The Call Out Awards: Why the Party at Poppa's?
The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the USU or the Pulp editorial staff.
The Time Out Bar Awards were held in weeks past and it was the usual evening of free booze being handed out willy-nilly to a huge crowd of Sydney bartenders and industry professionals (read: functioning alcoholics) at Oxford Art Factory. Every year the crowd has gotten bigger and rowdier with more and more money being thrown at what is fast becoming one of the largest days on the hospitality calendar. But this year was different. The crowd wasn’t as large as years gone by, and the main party was not as exhaustive: big numbers and big names were absent.
A block down the road, Big Poppa’s was packed on a Sunday afternoon and it looked like what the bar awards were expected to be. Bar staff were stripping on the bar top, giving and receiving lay backs and forgetting what the R stands for in RSA. This wasn’t an after party for Time Out, it was a message.That Sunday in March 2019 was preceded by the combination of events that created a perfect storm that shook the hospitality industry.
It is common knowledge that the Time Out Bar Awards aren’t exactly the most reputable accolades. Other than the people’s choice venues, all the nominees are chosen by a select few industry heavyweights and bars that regularly pay Time Out for good reviews and feature articles. Everything Time Out does is bought and paid for. They unashamedly post lists of “Top (something) bars” and a third of the list will be from one company. The Bar Awards are the same. Half of the nominees will be people and venues you have to put on because they’re just that good and everyone knows it, e.g. Evan Stroeve, Andrea Gualdi, PS40 etc. The rest of the list is usually plausible but everyone knows who is friends with right people and who actually has the talent to be there. But this year stank. Two women were nominated for Hot New Talent Award. That was it. Sarah Mycock from PS40 deservedly won that award, but outside of these nominations it was men as far as the eye could see. The fact that the only women nominated were in the category of “Hot New Talent” as opposed to “Bartender of the Year” was very obvious to all observers. This incensed rage for a number of reasons that I am about to lay out for you.
2018 was the year hospitality supposedly started giving a fuck about women’s safety. The “Ask for Angela” campaign was started, people were a lot more vocal and physical in addressing issues of rampant sexual harassment experienced by female staff, seminars to help women succeed in hospitality were run and institutions like the Coleman Academy went from strength to strength. Jenna Hemsworth won Bacardi Legacy and was repeatedly recognised as one of the premier bartenders in the country. Yet she wasn’t nominated. No offence to James Fury or Daniel Noble but they do not operate at the standard of Mary White, Jemima McDonald or Chloe Natterer.
Why does it matter if the Time Out Awards are a joke anyway? The corruption of Time Out makes it all the more important. If it were an open industry vote, like the Australian Bartender Magazine Awards, then it wouldn’t matter as much as that is just the popular consensus. But the fact that the nominees are hand chosen by a select few shows that they went out of their way to choose specifically male candidates. It shows how much the powerful figures of the industry value men over women. They went through the list of high-profile bartenders and decided that someone as slow and limited as James Fury was more worthy of recognition than a bartender of Mary White’s or Jenna Hemsworth’s character.
The Time Out awards are indicative of the mentality of the hospitality industry. It’s a boy’s club. You get through the industry by objectifying female customers. In bars I’ve worked in, “Abrams” is used to alert your co-workers an attractive woman is in the venue. Abrams means ‘target acquired’ in Navy talk. That’s the culture that exists behind the stick. I know bartenders who I respect very much for their craft but then confess when drunk that they will never order a daiquiri from a female bartender because they believe they can’t shake it hard enough.
So, with the Time Out Awards being held the day after International Women’s Day, and with the success of female bartenders in the previous 12 months, the party at Big Poppa’s was a huge message not just to Time Out, but the industry as a whole. A wake-up call that there are huge, inherent problems in regard to how this industry treats women.