An Open Letter to the Bartender Community

by Gaz Regan · Friday, May 6th, 2016 · bartenders

An Open Letter to the Bartender Community

There’s been many feathers ruffled recently, and the ugly face of sexism has raised its head, with a focus on some very good friends of mine, a special light being shone on Dushan Zaric from The 86 Company.

I’ve known Dushan for close to a decade now, and I know in my heart, that he’s no sexist. He’s the furthest thing from sexist I can think of. Please allow me to list a couple of facts:

  1. When presented with an opportunity to sell spirits in Dubai, Dushan Zaric refused “because I don’t want to sell our products in markets that have oppressive regimes or any other discriminatory policies. I specifically mean there the treatment of women, minorities and migrant workers.”
  2. EO has hired many women over the years. 2 of their 4 GMs have been women, for instance, and Julia Jaksic has been head chef there for almost 12 years.

I could go on, but I don’t see the need to. People who know Dushan have already rallied around him, simply because they know that he is one of the most caring souls in the industry. And many of these people have been women who Dushan has helped over the years.

How about me? Am I sexist? When I conduct my mindful bartending presentation I use an image of a woman with large breasts sitting in meditation pose while I’m talking about the benefits of meditation. I always say, “I’m taking advantage of showing you a picture of a woman with large breasts at this point,” I then show a picture of a hunk of a man in meditation pose “for all straight women or gay men in the room.”  Is that sexist? It probably is. I’ve never had complaints, though, and usually everyone laughs.  It’s a couple of throw-away lines. No more, no less.

IF, HOWEVER, someone wanted to smear my reputation, then those words and pictures would play right into their hands. And that, from what I can see, is what has happened to Dushan. His words have been taken out of context in order to fuel this witch-hunt.

I leave you to chew this over, folks, but 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.

And if you are thinking of boycotting an entire company for the actions of one person within that company, I think you’d probably have to boycott every single spirits company out there, and then what would you sell in your bars? To threaten a small and vulnerable company and the livelihoods of the 10 people, 4 of them women, who work there surely seems preposterous. They are a company that has the best interest of bartenders, men and women, as the focus of their mission. Sure, The 86 Co is there to make money, but they do it in the most ethical way possible.

I want to go on record as standing firmly by Dushan’s side of this issue.  He couldn’t discriminate if his life depended on it. Of this I’m sure.

In conclusion, then, let me say this: If, in your mind, Dushan Zaric’s name is tainted in any way, then please consider my name to be tainted, too.

with lotsa love from gaz regan sig

16 Responses to “An Open Letter to the Bartender Community”

  1. David johnson says:

    Here here! Finally, a voice of reason in this tempest in a teacup! Thanks Gaz..I stand with Dushan!

  2. Joe Pereira says:


  3. Donny Clutterbuck says:

    Great words. Let’s hope this all ends right side up, eh?

  4. Brian McCullough says:

    Here here! Dushan is sexy…not sexist!

  5. Gatsby says:

    Gaz – I think it would be benificial to hear what was said and make up our own minds. Additionally a summary of what happened and with whom would be beneficial and fair to all parties. Could you please provide quotes and a summary of the conversation and alleged misdeeds and names of all parties?


    • Gaz Regan says:

      Sorry, Gatsby, but I just don’t have time to do what you’re asking.

      • April Wachtel says:

        Thanks for posting this Gaz, I think a lot of people needed to hear this.

        And Gatsby, that’s a really annoying request. Since you haven’t been affected by the conversation thus far there’s no point in dredging up nasty things people have said about our friends in the industry so you can ‘make up your own mind’ about the matter.

  6. Couldn’t agree more Gaz ! (And Brian McCullough)

  7. Seamus Harris says:

    I haven’t a clue what actually happened. Only saw glimpses via Facebook.

    But it sounds like what I suspected, an identity politics witch hunt.

    The signs were there in the absurd Facebook narrative of ‘brave’ anti-sexists doing battle with evil ‘mansplainers’.

    I see nothing ‘brave’ about virtue signalling by jumping on some silly bandwagon. It’s the easiest thing in the world.

  8. BC Hoffman says:

    Band aids for the sensitive … The world has become way too sensitive over misunderstandings, miscommunications, and social media blowing things up beyond what they are, and ever should be. It’s unfortunate that something like this could taint the reputation and image of an incredible mind in the field, and company that has been such a huge game changer.

  9. Andrew Dobbing says:

    Gaz, you are 100% correct. Dushan and EO have achieved an enormous amount and should be recognised for that fact, rather than this bias witch-hunt, a storm in a speakeasy tea-cup, blown out of all proportion by their detractors.

    Also Gaz, whenever you finger stir my cocktail, I imagine that finger is actually….
    well, let’s not go there.

