To give the Colorado Bartenders Guild all the credit for Denver's flourishing cocktail culture would be wrong, says Sean Kenyon, owner of Williams & Graham and one of the founding members of this state's chapter. But it certainly helped. "We were officially chartered in February of 2008," he says, "and only twelve people showed up to our first meeting to drum up interest."
Now the ranks of the Colorado Bartenders Guild has swelled to 97.
There have been other changes, too. In addition to Kenyon, the original leaders were Mike Henderson, Bryan Dayton and Ky Belk. When Belk stepped away, Anika Zappe moved in. Dayton left his role as president a year and a half ago to open Oak at Fourteenth, opening the door for Brian Melton to come in as secretary. But with the membership growing, the boardmembers finally decided it was time to hold a full-scale election for their replacements. "I don't have as much time to be involved," Kenyon explains. "And there's been some turmoil in the organization. A new board needed to inject some positivity and drive."
And so earlier this month there was a vote of all paying members of the COBG, which ended in a dead heat between two candidates for president: Noah Heaney of the Bitter Bar and Courtney Wilson of Williams & Graham. After consulting with the U.S. Bartenders' Guild on how to handle the situation, the outgoing board was called in to break the tie. "We voted three to two in favor of Courtney," Kenyon says. Runner-up Heaney was given a special position as advisor to the president.
The rest of the results were announced last night at a celebratory kegger: Zappe remains the treasurer, Star Bar's Allie Geppert is now the secretary, and Alex Parks of Green Russell is the vice-president. That means that Colorado has the only all-female board in the USBG. "One of the great things that happened in the last years is that bartending has stopped being a male-dominated profession," Kenyon notes. "We have so many talented female bartenders in Denver. And now they're running the show."
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The new board will be responsible for moving the organization forward, with a focus on educational events. "A lot of the most successful events have been educational," Kenyon says. "What's most exciting is bringing iconic people from around the country to do those events. We get to enrich the careers and lives of bartenders and entertain them."
Kenyon hopes the new leadership will also put more emphasis on community involvement. "I expect a really energetic next couple of months," he concludes.
A version of this story originally appeared in Cafe Bites, our weekly newsletter devoted to Denver's food and drink scene, which arrives in e-mail boxes every Wednesday afternoon. Find out how to subscribe here.