This week on the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss the allure behind industry bars or restaurants. After listing what they have been drinking recently — including birth year wines and top- notch Manhattans — our hosts dive into a discussion on both the positive and intimidating factors of industry bars in light of Teeter’s recent experience at Runner Up, an industry hang in NYC.
Geballe, citing his industry expertise, points to these hangouts as places where industry people gather on Sunday and Monday nights, when bars and restaurants are not typically busy with regular consumers. Our hosts then ponder what a non-industry member’s role is in these often intimidating gatherings and discuss how these establishments can bridge the gap between trade members and consumers.
If you have any thoughts or want to share your favorite industry hangouts, please send them to [email protected].
Or Check out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: I’m Joanna Sciarrino
Zach Geballe: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: This is the “VinePair Podcast.” Guys, before we get today’s show going, I think a lot of people who are listeners of the podcast know that we have an amazing trade-focused newsletter called VP Pro. One of the incentives for telling all of your friends about VP Pro is that if you tell enough people about VP Pro, you get to have your own personal shoutout on the pod. One specific person who has done just that is Rob Day, who is the senior director of marketing for Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers in Springdale. He’s told everybody about the newsletter, which is awesome, and gotten a ton of amazing people to sign up. He recorded us a shout-out, and he gets to shout out whatever he wants, so we’re just going to play it. Rob, take it away.
Rob Day: My name’s Rob Day from Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. From me and everybody at the brewery, we want to shout out VinePair Pro. That’s right, the podcast you’re listening to right now. They do fantastic work and we’re all big fans here at the brewery. Prost!
A: That was awesome.
Z: That is very kind of you.
A: I did not think he would advertise our own podcast, which is pretty sweet. Again, if you also would like to give a shout-out on the podcast, all you gotta do is sign up for VP Pro and forward it to a ton of people, get them to sign up, and maybe you can be doing what Rob just did.
Z: You can shout out someone else if you want.
A: Anyways, Joanna and Zach, it’s been a pretty crazy week. We’re in the thick of August, but what have you both been up to? What have you been getting yourselves into? And Zach, this week we are going to start with you.
Z: Sure. Well, I have been hunkering down, preparing for kid No. 2 showing up. It’s feeling a little more real. We’re getting less than two months until the due date and a month and a half and it’s an interesting thing. The thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot, actually, in wake of this is actually my older child, my son. We’ve talked, my wife and I, since before he was born about getting him a case of wine for his birth year. Now we’re actually at the point wherein 2018, which was his birth year, those wines are readily available on the market. Almost anything we’d want to buy. Honestly, I’m paralyzed. I can’t pick the wines because initially, the thought was, “Oh, we’ll get a case of one wine, and then we can open it over time.” We can open the first one before he’s 21, frankly, maybe when he’s 18, and then open them together as a family over the years. Yet, there’s a part of me that’s thought, “What if we pick something and it’s not great?” Because we’re asking a wine to go a minimum of 18, 20 years. It’s got to go awfully longer, which means a lot of wines aren’t necessarily ones that I would buy and they’ll be expensive. I just don’t want to fuck it up. Then I thought, “OK, maybe we’ll get 12 different wines.” Yet, you open it once and it’s gone and even then you’re still looking way down the road. I think what we’re going to do is get three bottles each of four wines, and that gives us a little more opportunity to get it right. It’s been gnawing at me because I can’t really put it off. I gotta start thinking about baby No. 2 soon enough, so I need to get on this. As of right now, I haven’t done anything. If you guys have any thoughts, listeners as well, email [email protected] to tell me what wines I should be buying for my son.
J: That is such a lovely idea.
A: It’s a great one.
J: I wish my parents did that.
A: I find that a lot of wine professionals do it, which is cool. My thought would go for some of the regions that have always been classics. Even when he’s 21, there is a pretty high likelihood that they will still be classics. Then, you maybe throw in a few curveballs that you’re not sure about but things that you’re passionate about like a Xinomavro.
