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Bartending Competitions are Everywhere

Author: Scott Young
Source: Bar & Beverage Magazine

If you're looking for a new promotional idea that will pack your club on a slow night, bartending contests may be worth looking into. They are popping up all over the place locally, nationally, and internationally. Simply put, bartending competitions have evolved from virtual nonexistence a few short years ago, to the promotional event of choice, because when it's done right, everybody wins.

The bar will increase sales for the night or nights (many competitions are held three or four consecutive Tuesdays to allow the anticipation to grow). W. Dale Mallock, owner of the popular "Sugar" nightclub in Victoria says, "When I run a contest, we typically break every sales record we have and people keep talking about it for weeks." The sponsors have an exciting vehicle to promote their products and services to the right target market. Ryan Bourbonnais, Bols sales and marketing manager for western Canada says, "what we really love about being involved with your contests is that when we support bartenders, we end up getting top of mind priority when they suggest drinks to their customers." The bartenders love it because they have a chance to make a "name" for themselves, maybe win some prizes, or even get a job offer. Marc Mital, winner of two Vancouver Working Flair contests says, "Before my first contest, I was working at a really slow lounge. The night I competed, I received three different job offers at popular bars." The customers are the ones who really win with a night of entertainment they won't soon forget or stop talking about. Competitions also consistently attract invaluable media attention locally and nationally. It's not uncommon for three or four different TV or newspaper reporters to cover your event.

Competitions come in all shapes and sizes and focus on different aspects of bartending such as speed, accuracy, creating original cocktails, etc. There doesn't seem to be any right or wrong format to use, but the most popular ones are definitely focused on flair/performance/EXTREME BARTENDING. For there contests, many important qualities of an exceptional bartender are spotlighted in one format. This style of bartending has become so popular that the Flair Bartenders Association is now represented in over 50 countries. Toby Ellis, President of the FBA says, "We are flair bartenders helping flair bartenders. We want the world to know that it's just good business to entertain your customers." When it's done properly with control, without wasting time, and with no spillage, the customers and bar managers love it. That's why I believe that flair bartending is growing so rapidly in popularity.

I was recently invited to be a judge at two international competitions, Quest for the Best Bartender in the World at Mannequin's Dance Palace, Orlando, Florida, located on Disney's Pleasure Island, and Legends of Bartending World Championship at Club Rio, Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel. Both contests were extremely well run and were great successes, attracting bartenders from all over the world. Contestants came from countries such as England, Greece, Taiwan, Spain, Turkey, and Australia just to name a few. A couple of classy and well rounded American bartenders took first place; Alan Mays of the Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas (Quest) and Bell Long of Yabba in Naples, Florida (Legends). The Canadian presence was not far behind with Sean Graco of Jack Astor's in London, Ontario hitting top five in the Quest and Chuck McIntosh of Ozone Nightclub in Vancouver, BC placing 2nd at the Quest and 5th at Legends, also winning the flair category.

There are many other Canadians doing well in international contests. They are respected for their attitude and sportsmanship as well as for their skills. Good job Canada! It would be nice to see more women compete, as there are some pretty good female bartenders out there (i.e. Manda Holman of East Side Marios, Windsor, Ontario) who could show the guys a few moves. Also, Keep your eyes open for an International Working Flair Bartending Competition to be held in Canada this year. So, spread the word. Canada's service industry is on the map and being covered by Bar & Beverage Business Magazine.

For more information about competitions and how to get involved or run your own, visit www.extremebartending.com

For more information about subscribing to Bar & Beverage Magazine, one of the premier hospitality magazines, phone (204) 954-2085

Date: February 1st, 2000

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Scott Young, President and Head Instructor Bar Smart Inc.