It was 100 years ago that the U.S. went dry and adopted nationwide Prohibition on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. Did anyone really think shutting down the nation’s fifth-largest industry overnight would be easy? Cincinnati showed just how complicated the process was going to be.
Exhibit A was an attic in the old Government Building, filled with an estimated $10,000 worth of confiscated booze, most of it squirreled away in traveling cases toted by salesmen hoping to reward big customers or to make a lucrative sale to Queen City speakeasies. The booze was evidence and stored to be produced in court, but after conviction and sentencing, what to do with it? It couldn’t be sold or given away for consumption, so federal agents dumped it all into the Ohio River. Middletown cops dumped several cases of contraband into the Great Miami River.
A couple of weeks after Prohibition landed, the Cincinnati Brewers Board of Trade decided that it might be necessary to change their name. To announce that you were brewing anything was to confess to a federal crime. The organization settled on Cereal Beverage Manufacturers Association, but only after announcing that they held out hope the law would soon allow the brewing of 2.75 percent beer. Alas, it was not to be. The association dissolved in the late 1920s.
The Enquirer [January 24, 1920] wondered if it was necessary to change surnames:
“There are a lot of men named Beer in this country. Will they have to change their name under the Volstead Act?”
Insurance companies revised their application forms, because some of the questions accused prospective customers of engaging in criminal acts. According to The Cincinnati Post [May 14, 1920]:
“For instance, right near the beginning, the doctor asks: ‘Are you now connected in any way with the manufacture or sale of malt liquors, wines or whisky?’ Of course you are not a bootlegger and if you are does he think you could be fool enough to say so?”
The dry forces targeted their attention on liquid beverages like whiskey and beer and forgot that alcohol shows up in all sorts of things, like bakery goods. According to The Post [July 22, 1920], this oversight could have led to some bizarre activities:
“Fruit-cake jags and mince-pie sprees may become popular in some quarters as the result of a ruling by federal prohibition officials which permits use of small quantities of intoxicating liquors in manufacture of food products.”
With an indeterminate dry spell spreading out before them, Cincinnati drinkers thought up all sorts of hare-brained ideas for finding a little whiskey, like raiding cornerstones. According to The Post [January 16, 1920]:
“Corner-stones in Cincinnati buildings have attracted an interest traceable to prohibition. Recollection of a reported custom in the ‘good old days’ of putting a quart of good booze in some corner-stones along with newspapers, coins, stamps and other things is the reason. But diligent search so far has failed to uncover any clew. There are plenty of corner-stones, but the owners of the buildings all deny there is any liquor in them.”
Prohibition included a medical exemption, allowing doctors to prescribe medicinal whiskey for their patients. Suddenly, in 1920, so many patients developed infirmities requiring daily doses of liquor that doctors found themselves pressured to prescribe, if only to hang on to their patients. Within a couple of months, many doctors surrendered their permits because they found they were attracting an “undesirable” class of patients.
American shipping lines faced a serious competitive edge among foreign lines that served alcoholic beverages to passengers. “Who would go to sea on a dry ship when he can get a wet one,” asked the President of the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Bootlegging was everywhere. The Enquirer [February 18, 1920] bemoaned the rampant lawlessness in a supposedly dry country:
“Fierce pursuit of the vice of male gregariousness is being indulged in by the crime masters of the saloon-less cities of Ohio. Wickedness has left the overthrown fanes of Bacchus, Gambrinus and Barleycorn and has sought refuge in coffee parlors, poolrooms and taxi cabs, the last named being euphoniously known as ‘jitneys.’”
The federal budget allocated for enforcement of the dry law was pitiful, a reminder that, before Prohibition, taxes on beer and whiskey made up as much as one third of the U.S. treasury. One enforcement officer in Covington just threw up his hands, according to The Post [June 21, 1921]:
“Asserting lack of assistants makes him powerless to cope with the liquor situation in his territory, Harry Klaine, chief district prohibition agent in Northern Kentucky, closed his office in Covington Federal Building Wednesday. Having been granted indefinite leave of absence, Klaine will not attempt to enforce prohibition laws until sufficient aides have been provided.”
During Prohibition, it seemed like everything had alcohol in it. Food expert William Glendenin, addressing the National Kraut Packers 1925 meeting in Cincinnati, claimed—undoubtedly tongue in cheek—that a new drink called the Cincinnati Cocktail was gaining favor:
“It consists of a wine glass full of sauer kraut juice with a bit of ice. No alcohol is added. My authority for saying there is 0.72 per cent alcohol in sauer kraut is the chemical department of the University of Wisconsin.”
Hyde Park is home to some of the snazziest houses in the city. For example, these three Carl Strauss masterpieces and this historic Observatory mansion. You can add this five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath brick traditional on Rookwood to the list. Loads of updates are sprinkled throughout the home making this a dream for any family.
