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Chicago Bistro Dumps Bulleit Bourbon Over Claims Of Homophobia

By Patty Wetli | August 29, 2017 9:16am
 The bistro is depleting its Bulleit supply after Hollis Bulleit said she was fired for being a lesbian.
The bistro is depleting its Bulleit supply after Hollis Bulleit said she was fired for being a lesbian.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE — Bistro Campagne is wearing its social conscience on its menu, dumping Bulleit Bourbon from its spirits list after learning of claims by Hollis Bulleit that she was fired from her family's business for being a lesbian.

"We can't support this brand," said Todd Feinberg, general manager of Bistro Campagne, 4518 N. Lincoln Ave.

Hollis Bulleit's allegations, detailed in a recent Washington Post article, were brought to Feinberg's attention by the restaurant's front-of-house manager.

Acknowledging that Bulleit's assertions — which have been disputed by the distiller's parent company, Diageo — amount to "he said, she said," Feinberg said he opted to err on the side of caution.

As an ambassador of the spirit, Hollis created Bulleit's "hipster cache" and was one of the few women brand representatives in the industry, Feinberg said.

"Hollis was a big name, Hollis was a big personality," he said.

"I can't in good conscience support a product that even has this possibility" of discrimination, Feinberg said.

Once the decision was made to ban Bulleit (the bistro picked up Elijah Craig as a substitute), the question became what to do with the restaurant's three bottles of the bourbon in stock, a roughly two-month supply.

The solution: To pour through Bistro Campagne's Bulleit stash, head mixologist Alex Uribe invented "The Pride & Prejudice" cocktail, making use of the remaining bourbon. Proceeds from sales of the drink will be donated to Lakeview's Center on Halsted, which serves Chicago's LGBTQ community.

"We created the cocktail to tell the story. It gave us an opportunity to spread the word," Feinberg said.

Just days after announcing its stance on Bulleit, Bistro Campagne had sold so many of the cocktails, only a half bottle of the bourbon is left, he said.

Feinberg estimates the donation to Center on Halsted will amount to $400 to $500.

"It's the power of the purse," he said. "If you want to change the way people treat employees ... we as citizens have to take a stand.

Bistro Campagne is no stranger to promoting social justice, having been an early backer of the Sanctuary Restaurants movement, which preaches "zero tolerance for sexism, racism, and xenophobia" among both customers and staff.

"Michael Altenberg created this restaurant with a social conscience," Feinberg said of Bistro Campagne's late founder. "That's philosophically where this restaurant is at."