The Church of Bar Institute

Camera Canon 6d, Lens 17-40L 17mm @f4 iso 640 at 1/250 processed in lightroom with VSCO tmaxx 3200 filter added


Me being a not-so-religious person, I have my own beliefs on life and why things happen the way they do. The beauty of everyone is that we are all entitled to have different beliefs. Not being a person that goes to church, I found this photo especially interesting for many reasons. For someone who wakes up on a Sunday morning to attend a sermon, you are listening to someone’s story, experience and knowledge. Maybe it pertains to one specific lesson or verse, or perhaps it is more centered to one idea or thought.

When we do these pop ups in different cities, it’s almost like a church. People who feel left out, the ones who feel they might not fit in, the leaders and the followers all show up. They show up to listen and learn and have an experience. They leave feeling different or more rejuvenated, much like one feels when leaving a church. The foundation that we have created here within such an incredible community is something to be proud of. To preach the gospel that is hospitality is a beautiful thing to preach. This photo represents all of those things to me, 4 different people from 4 different walks of life under the same roof. Sharing their stories with everyone. Being completely vulnerable even if for only a day.




Our Band Could be your Lush Life v.1

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.

Straws, Man.

Watch this video and tell me straws aren’t super fucked up. Seriously, watch it and try to not get fired up about ’em. Dare you.

Its not the straw itself, but the fact that Americans use about 500 MILLION straws everyday according to the National Park Service. In an age where everything is “to go” (because we’ve all got somewhere to be), it’s not all that surprising. But it’s still fucking gross. Since straws pose a whole host of problems that make them nearly impossible to recycle, we might as well just wake up every morning and throw a straw (1.6 to be exact) in the nearest body of water. The fact that we dump these little pieces of plastic wherever we damn well please after they’ve served their purpose of providing us with a false sense of a more comfortable or (somehow) better drinking experience, is a symptom of the bigger problem. MINDLESS CONSUMPTION with no regard for the consequences.

So, what do we, as bartenders, do? The ideal solution is reusable/no straws. But, what if that’s not an option?


Let’s be honest. As much as hospitality is about anticipating the needs of our guests, being an adult human is about accepting your responsibility for the state of the world around you. And, I guarantee you that if that guests really needs a straw for that water, they’ll let you know.

Alright. Smoke break’s over. Back to work.


#smokebreak #weeklyrant #barinstituteecono #wejamecono

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

Opening Pistol


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.

BarInstitute_Econo_ListProgress 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.

Let’s jam.