Charles Schumann returns 50 Best Industry Icon AwardBy Owen Bellwood
The World’s 50 Best Bars has “accepted the return” of Charles Schumann’s Industry Icon Award after widespread backlash over comments the German bartender made in an interview, saying “a bar is no place for a woman”.
Schumann was recognised during the awards ceremony at London’s Roundhouse last week, but the move has been widely criticised on social media by bartenders and bar owners.
During an interview with German Playboy Magazine several years ago, Schumann was quoted saying: “A bar is no place for a woman. The important characters are always men,” comments he reinforced during a 2009 interview with The Japan Times, when he said: “I have the same opinion now.”
Following The World’s 50 Best Bars ceremony, bartenders including Ivy Mix, co-founder of women-only bartending competition Speed Rack, have condemned the decision, posting on Instagram: “#CharlesSchumann should be ashamed of being such a tired dinosaur. Tell all these women they shouldn’t be working, shouldn’t dedicate themselves to this career, shouldn’t have an income. Shame on him.”
Tess Posthumus, co-owner of Amsterdam cocktail bar Flying Dutchmen Cocktails, also criticised the award, posting: “Charles Schumann is so openly against women behind the bar, that he even comments about it in his own film to Julie Reiner (female bartender and owner of multiple NYC bars). He also doesn’t make it a secret in multiple interviews, stating things like ‘women should only work the lunch shift making way for the real (male) bartenders’. It makes me very frustrated and sad that @50bestbars gave this man the honour of being crowned an Industry Icon.”
Other bartenders around the world have also spoken out against the decision, posting messages accompanied by the hashtag #womenbehindthebarafter3.
‘My statements were so misunderstood’
Following the backlash, Schumann said in a statement: “It has been with great dismay that I have become the centre of a debate in the last few days. This was triggered by my statements in the film Schumann’s Bar Talks and an interview with The Japan Times published in 2009.
“ I would like to comment on this: it hurts me very much that my statements were so misunderstood. I value good bartenders – completely independent of gender, origin and age. Anyone who has already sat with me on a jury can testify to this.
“I have never doubted that women could be bartenders. Of course women belong in front of and behind the bar. I am truly sorry that my statements were misleading and insulting to members of our bar community. I hereby formally apologise to them.
“But I also ask for an open dialogue so that these misinterpretations can be eliminated. I feel committed to the universal values of equality. They have also been the basis of my work in gastronomy for over 55 years. I try to live them every day with my team of over 70 people of different nationalities and sexes. I am very grateful for my latest award, voted for by this amazing, vibrant and wonderful industry.
“To members of our global bar community who wish to interact with me, I offer my hand and an open house for dialogue in a factual and respectful atmosphere.”
‘No Industry Icon this year’
Following Schumann’s statement yesterday (8 October), The World’s 50 Best Bars said it has accepted the return of the German bartender’s Industry Icon award and that there would be no recipient for the award this year.
In a statement to The Spirits Business, The World’s 50 Best Bars said: “The Industry Icon Award is voted for by the members of the 50 Best Academy, which comprises bartenders, bar owners and drinks aficionados. Voters are asked to consider a candidate’s contribution to the industry across their career.
“50 Best takes final responsibility for awarding the winner based on the number of votes cast. It does have a vetting process in place for its awardees, although on this occasion it was unaware of these historical comments made by Mr Schumann.
“Sponsors are not involved in the selection process for any of the awards and have no advance knowledge of the winner.
“50 Best continue to encourage voters to look beyond the current list, and to take representation, reputation and diversity into consideration in their voting choices, ensuring the positive celebration of bars and bartenders that The World’s 50 Best Bars seeks to promote.”
An updated statement on Schumann’s Bar’s Facebook page last night, signed ‘Charles Schumann’, said: “In light of the controversy surrounding my person and the awarding of The World´s 50 Best Bars – Industry Icon Award 2019, I am hereby returning the award. I don‘t want it anymore.”