A: Of course, go get some Napa, get some Bordeaux, get some Burgundy, maybe go for the Northern Rhône instead of Southern Rhone. Those will be cool to have and those have always been classic regions. Then, I would just get producers you were excited about now because you’ll get to share them with him and tell those stories. You can share a wine that you were super excited about at this time, so that’s what I would do.
Z: Yeah, I think that’s the tentative plan. As I said, I’ve been holding off because the 2018s that I’d want to keep for 20-plus years aren’t really out yet but now they are. I have to do something!
A: I think it’s a cool idea that I think would be fun. The plan is to give it to him on his 21st birthday?
Z: I don’t know, he’ll probably know it exists, but obviously he won’t get it whenever he wants until he’s old enough. I don’t want to be this person too much but maybe until he’s old enough to appreciate it, so when he moves out or is out of college if he goes to college. Then, he can maybe have control of it.
A: So you’re saying at 35 or something.
Z: Yeah, maybe. I also have a question for both of you. On this topic, I’ve also been thinking about this thing in wine and it’s not just for wine professionals, but for people in general. There’s a certain cachet to birth your wine. Adam, I know you and I share a birth year. So have you had much ’83?
A: First of all, you did not have to shout out that year. You could have said, “Adam, have you had much ’92?
Z: Come on, you don’t want to be that young but I am pretty sure you still want to be in your 20s.
A: I do not want to be in my 20s, no. Those were some fun years, but no. To answer your question, no I haven’t actually. It’s always fun to have but I’m not as excited about it. It’s cool when it happens but I really have no other response.
Z: What about you, Joanna? Whatever your birth year is, you don’t have to reveal. Has that been something you’ve tried, or is there any appeal in that for you?
J: It’s 1988, first of all. Second of all, I don’t think I’ve ever had any wine from 1988, but it does appeal to me.
J: I like this idea.
A: It’s cool but no one usually shares their ’83s with me. Again, if you’re listening to the podcast and you want to send a 1983 to the VinePair headquarters, I am more than down to accept the delivery.
Z: With an open bottle, just knock on the door.
A: Yeah exactly. I think that’s more of the issue is I have never really come across a lot of it and I’ve never really seen a lot of it. Gosh, Zach, I’m blanking. What is the really cool wine restaurant in Verona?
Z: Oh my God. All our listeners, all the people who would be shouting us out are disappointed.
A: They would say, yeah, he’s an idiot.
Z: I went, I just can’t remember what it was called.
A: Anyways, they have an Armagnac and I’ve had that for my birth year, so that was cool. Again, that’s a very different experience for sure. Usually, when you see an ’83 birth year on the list, it’s hella expensive. I think I only had two wines in my entire life that were my birth year. One was a Rioja that was corked.
J: Oh no.
Z: It’s actually relatively easy to find vintage-year port from a lot of years because not every beer is a vintage year but many of them in the ’80s were. It was for both me and my wife who is not the same birth year as me, although relatively close, we’ve been able to do that, which is cool. Joanna, what have you been drinking? I feel like I hijacked the conversation.
J: No, it’s fine. It’s been a pretty uneventful week for me in terms of drinking but we did visit our friends who are staying out in the Hamptons right now. They just had a baby, and they had the requisite Wölffer Estate Rosé and some Montauk Brewing Company beer, but also their hard seltzer lemonade, which is a new thing. Adam, you mentioned this earlier today in a meeting, but it does seem that even a small brand now has some sort of seltzer lemonade.
J: It was fine.
A: It’s really interesting. Now, what I find interesting is that it’s a flavor profile people like, but it’s been really hard for a lot of people to get it right. I think that it needs to taste more like a really refreshing lemonade and less like a cloying lemon flavor and or not taste like Pellegrino with a squeeze of lemon, which I think a lot of it also tastes like.
J: Yeah, pretty watery.
A: No one wants watery lemon.
A: It’s a hard flavor, but it is clearly something that consumers like. Lemonade has always been popular.
