. She got us up out of our seats and stretched us out, got us thinking about how we move and think about the space we take up behind the bar. These classes were incredibly valuable in starting the conversation about self care and offered real, tactical advice for movement pre- and post-shift.

We also brought in mental health experts from organizations like NAMI and Mental Health America to help identify and demystify mental health issues that are often ignored or swept under the rug. Understanding mental health and taking preventative steps to keep your mind as healthy as your body seems to be the most pressing issue facing the bar community on the whole at the moment. We’ve seen awareness and empathy around mental health mitigate serious problems from overwork, high stress and preexisting conditions.

But, how do we quell the storm in our personal homes? I think the answer is simple: we build a house big enough for all of us–where empathy and understanding meet education and support. You already have the skills and framework to successfully make this space, but now it’s time to get to work.

If you need help, I’m here. The house I built is small, but it’s mobile and it has plenty of room for all of you.


The irony of kicking off a 5000+ mile road trip with a focus on environmental education is not lost on us. We’ve printed paper zines, handed out brochures from our amazing charity partner CORE and offered up cocktails in a variety of vessels which have included plastic (biodegradable, of course). Our list of environmental sins is not small, and I know that no amount of repentance here will fix those transgressions.

But, I do know that we spent some time considering how to optimize our travel and weigh our footprint against our other options.

Francisco Paso Fino Craig Rocinante, Bar Institute Econo Van (Photo by Blake Jones

For example, we rented a van that gets pretty incredible gas mileage. The Ford Transit (2017) is the Car and Driver top ranked van for gas mileage in its class-beating out the Mercedes Benz Sprinter and Chevy Express by fairly wide margins. This choice should save us roughly 273 gallons of gas over the course of the trip, which is no small amount.  Let’s also consider the option of flying versus driving. If the 6-8 (depending on the day) of us opted to fly instead of drive, we would have not only been at the mercy of the airlines, weather and a number of other factors we could not control, but we would have also been staring down some fairly serious environmental implications too. Let’s first look at the CO2 footprint of this trip as it stands today. Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 6.45.25 PM.png

3.19 tons of CO2. That’s not a small amount. But, we’re also not traveling a short distance. Now, let’s put that up against the carbon footprint for ONE of us to fly the same distances. Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 6.38.47 PM.png

That’s 5.68 tons of CO2 for just one of us. That does not consider all 6-8 of us and our cargo. When all is said and done, we’re looking at 3.19 tons of CO2 vs. 39.76 tons of CO2. Needless to say, the van was an easy choice.

The environmental concerns were certainly at play when we were considering the logistics of this project, but it would be disingenuous to say it ended there. As we’ve mentioned (ad nauseam) this tour is inspired by The Minutemen and the exploits of DIY and indie musicians in the late 80s and early 90s. And, as you can guess, those bands traveled by van. Of course, their vans were not this nice. They were not this new, and they certainly were not vacuumed or cleaned as often as this one is (old bar habits die hard). But, they traveled in a van nonetheless.

There is something inherently American about traveling this way. There’s romance in packing all of your earthly possessions and seeing the country- connecting to the vast expanse that is America. This idea is well documented in films and song, art and literature. And, while very little of it is actually glamorous, the idea of the open road and freedom are so intrinsically linked. These ideas are hardwired into the American psyche as living the idyllic life.

Personally, I’m incredibly susceptible to this idea. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade traveling from city to city-learning what America has to offer, and I can genuinely say I am a better person for it. But, this is the first time I’ve dedicated seven whole weeks to the road, not an airport. I’m stopping in every city along the way and connecting with the communities that make up our always growing bar world. Traveling this way ensures you miss less and connect more. You see the space between. You experience the land, the economy, the climate and geography and interact in a more personal way. These places are now a part of my consciousness. And, I look forward to understanding the rest of this country in the same way.

