In honor of Pride Month, we caught up with Chilled 100 members who identify in the LGBTQ+ community.
Ashley Lurie, a bartender in New York, gave us some insight into her bartending experience and ways to celebrate Pride. Although Pride is celebrated all year round, June is a designated, rainbow-filled month to educate and cherish the community.
This year, we celebrate through online conversation and in-person events. It’s a time to come together and accept people for who they are and how they identify themselves. After the year we have all endured, it’s more important now than ever before to support the community.
Tell us a little bit about how you got into bartending.
I started bartending by mistake — trial by fire. I always wanted to learn, and had a bunch of friends in the industry. I was working as a server in this upscale wine bar, and one day the main bartender didn’t show. The owner throws me back there and says “do the best you can!”
Boy….was I in for it! Needless to say, my friend got a lot of texts from me that day on how to make margaritas, martinis, and everything else! As the orders were coming in, I was just doing my research. About a month after that, I had my first feature in a magazine for low calorie summer coolers. And then I was off to the races!
Is there anything fun you (or your bar) are doing to celebrate Pride month?
Bars are really struggling, but so are LGBT non-profits. The pandemic has left a lot of people isolated, struggling with mental health issues. Small businesses are trying to do promotions but are just trying to make up for all the losses. We have a few cocktail specials on, but no events lined up. Here on the east coast, we are only just re-opening.
To compensate, I am personally matching dollar for dollar donations to the Trevor Project on my social media accounts. I am also collecting clothes, chest binders, and other gender-queer garments that some may not have access to (inspired by my trans son, Jax and a trans co-worker and friend) to donate to a local LGBTQ+ organization for homeless, queer youth. Everyone deserves to just feel comfortable in their own skin.
Is there any advice you would like to share with other members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in the service industry?
We have come a long way, baby!
I have been through my share of struggle in the business. Some situations I’ve personally dealt with on BOTH sides of the bar are men telling me that I can’t really be gay when I present as a feminine lesbian, being propositioned by guests, being turned down for jobs when my hair was buzzed short and my appearance didn’t fit the mold despite my resume, being slighted for loans when my wife and I were buying our restaurant, homophobic or transphobic rhetoric in the work place, or just generally not being taken seriously.
I have tried to take the high road in most situations and be aware of my safety and the safety of those around me when dealing with them. I’m grateful for all the work that has been done by the LGBTQ+ generations before me that have allowed me to learn to take a step back and deal with misinformation, under-exposure and ignorance — in an educated, collected manner. The same understanding we ask for as a community, we may occasionally need to express to others who maybe just don’t know that they have said or done anything wrong or were raised differently.
But there is still work to be done. Be strong, be wise, be kind. Try to educate your peers, your co-workers, and your guests even, if you need to. Try to find advocates and allies where you can. Be safe, be aware, and be heard. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, ask for help.
You are not alone and it does get better.
Are there any tips you can share for other bartenders and bar managers who want to make sure they’re creating a safe and diverse environment for their staff and guests?
IF YOU DONT KNOW, ASK— but ask appropriately. It’s not ok to ask a trans person where they are in their transition. It’s not ok to ask someone what role they play in their relationship. But if you are unsure of how to approach an issue, or you are looking for ways to be more inclusive, we as a community, LOVE that! I’ve found as of late, that a great way to approach new employees is to ask what people’s pronouns are. It displays respect and level of awareness that a lot of LGBTQ+ people aren’t accustomed to and is often a sigh of relief for our community in discovering a new ally.
Be aware of jokes or comments made in jest even to your cis, heterosexual coworkers. They may have a queer sibling, or child or friend and these comments can be offensive even when you may think they aren’t.
Encourage LGBTQ+ events in your establishment every so often. Buy queer, and queer ally, brands like Pride Vodka by Cardinal Spirits, Smirnoff, Brooklyn Brewery, etc. Get your brand ambassadors on board for POS items! People LOVE swag, even if it has a rainbow on it!
As a manager, be aware of your workplace dynamics. Watch interactions and try to be aware of any bullying or discrimination in your establishment. If you see something, say something— as the victim of these occurrences may be afraid to speak up especially if they are new. It is prudent to be able to recognize these situations and address them before they progress.
And again, be kind. It doesn’t take any extra effort to be a decent human. We are all taking it one day at a time. Our industry is a haven for people that don’t fit the mold. We are trend-setters, innovators, conversationalists. We are artisans and creators. We come in all different shapes and sizes, colors and backgrounds. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. I always think of the hospitality industry as the “Island of Misfit Toys” from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer— our differences are what makes us such a strong community. Treat everyone like family, and be the change.
Happy Pride Month!