Z: Yeah, listen to our episode about lemonade being super trendy. We recorded that probably like the beginning of the year, I don’t even remember.
A: Trends, we predict them at VinePair.
Z: No, we’re on them. What about you, Adam? What have you been drinking?
A: I did a few cool things over the weekend. I went to this new restaurant in Park Slope called Runner Up, which is the new co-restaurant to this restaurant called Winner that a lot of people wrote about during the pandemic.
Z: Makes sense.
A: Basically, the whole thing is roast chicken, but it has a ridiculous wine list. Actually, it is one of the inspirations for our topic today, so we’ll come back to that. Then, the other thing I did, and it’s been a while since I’ve been here but a friend had their birthday on Sunday, and so he asked Naomi and I if we’d come and get a drink with him on Sunday evening. We went to Clover Club.
A: I hadn’t had their Manhattan in a really long time, and it was actually weird. It was really rainy and cold out, which is odd since we’re about to have a heat wave. Yet, all three of us ordered their Manhattan and they do this amazing service with it where it comes with a sidecar and then also a little snack tray of aged Gouda per person because they like the pairing of the Manhattan with the Gouda. It was just so cool and I forgot how they do that. It was fun to have a little nibble of Gouda and then take a sip of your cocktail. It was a fun pairing that I never really thought of before. Again, it was so cool that they were being creative. This is why a bar like this is so great and why everyone’s written about them for so long. They do all of the simple things so well, and they just make great cocktails. They weren’t trying to be super showy. Also, the drinks are very fairly priced for the quality of liquid they put in them. Again, it was just awesome to go back to one of these bars that started, especially in New York, the cocktail movement. And damn, they still got it.
J: I don’t think I’ve ever been served a drink with a specific snack without ordering it.
A: I thought it was super cool. They don’t do it for every drink, obviously, but this one was really cool. Of course, Naomi said, “Oh my gosh, we need to have a dinner party and have the first course of Manhattans and aged Gouda.”
Z: Yeah, no one will ever know where the idea came from unless they listen to this podcast or have been to Clover Club.
A: I don’t know if any of my friends listen to the podcast.
Z: Fair enough. I don’t look disappointed when people I know in the industry who know me well say, “Oh, that podcast, are you still doing that?” Uh, yes. You should be listening.
A: I mean, you guys know that Naomi doesn’t listen to the podcast.
Z: Oh, yeah. Neither does Caitlyn.
A: She says, “Your voice stresses me out.”
Z: Joanna, does Evan listen to the podcast?
J: No, I don’t think he does. Every once in a while, I think he does, and it surprises me.
A: Meanwhile, you guys know my super fans who let me know when you’re talking shit.
Z: Yes, that’s true.
A: What’s up, Keith? Anyway, today’s topic is something I’m pretty interested in which came to me through, as I said, Runner Up. One of the things about Runner Up is that they price their wines extremely affordably. They have these great bottles on the list that they’re barely marking up.
A: When I was asking them why, it sounded like they wanted to appeal to a lot of members of the industry. I thought it’d be a fun conversation to talk about what defines an industry bar or restaurant. What makes a bar or restaurant an industry bar or restaurant, and why would one want to open an industry bar or restaurant? There are obviously lots of reasons, but we’ll kick around what we think those reasons are. As the token member of the industry, Zach, I thought we’d kick it off with you first. What do you think defines an industry bar or restaurant? Why do people want to open them, and what’s their appeal in the first place?
