An Open Letter to the Bar and Spirits Community

Posted on: Oct. 06, 2017 | | By: Melissa Young

To our friends and colleagues:

Many of you may know me from our interactions during the last 10 years. For others, I am Melissa Young, the new president of Tales of the Cocktail, and thereby, president of MOJO911, LLC, the event management company that produces Tales of the Cocktail and its affiliated events. This past year, I have overseen the logistics and implementation of more than 300 Tales of the Cocktail events. If you’ve ever been to Tales, you know that is no easy task. I joined Tales of the Cocktail as an intern in 2007, and have been a key contributor in helping to grow the event to where it is today.

The events of the past weeks and months have greatly affected everyone connected with Tales of the Cocktail, including myself and the rest of us who have run our events year after year. A number of mistakes were made, which will take great effort to overcome. We have heard from many of you with questions you have about our future and questions about how Tales will be different moving forward. We have also spent time working through a great deal of gossip and misinformation that we have tried to correct.

We know there is work for us to do in learning from this situation. I assure you that our team is committed to doing this work.

The future of Tales of the Cocktail cannot be what we envision without an inclusive group. We have a responsibility to continue the programming and opportunities for professionals from every corner of our industry. Colin Asare-Appiah’s resignation followed by the responses of the Diversity Council demonstrate the autonomy of this council. Everyone at Tales now and going forward welcome insight from the Diversity Council. We support the independence of this Council and seeing it take significant steps forward in a way that is authentic and positive. If the council is amenable to the idea, we would like Tales of the Cocktail and our other events to be venues for these conversations, as it was meant to be.

I believe that we can make a positive difference right now by moving beyond the gossip and misinformation that has appeared in some places. The decision made by some to distribute and then delete a letter that contained a number of factually incorrect items has created divisiveness and speculation that is only delaying a transition to a more open and accessible organization.

The success of Tales of the Cocktail and all of the events and gatherings during the last 15 years is because of the people who are the fabric of the spirits community, first in the U.S. and now across the globe. The community has come together through Tales of the Cocktail. Professionals have advanced their careers to become the best in the field, and others have embraced entrepreneurship. These experiences are at the core of Tales of the Cocktail, and we are committed to deepening our relationships with everyone who makes Tales of the Cocktail so special. Most importantly, we need your support and partnership to move forward, because building on the positive foundation of the last 15 years is the best path forward for this community, for the conversations we need to have and for New Orleans.

I know questions remain.

When Ann and Paul Tuennerman announced their departure from MOJO, they stated that their goal was to create something lasting that will benefit the industry and the people of New Orleans well beyond their years. They are not part of the daily activities of MOJO or any of the events we manage. Ann and Paul are moving as quickly as possible and would like to complete the transfer of ownership before the end of the year.

Discussions are underway about restructuring the board of the New Orleans Culinary and Cocktail Preservation Society and how we can improve inclusiveness within this organization. Ann and Paul Tuennerman are not involved with the board. Other than an Operating and Licensing Agreement to produce over 300 events connected to Tales of the Cocktail, and central to fulfilling the mission of NOCCPS, there is no connection between NOCCPS and MOJO.

From a financial perspective, we understand the importance of being responsible financial stewards of the resources invested in us. We will always take the steps needed to ensure the financial accountability of this organization. Both NOCCPS and MOJO were audited independently by the Internal Revenue Service. The relationship between NOCCPS and MOJO was reviewed. The outcome of the NOCCPS audit included a small number of recommendations from the IRS, which were implemented immediately. The audit of MOJO was completed by the IRS with a “no change” response, requiring no further action.

Currently, you can access the tax filings by the NOCCPS, including the organization’s 2016 990 filing that was submitted to the IRS in September, through publicly available government records. In addition, we have made available the letter from the IRS following the independent audit of NOCCPS. Finally, we have released a financial fact sheet to clarify the misinformation that was falsely perpetuated last week.

There are some financial questions we may not be able to answer for understandable reasons. MOJO is a private company owned by Ann and Paul Tuennerman. The potential sale of MOJO is a private transaction between the Tuennermans and the interested party or parties. Because of this, the Tuennermans cannot release financial information about the value of the business or its financials beyond the interested party or parties, so that it does not slow or prevent a potential sale.

That being said, neither Ann nor Paul Tuennerman have a stake in any organization, subcontractor, or program receiving funds from NOCCPS, other than MOJO.

Regarding the mission of the NOCCPS and how the organization has fulfilled its mission, the NOCCPS is an educational not-for-profit that is committed to promoting the culinary and cocktail heritage of New Orleans, around the world. Every event and program that is presented throughout the year helps fulfill that mission. The professional development and apprentice programs under the NOCCPS banner fulfill that mission. The NOCCPS board of directors – at various times – have identified needs and opportunities that are in addition to these primary activities. The board has chosen to make grants and provide financial assistance in times of need and crisis.

Tales of the Cocktail is moving forward. We are proud to have the Hotel Monteleone as our partner once again in 2018, and are moving forward with our 2018 dates: July 17-22. The foundation for making a genuine, positive difference in the industry is here, because you have made Tales of the Cocktail what it is in the best ways. We need your help and participation to do this the right way and to make your Tales of the Cocktail better.

Like you, I have dedicated my career to the spirits community through my work during these past 10 years. I believe in Tales of the Cocktail and the people who make it special. We know that we have a lot of work to do to rebuild the confidence and trust that you have placed in us. We are committed to doing that work.

In the coming weeks, we will reach out to you to gather your feedback about the vision for Tales of the Cocktail’s next chapter. Please click here to provide us with feedback in regard to what you think would improve our events and our online presence as well. We expect to hear a number of perspectives and we will be ready for that conversation.

As I’ve been in the trenches working to ensure the operations of our events run smoothly all these years, I’ve yet to meet many of you. That is about to change. I look forward to getting to know you and gaining a better understanding of your needs and how Tales of the Cocktail can help meet those needs. In short, we are committed to serving you. Thank you for your support of Tales of the Cocktail and being a part of our future.


Melissa Young

President, Tales of the Cocktail

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