Charles Schumann returns Industry Icon Award after backlash. But is it enough?

Millie Milliken

Millie Milliken

09 October 2019

When The World’s 50 Best Bars awards body named Charles Schumann its Industry Icon of 2019 last week, the ensuing reaction from all corners of the bar industry was of overwhelming dismay. The reaction was in response to sexist statements publically made by the bartender, bar owner and author in numerous publications, including ‘a bar is no place for a woman’, also citing that women should vacate the back bar after 3pm to make way for their male counterparts.

‘Sexism is not iconic; misogyny is not iconic… Stop giving awards to a*******. Achievement doesn’t excuse misconduct,’ posted New York’s Clover Club co-owner Julie Reiner (@mixtressnyc) on Instagram. The post received over 1,100 likes from some of the drinks industry’s biggest names, and was joined by numerous others across social media platforms. Some even called out the awards body for not responding to the fallout: ‘@50BestBars you need to say something. Your silence is deafening,’ posted Ivy Mix, owner of Leyenda in Brooklyn, NY. And after a week of relentless criticism, Schumann has returned his award to the organisers.

Sexism is not iconic; misogyny is not iconic… Achievement doesn’t excuse misconduct. 

Julie Reiner, Clover Club

‘I have had to see in recent days how I have become the centre of a debate,’ a statement signed by Schumann reads on the Schumann’s Bar Am Hofgarten Facebook page. ‘Triggers were my statements in the film "Schumann bar conversations" and an interview with the Japan Times… I didn't doubt at any time that women could be bartender[s]. Of course, women belong before and behind the bar. I am sincerely sorry if my statements were [misunderstood] and thus hurt the feelings of members of our bar community. I hereby apologise to you in all form.’

The awards organisation also took to Facebook to announce their acceptance of the award’s return. ‘The World’s 50 Best Bars has taken the decision to accept the return of Charles Schumann’s Industry Icon Award 2019,’ they announced via Facebook, last night. ‘There will now be no Industry Icon Award winner this year.’

But the retraction of the award has not been welcomed whole-heartedly by the bar community. Members of Facebook community group Ladies of Liquor, among others, are asking for more.

Retracting the award (after Schumann returned it) is not good enough.

Rebekkah Dooley, bar PR director

'Simply removing an award does not address the topic,' head of drinks at Sekford Drinks, Jenny Griffiths, told Imbibe. 'You guys should be using this as an opportunity to address issues in our industry, but again you are passing the buck and trying to avoid it.’

Rebekkah Dooley, former bartender and now PR director, agrees, and is calling for more transparency regarding the judging panel – a sentiment seconded by The Mixing Class' Hannah Lanfear among others. 'Although his comments are reprehensible, I believe the responsibility here lies with 50 Best. Retracting the award (after Schumann returned it) is not good enough... Who voted for him? Where are those people now? The last published voting panel featured 35 women (out of 334). Transparency is essential for a trusted and fair system.'

More on this story as it happens.

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