Z: Well, that’s a good question. I think that a precise definition is always going to be a little difficult but to me, in my career, the bars that have tended to be industry hangs have a couple of things in common. One of them is that they are not generally the busiest places. They are busy with industry crowds, but they’re not necessarily going to draw a ton of other diners or drinkers. I found that some of those places tend to be a little bit tucked away, and they’re harder to find. They’re on a weird side street in a downtown area, or they’re just not obvious. That’s part of it but I think what’s also important is frankly, you mentioned this at the beginning, it’s pricing. With industry people, it’s complicated. Certainly, I’ve had plenty of times in my career especially when I was younger, would I have a night where I spent almost everything I made after drinking and eating? Probably. I am not always the greatest for long-term financial outlook, but that’s part of it. You want to feel like you’re getting bang for your buck. Of course, the other big thing is you have to be open late, and you have to be open on nights when people who are in the industry might not be working, so Sunday and Monday nights. That’s when I think you see a lot of industry specials and it can be everything from cheaper drinks, cheaper food. It can be just recognition. I think for so much of it for so many people in the industry, there is a shared sense of an esprit de corps. This idea of whether you’re a bartender at the trendy cocktail bar in the city or you’re a bartender at a hotel bar or you’re a bartender at a dive bar, there are fundamental elements to that job that unites most everyone who does it. You want to hang out with those people who will understand what the job is like and why it’s fun to get together on your days off or after your shift. Mostly, to just bitch about the people you work with and the people you serve, because in my experience, that is most of what happened.
A: Hmm, interesting.
Z: I think what is interesting and I want you guys to start, then I want to come back to this question you posed which is more interesting to me: What is it in for the restaurant or bar?
A: That is what I’m curious about, mostly.
Z: I don’t want to dominate the conversation too much. Do you guys see these things and have you ever tried to go to an industry bar or restaurant on an industry night? Obviously, they don’t check IDs at the door, but it’s a weird night of the week usually.
A: Joanna, what do you think?
J: Yeah, I don’t know. I was thinking about this as well. Adam, you mentioned Runner Up opening with the intent of being an industry spot and Winner, the other restaurant, is very, very popular and is very well regarded in the city. People know about it and it’s always very crowded so I think that if you can afford to open up a second spot where it is just industry, that makes sense to me. Otherwise, I just think of other spots or restaurants in New York City that have become industry hangouts or have been known to be industry hangouts and I think they’re just very successful, popular restaurants and the ones that are hardest to get into.
A: I think it’s an interesting strategy. To be clear, with Runner Up I believe it is part of their strategy. They wanted to be a great neighborhood restaurant, too, it seems. I think when you position yourself as a place that is accessible and encourages industry to hang out, you also position your business in a really interesting way. The main example I can think of is Blue Ribbon, where it became known really early on when they opened as being open late. They were the place that people in New York City went to late at night to still have a good meal when they got off work and still have good wine. I’m not going to say it’s the only thing that’s responsible for their massive success, but I do think when you get industry people to your restaurant, you do open up a lot of connections that can be beneficial for your next restaurant. I think that the entire world is based on networking. I think what we missed during Covid was the ability to network. I think we forgot how powerful face-to-face interaction is. If you and I have had a drink together, I’m much more likely to make an introduction for you or on your behalf than if we just Zoom once in a while, right? That’s just general sales, entrepreneurship, etc. The same is true for restaurants. If the right people start coming into your restaurant who know other people, then potentially when you lose a chef, it’s a lot easier to find another chef because you have industry people coming in. I’m saying this on the part of Blue Ribbon because I think both the owners were not actually chefs, right? They were restaurateurs. I think that there is something there, and I can see it from that business angle. Otherwise, it is interesting because if you’re also an industry place, usually you’re someplace that’s affordable to people who work in the industry because we all know that people who work in the industry, sadly, don’t get paid what they’re worth. They should but a lot of times they don’t. We need to fix that, obviously, post-Covid. Therefore, you also have to be pricing things at a level where you’re able to make money, but you’re also taking care of people in the industry. Now I wonder, financially, is that as easy to do? Then, I hear from some of my friends who work in the industry that they make more money than ever on regular consumer nights. It’s a lot more money and they don’t really discount that much. They have people that come in and want to spend on really nice wine and want to order all the different dishes because they also want to take care of the staff that’s working on that industry night. I’m curious about that, Zach. When I used to go out, was that the case? Were you guys balling out?
Z: Oh, yes.
A: Zach, you have told me stories that you used to go buy multiple bottles of Champagne. I don’t do that ever, so I’m like, whoa.