There’s a lesson here in wastefulness and American consumerism. There’s another in pursuing freedom at the cost of the greater good. But, for now, I want to focus on the good that this travel has done for me and my team.

As we look forward to the next week (where we will be taking a closer look at mental health and wellness issues), I will keep the lessons we learned with me. Whether it’s practicing what you preach and triple checking that every drink served goes out without a straw and beverage napkin or just making sure we hold onto our hats (literally and figuratively) as we look out over a scenic overpass in Kansas, the last week will stay with me and will inform every decision I make.

I’ll leave you with this playlist of songs from the road. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy seeing all of you out here:

Packing List.


Today, we take off on a seven week tour, which, by the end will result in 25 Bar Institutes in 25 cities with over 100 classes, more than 200 drinks and thousands of new members of our always growing community. But, right now, those numbers are not the ones on my mind.

Right now, at this very moment, the most important numbers in the collective Lush Life consciousness are the dimensions of the back of this van. Somehow, we need to fit all of our supplies, bar tools, clothes, gear and banners (not to mention Blake’s PopTart supply) in the back of this thing in the next 24 hours.

Much like anything, this will become a prioritization task. What can’t we live without? What can we edit? Do we each need our own personal polaroid camera? (Obviously, yes.) Can I fit seven weeks of clothes into a single duffle bag? (Shockingly, also yes.) 

But, of course, this is a thinly veiled metaphor (you already caught on to that right?). We had to apply the same lens to all aspects of Bar Institute Econo, because when you jam econo, there just isn’t room for anything except what you really need.
Classes were pared down to the essentials. When we started building curriculum for each stop, we had comprehensive wish lists of 20+ classes, each highlighting the skills and brilliant minds of the people who make up their communities and surrounding areas. But, with only four (and sometimes five) time slots available, we had to get picky. We had to whittle down that list. Ideas we loved were moved to our consideration list for Bar Institute New York or Toronto. Occassionally, bar class concepts were sidelined in the interest of integrating social justice work, which has served as a focal point in our planning and will ground our events from this point forward. At each stop, we endeavored to balance bar technique with ownership and management coursework. We invited well known and respected presenters to join brilliant new voices. 

That is curation. Leveraging limited time,  limited space. To sift through and select thoughtful and developed concepts that fit the larger vision while also serving the guest who chooses to attend the singular class. 

Curation does not come without its complexities. As I mentioned, we had to defer a few classes that do not fit this very specific program. And, some were cut because we simply ran out of time. But, that is really only the beginning. The role of educational curator in an industry with few formal training channels offers me a priveledge I do not take lightly. It is, without any doubt, my responsibility to make space for more people-regardless of their race, gender or the relative fanciness of their bar. I have no interest in starting a diversity panel or writing a paper on the topic. My only interest is in starting the work and encouraging you to do the same. We’ll be talking about that much more on the third leg of the tour later this month, but expect it to be a recurring theme whether or not it’s the official focus. But, for now, let’s get back to the dwindling space in this van.  

After we pulled three bench seats out, the full bar set up (including coffee gear, induction hot plates, an entire milk crate of Jello Shot fixins and the entire Cocktail Kingdom catalogue) went in. Then, we loaded the projector, the screen and all of the AV gear. Our clothes went next. We each limited ourselves to one duffle bag- each of which is smaller than the suitcase which is carrying our zine clippings and supplies. Jamming Econo offers us as much as it takes away. By limiting ourselves to this van and committing to only use what this van can carry means we have to rely on ourselves and our community. Our ingenuity and creativity will be on full display if for no other reason then we have nothing else to hide behind. 
So, come join us. Be a part of what we’re building. We made room. But, if you want to get in the van, you better be mindful of what you bring along. Make sure it’s not just useful, but vital. Make sure it’s contributing in a real way. Make sure it pushes you to shine. 

All right. It’s time to get in the van. See you on the road. 

#barinstituteecono #wejamecono #getinthevan