A misogyny controversy in the bartending world has pushed a big name bartender out of his indie liquor company. Dushan Zaric — a well-known bartending mentor and a co-owner of hot New York cocktail bar Employees Only — has stepped down from The 86 Company after a slew of people in the industry threatened a boycott of the liquors over a job posting for Employees Only's new Singapore location, as Playboy reported.
The job posting from last week said "NOT JUST A BOYS CLUB" and sought "badass cocktail waitresses and supervisors" for the new location. Some in the cocktail community swiftly decried the ad for perpetuating sexist practices in the industry. Many women bartenders have found that elite cocktail bars tend to relegate women to waitressing, while allowing men to take the bar-back to bartender track. Employees Only's ad asking for women cocktail waitresses "tossed a match into this pool of gasoline," Playboy writes. People on social media called for a boycott of Employees Only and The 86 Company, a liquor business partly owned by Zaric.
Zaric and Employees Only bartender Steve Schneider initially responded with comments that fueled the flame. Schneider wrote a post saying "we can do whatever we want with our business," and Zaric wrote a post suggesting therapy for anyone who feels "that the world owes you anything." People who opposed the ad did not take it well: "My therapist thinks sexism is real and I shouldn't buy your booze #86sexism," one commenter wrote, according to Playboy.
But by Tuesday, Zaric announced that he would "step aside from the company" The 86 in light of the controversy and calls for boycotts. Meanwhile, Employees Only said the ad was created because only men were applying to positions at the new location, and they were seeking a more diverse employee pool. "Obviously, in retrospect, we acknowledge that this effort was poorly executed and regret the harm and offense caused among our beloved bar community," the bar said in a statement.
Not everyone is happy with Zaric's departure. He's a star of the craft cocktail world and won an award for best bar mentor in 2014. Gary Regan, a former bartender of cocktail destination The Dead Rabbit, wrote a blog post in Zaric's defense on Friday — saying that Zaric has hired many women and refused to do business in places that oppress minorities. He writes:
I’m pleading with everyone out there who is still looking to harm Dushan to please stop and turn the conversation over to more real issues. I am sure if you talked to Dushan in person you would see he is not the person you’re making him out to be.
Employees Only, which has been open for more than a decade, is planning a total of three spin-offs, including Singapore, Miami, and Austin.
Update: Here's a full statement from Employees Only.
Lately, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding women in the bar and restaurant industry. As an institution that has always had a longstanding and unwavering respect for everyone in our tight knit bar community, regardless of gender, we're thankful for the important conversation currently taking place. Our bar is named Employees Only and we do not take for granted that we have a responsibility to uphold the revered place we hold in our fellow bartenders' hearts.
Women have always been a part of Employees Only an all levels of staff and management. Over the years, two of our general managers have been women, during a time when this was not common practice. Our executive chef, Juila Jaksic, has overseen our kitchen and led our back of house staff for most of Employees Only’s existence.
Employees Only has never used discriminatory hiring practices and does not plan on ever doing so. Aspiring EO bartenders of all backgrounds, shapes, sizes, and genders, are welcome to apply for our apprenticeship program and always have been. We have employed women behind our bar in the past. Due to our extremely high employee retention rates, we have had little room for recruitment over recent years. Our attempts to diversify our bar staff will certainly continue.
As we understand that this is a sensitive issue with many in our industry, we are definitely looking to raise our own awareness and welcome any meaningful discussions that may come our way.