J: Yeah, I think this is actually a really good point. You talked about it, Adam, as being a thing that you do for connections. It’s probably an ancillary benefit to operators to have that but I think there are other things. If you’re going to be open on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday night, those are generally pretty slow nights almost everywhere. Unless you’re really, really hot, you’re going to have a slower night. Inverting that and drawing in that industry crowd, especially on those nights and making those really appealing nights for your staff to work because they know that not only is there going to be a lot of business, but people who work in the restaurant industry are going to tip somewhere between very well and comically well. When I would work at places that had those things, those shifts were often the most in demand. People wanted to work Sunday and Monday night because that’s when they would make the most money. The same is maybe true for the restaurant, but even if they’re making equivalent to what they’re making on a Saturday night, obviously that’s a big win if you could do that on a Monday or Tuesday, but also you can just keep your staff happier with that. I also think that part of it is that I often felt that even in places where there wasn’t necessarily a big money night, and even having that crowd in your restaurant — industry people have their issues for sure, but generally speaking, it’s not bad for the restaurant for guests who may be normal diners or drinkers to see those people ordering the third bottle of wine and having a very good time. It creates an environment. We always used to talk in restaurants where you get that first bottle of wine on the table somewhere and everyone else sees it and they go, “Oh, we should have a bottle of wine.” Again, it sets a tone and vibe. Oh, Antica Bottega is the restaurant in Verona that you were talking about way, way before.
A: Yeah, yeah.
Z: That’s essentially an industry hang that most people travel across the ocean to get to, but you go in there and there are bottles everywhere and you would never think of walking in there thinking just to have some water tonight. You wouldn’t go there for that and obviously, that’s an extreme example. That environment and atmosphere helps set the tone for anyone who might just happen to be in Verona and wander in there, they’re going to get very quickly what it’s about. Being an industry hang has that same vibe, frankly, and can help set the tone for a restaurant or a bar either every day or the minimum on those nights that they’re really trying to bring that crowd in. I want to ask Joanna a question and you too, Adam, because I got to this before, but is the term industry hang intimidating or exciting?
J: I think for people outside of the industry, it sounds intimidating and exclusive, but I think in the industry, people probably don’t think anything of it.
Z: But for you, personally, if I were to say, “Hey, I’m in New York visiting, let’s go to this place, I hear it’s a great industry hangout.” Would you say, “I don’t want to go there, am I intruding?”
J: I’d be curious to go there now where I am professionally to see if there are people to have access to or could see what it’s like. But otherwise, it would feel intimidating to me.
A: It’s really interesting that Joanna brings this up, because I 100 percent agree with her. I think as we talk about this now a little bit earlier, too, but I’m curious if Joanna feels the same way I do about this. I’m going to get on the therapy couch for a second.
Z: OK, let’s do it.
A: As journalists, we always feel like we’re posing because we cover the industry and we know it really well, but we know the part of the industry we cover. For example, on Saturday night, I was hanging out with some people in the industry who I know because I had written about them and now one of them has become a friend of mine. They’re talking about wines that they all know because they see these wines via the books that come through and that they taste. I never heard of any of them. They are talking about these wines like they are ubiquitous wines in the New York scene. I think they are but for a certain kind of restaurant that gets to see a certain book and probably even shares wine reps because certain wine reps call on a certain kind of restaurant. I felt like a poser, and that’s where the restaurant industry or shop or whatever can be intimidating. I don’t know, I get that there are certain things or industry “handshakes.” One of the things we wrote about two weeks ago is how the Snaquiri has become an industry handshake where if you’re a bartender and you order a Snaquiri is basically Daiquiri shots that people will order for each other at the bar. It’s a handshake to show you’re a member of the industry. Would I ever order that? No fucking way. I’ve never been behind the stick in my life. I think it’s cool and I’m glad to know about it. If I saw someone else do it, cool. They probably both actually work behind the bar. Now if I did, I’m posing here. Then, I’d have to get this whole conversation about, “Oh, well, I work at VinePair.” We’d talk about VinePair, and I’m sure that they would be super nice to me, but if they ever asked me if I’d ever bartended before, I say no. I think that that’s something that is interesting about that it should be a thing for the industry. Therefore, I don’t think it is so appealing to consumers because of those things, or maybe Joanna and I just feel very similar.
