Monday, April 22, 2024

This free talk and zero-proof tasting will explore levels of sobriety in the Long Beach bar scene


As we push toward the completion of Long Beach Food Scene: Last Call—a 10-day, 15-event celebration of our city’s rich bar culture and the people who make it happen—we continue to offer a series of features that highlight everything from our most stellar cocktail programs at restaurants to to the very events occurring (like this free bar crawl in Downtown Long Beach)… All in order to lift a glass to a social and economic driver that rarely receives the love its deserves: our bar industry.

To spirit or not to spirit? This is the essential question in a special upcoming, free event at The Wicked Wolf, come Saturday, Mar. 9, from 2PM to 4PM.

The tasting and discussion (free but RSVP required) will explore what it means for a worker to be a part of an industry that is largely dedicated to serving alcohol and how that worker can not only practice various levels of sobriety should they feel they are slipping into darkness but healthily continue to work in the industry they love.

Four people in the industry will be discussing their own experiences in dealing with sobriety and continuing to work in the bar and hospitality industry: Noah Friedman, head bartender at the rightfully lauded Baby Gee, makes entire menus while sober; Khristian Berrio, a general manager for restaurants who practices “California sobriety;” Stephanie “Essie” Evans, who owns one of the country’s top cocktail bars, Shirley’s Temple; and Thea Mercouffer, who owns The Wicked Wolf and requires that all her bartenders be entirely sober while working.

Wait—what do you mean by ‘levels of sobriety’?

Various physical and mental health professionals have all agreed that the 12-step, AA/NA model approach to sobriety is not remotely fit for everyone—and for some, can even be a deterrent to seeking help.

“There are definitive levels to sobriety,” said Berrio, a restaurant general manager who solely sticks to marijuana and entirely avoids alcohol and hard drugs. “For me, it was discovering which substance was the most abusive—and it was through peeling those layers of personal exploration and social practices that I understood ‘sober’ isn’t some umbrella term.”

For others, it is an absolute avoidance of all substances. For yet more, it is simply not drinking or partying while working. For another, it could very well be keeping it to the weekends or exploring long periods of sobriety in the vein of “Dry January.”

The point of this discussion is to be both open-minded and inclusive while understanding that the term “sober” can be terrifying for someone who feels that an essential part of their social life has to be stripped away in order for them to maintain solid physical and mental health statuses.

Even more, when it comes to the industry, there should be little to no reason as to why someone cannot remain in the industry they love because they need larger support. This, along with other things like the growing mocktail industry and how it works in a largely un-sober world, will be explored.

And yes, the audience is encouraged to contribute, ask questions, and participate while tasting Free Spirit concoctions.

You mentioned ‘Long Beach Last Call.’ What is it?

After the success of my restaurant week last year during August, Long Beach Food Scene Week, bar owners and tenders rightfully asked: “What about a week for us?”

So I decided to oblige and present Long Beach Food Scene: Last Call, a ten-day long celebration of Long Beach’s amazing bar culture, it’s even more amazing workers, and the industry that often goes without recognition as one of our city’s largest economic and social drivers. 

To Spirit or Not to Spirit: A Zero-Proof Tasting & Discussion will take place on Saturday, Mar. 9, from 2PM to 4PM at The Wicked Wolf. To RSVP with your free ticket, click here.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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