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Tales of the Cocktail Sees Storm of Criticism

Tracking all the developments

Everything You Need To Know About Tales Of The Cocktail Right Now Paul Broussard

Tales of the Cocktail has seen its share of drama this year, beginning with a blackface episode during Mardi Gras this past March. A lot has happened since then — here’s a chronicle of the developments.

  • Tales of the Cocktail, the a multi-day conference held each summer in New Orleans, is considered one of the alcohol industry’s biggest annual events, and winning one of its Spirited Awards is a top honor in the beverage world. [EATER]
  • This past March, founders Ann and Paul Tuennerman, faced criticism after a video of Ann Tuennerman wearing Zulu blackface was posted on Facebook. The main point of contention were the comments Paul Tuennerman made while interviewing Ann Tuennerman in the video. [EATER]
  • Ann Tuennerman wore the costume as a rider and at the request of the Zulu Aid and Pleasure Club, the oldest and largest black Mardi Gras krewe in New Orleans. All riders, regardless of race are asked to wear the costume. The costume had been criticized in the 1960s. [AFROPUNK]
  • Some felt that the criticism of Ann Tuennerman was leveled by people who didn’t understand New Orleans Mardi Gras traditions, nor that the cornerstone of many of those traditions is satire. [THE LENS NOLA]
  • Many were appalled at Paul Tuennerman’s comments. “Are you saying black faces are dumb, that we can’t form sentences?” asked Josh Davis, who tends bar at Chicago’s Bureau Bar and Velvet Lounge, in an open letter. [Google Docs]
  • Tales of the Cocktail addressed the criticism a few ways. On March 3, 2017, Ann Tuennerman issue a 450-word apology on the Tales of the Cocktail site, while co-founder Paul Tuennerman resigned from Tales of the Cocktail. [Tales of the Cocktail website]
  • On March 25, 2017, Tales of the Cocktail moved to establish a Diversity Council. [Tales of the Cocktail Website]
  • Colin Asare-Appiah and Jasmine Haralson were picked to lead the council. Asare-Appiah is Senior Portfolio Ambassador for Bacardi, and Jasmine Haralson is Director of External Affairs and Board Secretary for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. [Tales of the Cocktail website]
  • Its other members, announced on June 29, 2017, were also prominent members of the spirits community. [Tales of the Cocktail website]
  • At Tales of the Cocktail 2017, which took place on July 18 through 23, 2017, it appeared that much of the controversy had begun to blow over. Tales 2017 appeared to be a successful event. [ENOLA]
  • After a relatively quiet summer, Ann moved to reinstate Paul Tuennerman on Thursday, September 21 — allegedly without consulting the Diversity Council. Diversity council co-leader, Colin Asare-Appiah, resigned in protest. [NEATPOUR.COM]
  • Some publications asked if this “shocking” controversy would spell the end of Tales of the Cocktail. [THIRSTY]
  • Others questioned what the future held for Tales of the Cocktail, but ultimately decided that it was too big to fail and important to fail. []
  • Just 24 hours after the move to reinstate Paul Tuennerman, both Ann and Paul Tuennerman resigned from Tales of the Cocktail. [NEATPOUR.COM]
  • On September 27, a mysterious letter surfaced questioning the finances of Tales of the Cocktail, but the letter made assumptions that seemed unfounded based on the response from Tales of the Cocktail president, Melissa Young. The statement also revealed that Ann and Paul Tuennerman planned to sell their stakes in MOJO911, the company that produces Tales of the Cocktail. [EATER NOLA]
  • After a tumultuous year, Tales of the Cocktail faces a future in flux. Spirits industry leaders weigh in on the future of the event. [EATER NOLA]
  • Tales of the Cocktail was sold to the Soloman family, owner of theaters in the city and region-wide, and Neal Bodenheimer, co-owner of cocktail bar Cure. The owners plan to turn it into a non-profit. The news was first reported by the New York Times on December 22, 2017. [NYT]