J: Yeah, I’ve seen enough journalists try to sidle up to chefs or bartenders, and it just seems so awkward.
J: You just don’t want to be that person.
A: Right, I don’t want to pretend that I do your career. I don’t do your career. I’m a writer and you make amazing drinks or make amazing wine. We both do different things where we circle each other, right? We’re in the same orbit, but I don’t want to ever be thought of as someone that can make a great drink. I would much rather you make me the drink. When I went to Runner Up, they’d ask me what I wanted to drink. I said, “Whatever you guys want to drink, I don’t want to order anything off this fucking list. I don’t want to choose the wine. You are the experts, and I write about it. I love writing about it, but I am not an expert. Please, dear God, for my anxiety, choose the wine.”
Z: I’ve gone to bars, too, that were hangouts for other industries and not the restaurant industry. There was a bar I used to go to a lot that definitely had a restaurant industry hang vibe to it, but it was actually very close to several of the big theaters in Seattle and a ton of theater people came in on their shifts. I loved that, and I’ve always enjoyed the theater. It was cool because you could overhear things and eventually become a regular. Then, you get to know other regulars and talk to them about what their life is like and performing and all that. It was super cool. However, it was also true that I wasn’t going to pretend that because I was in some high school plays, that I know shit about theater. That’s just not me, so I think that there’s a way in which these spaces can be both exclusive, as you mentioned, or at least intimidating. Once I had a kid, my late-night hangs diminished in frequency and intensity quite a bit. I think that inevitably you would, you go somewhere and there would be people there who weren’t in the restaurant industry, who had ended up there for whatever set reasons, including sometimes that they heard it was an industry hang and they liked the vibe or they enjoyed the thought of drinking somewhere on a Monday night that wasn’t empty. The cool thing is we take along whoever happens to be there with us. If you end up in a bar or restaurant on one of those nights, you’re going to be part of the fun, whether you intend to be or not.
A: Yeah, that’s true. Look, when I’ve been invited, it’s always fun to be part of the fun.
Z: You may be doing shots at 1:00 a.m. on a Monday night and depending on your Tuesday plans, that might be a problem, but it’s fun at the moment.
A: I always get to discover cocktails, wines, and beers I’ve never had before, which is really cool.
Z: If you’re hung over in the edit meeting the next day, at least you can say you were doing research.
Z: Not that it has happened, I’m sure.
A: Never. At least, not to Joanna or I. Maybe other people.
Z: You don’t have to name names.
A: No, we’re not going to. Anyways, I think that the idea of the industry bar or the industry hang is super cool and I’m hoping that it sticks around even post-Covid, but it seems like it is. It’s such a great example of a robust industry when there are places and people get to go out and they’re excited. I think it’s such a cool thing that really is so unique to the bar and restaurant industry that hopefully it sticks around. If you do find yourself at one, just try to blend in and let them take the lead.
Z: I want to hear from our listeners who have their favorite industry hangs of what they are.
A: Me too.
Z: Email us at [email protected]. I think one thing maybe we can do at some point highlight some of these, because it’s such a cool thing to see the breadth and diversity of what becomes industry hangs in different places, whether it’s in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, L.A., or smaller communities. It’s so interesting to see, because sometimes it’s not places you would think. I mean sometimes it’s an intentional thing that’s cultivated by the restaurant or bar, and sometimes it just happens organically, and that’s super cool.
A: I agree. Let us know, it’ll be so awesome to hear.
A: Cool, guys. This has been a great conversation, yet again. Joanna and Zach, we’ll talk next week.
A: Yes, talk to you then.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, then please give us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and in Seattle, Wash., by myself and Zach Geballe. He does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all this possible and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team who is instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.