    I will, wherever possible, insist my cocktails are crafted utilising your bitters and 86 Co spirits from now on, in support of your support (non-surgical) of Dushan, EO Steve, Igor and all.

  10. Victor Espinosa says:

    Nice. Agree 100%

  11. Ian mccarthy says:

    Sorry everyone, but here are the facts as I see them:

    A bar that de facto does not hire female bartenders, but hires many female cocktail waitresses puts up an ad saying that EO is “not just a boys club”. The response from the female bartending community is, “actually, it IS just a boys club, and it has been bothering us for a long time.” The response from a principal at EO is, “we are going to run out business how we please, butt out of it.” This seems as fine a time as any to talk about the ubiquitous sexism in our industry. I take some offense with. “I know Dushan, he is no sexist, conversation over.” As the typical sweep-under-the-rug conversation ender. The trope is the very same as, “but I have LOTS of black/gay/minority/transgender/etc. friends.” It doesn’t change a thing.

  12. Amber Dawn Peterson says:

    I cannot help but notice, that out of 13 comments, only one voice seems to be coming from a female. So, I wished to add balance to the conversation. I agree with Mr. McCarthy, above, quite strongly. With that being said, personal attacks (whether accurate or inaccurate) and endless, spinning rhetoric are no way to provide any forward motion. Until this point, as many have, I’ve been watching this past week, and its unusual and tumultuous events, from the sidelines. I’m usually an eager (and loud) voice, especially when it comes to people and causes that are close to my heart. However, I felt it of great importance to reserve the use of my voice, for a moment when I had an actual, constructive idea, on how to improve our industry, for everyone. So, I see this as an important moment, to share some thoughts and experiences, on my views and struggles, in service.

    I grew up in a lower-middle-class, fractioned family, in Toledo, OH, in the early 1980’s. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers were hugely influential in my life, in very different ways. They were very different women, but with more than a few similarities. Most notable among them, was that they were both powerful women in local politics, and had been single mothers with careers, at a time when that was far less common than it is, today. These women were fierce, and taught me to know my worth, and my rights, and how to stand up for them, as well as for others’.

    Anyone who’s ever worked a shift with me, especially when I’m not in a denotated leadership position, knows that I get mouthy about workers’ rights, and standing up to financial, as well as protected class, violations that businesses frequently (and boldly, smugly) commit. It’s gotten me fired, more than once, and, even worse, it’s gotten me shunned by portions of the bar community, who see me as a “rabble rouser”, “drama queen”, or some other marginalizing tripe. That hurt the most: “Comrades”, who were unwilling to stand in solidarity, and, in fact, stood in opposition.

    There are laws on the books to protect workers from lots of bad shit. You know those posters that EVERY business has to post, all about those laws (and, if they don’t, it’s an infraction, on its own)?! Yeah, those ones by the schedule board or the hand sink. Those are mandated to be posted for a reason. So, every single worker has access to the resources to defend themselves from employers with illegal practices. Now, I’m not saying that those fights are easy, clean, or even always fair. My last DOL retaliation case took over a year, and I lost because of a dubious Yelp review (another rant for another day). But, she (Yep, She.) still had to pay all of her staff their back wages and overtime, including me.

    However, during that process, my fellow (female) employees, who I was fighting for, as much as myself, stopped talking to me, socially, even though we’d been close during the tenure of my employment (though, they’ve politely thanked me for that money, since). The tight-knit bar community of the city I was in, at the time, started making it more difficult for me to find work, and, in some cases, I found open hostility towards me, for my stand. Me, as someone who’d worked alongside them, built community with them, learned with and from them, and, in some cases, mentored them.

    For me, this is where that important stepping stone is, to help us start getting across the water…START SPEAKING UP, IN LIFE, NOT JUST SOCIAL MEDIA! And, Stop marginalizing and DISCRIMINATING AGAINST those who take a stand! Learn your rights under FLSA, and other easily researched documents, pertaining what is expected of, and guaranteed for, you, as a working American. Take clear notes/photos/videos about the dates and times that you witness harassment, discrimination, theft of fair payment or personal property, dangerous working conditions, health violations, etc. Keep records of anything that you think may be a violation of your rights, then find the proper agency (DOL, OSHA, EEOC, local health departments, etc.) to advise you on if you have a claim, and how to file one. Encourage others, who may be a similar situation, to do the same. Remove the stigma of the whistleblower, and make businesses accountable, legally and financially.

    Stand up, make that phone call or email, and stand behind one another, for real. Not just with hashtags. #NotJustWithHashtags

  13. Jill deGroff says:

    I have no idea what went down or what was said but all I know is that Dushan is one of the most compassionate and giving human beings on earth.

  14. I don’t know what happened either, but agree with gaz and Jill – anyone who has spent any time at all with Dushan can tell you that he is one of the most charitable, humane and warmhearted people you will ever meet.

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