The lavish entry hall features a grand staircase and plenty of room for a sitting area. There’s hardwood throughout the first floor, including in the formal living room, which boasts one of the home’s five (!) working (!) fireplaces and intricate twin chandeliers. Twin French doors lead to the sunroom, a dreamy oasis. The tiled room is surrounded with windows that draw in light, making it the ultimate spot for houseplants or just a peaceful spot to hang out. Off the sunroom, there’s a massive L-shaped patio atop the (three-car) garage, overlooking the driveway and front yard. Also on the first floor: the family room offers loads of shelving and cabinets for storage; the formal dining room holds another working fireplace; and the gourmet kitchen features warm tones with light wood cabinets, brown tile, and cream wallpaper.
Upstairs, the master suite is complete with a fireplace in the bedroom and a spa-like bath—think soaking tub, double vanity, glass-encased shower, and marble tile. The rest of the second floor bedrooms are oversized and carpeted, and there are two additional full baths, both with showers similar to the master.
The lower level is just as impressive as the main floor. Immediately at the bottom of the steps is an area with coated concrete flooring and a wet bar with two drink fridges, cabinets for storage, and a sink. Around the corner, the family-slash-entertainment room area includes a stone fireplace and more built-in shelving and cabinets. And if this specially designated entertainment area downstairs isn’t enough, there’s a playground of every kid’s dream outside. The full-size tennis court doubles as a half basketball court is enclosed with a fence and spotlight for games after dusk. While the big kids are busy over here, the littles can enjoy the swing set on the other side of the house, while you keep an eye out from the patio. And that makes everybody happy.
Click through our gallery to view more photos of this home:
Whether you’re commemorating an anniversary or simply toasting to a successful day at work, Jaume Serra Cristalino’s signature sparkling wine is here to celebrate anything! Something to celebrate the entire month of June is LGBTQ Pride Month, honoring the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan in 1969. Although this year’s festivities look a little different due to COVID-19, Cincinnati residents are finding creative ways celebrate Pride this year. Here’s how four prominent community members plan on celebrating:
Michael Cotrell, Cincinnati Pride Board of Directors President
“Typically, it’s a working holiday. I’ve been a President of the Board of Directors of Cincinnati Pride for six years. It’s always a working holiday for all of us. [This year,] we are planning different activities with different bars throughout the month of June. The weekend we would typically have Pride, we are going to [host] drag shows at the cabaret, brunch that Sunday, and then we are going to do a tea dance. We want to keep the celebration going. We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get out and celebrate. It’s a celebration for the LGBTQ community. It’s a time for them to be out and be who they want to be in all their glorious self.”
“I will probably be staying home more this Pride month and transferring that energy I would usually give in person, online. Usually Pride and the Pride Parade can give kids that real, tangible representation of who they can be. Because of quarantine, so much of our lives has been connecting with each other through technology. A couple of my friends have been hosting Zoom dance parties for queer women. [I’ll] probably post things during pride month, sharing my story and the ways that I’ve been able to cope. Being in the Midwest, that voice isn’t always heard. We hear from the coast, L.A., and New York. It’s important to be heard here.”
“A tea dance! Tea dances date back to the 1950s, when it was illegal to serve gay people alcohol and it was illegal for them to dance in public. Tea Dances went underground so that LGBTQ people could meet, go on a date, dance, and drink. But they were vulnerable to arrest. We’ve come a long way since then, and I’ve been organizing Tea dances in Cincinnati for three years now. I think it’s very fitting that we are able to put on a Pride Tea Dance to celebrate our journey and ground us where we’ve come from while reminding us of the struggles we still face. That’s the basis of the Pride movement and Tea Dances are one important part of gay history.”
“We have lots in store to celebrate Pride this year! We are encouraging our Northern Kentucky communities to participate in our NKY Porch Pride social media campaign, by decorating their porches, patios, windows, or anywhere they feel comfortable. I’m looking forward to decorating our porch and seeing all the signs of support from across our region for our LGBTQA community. I hope our LGBTQA youth are encouraged by the increased rainbows as well.”
How are you celebrating? Regardless of your Pride plans, we suggest picking up a bottle of Cristalino at your local Kroger to celebrate all the big events and little wins!
Five years ago this month, Jim Obergefell and Al Gerhardstein stood at the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a 5–4 ruling announced in their favor in Obergefell vs. Hodges, which in essence legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S. Civil rights attorney Gerhardstein had represented Obergefell since 2013, when he sued the state of Ohio to challenge its same-sex marriage ban, which prevented Obergefell from being listed as “spouse” on his late husband’s death certificate.
He and John Arthur, who had been together for 20 years, were married on an airport runway in Maryland as Arthur was dying from a long-term illness, because that state allowed same-sex marriages. After the couple returned to their Over-the-Rhine home, Obergefell sued the state of Ohio, asking to be listed as spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. A judge granted a temporary restraining order, forcing Ohio to do so, and later issuing a final ruling recognizing the validity of their Maryland marriage certificate. Ohio appealed, the plaintiffs lost in the Sixth District Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court took up the case, eventually ruling that states must recognize all marriages lawfully performed in other states.
Recently, Cincinnati Magazine organized a roundtable discussion via Zoom to exchange thoughts about how that landmark ruling impacted Cincinnati’s LBGTQ community, which legal issues need to be resolved next, and what challenges lie ahead for the next generation of activists. Obergefell (from his home in Columbus) and Gerhardstein were joined by three Cincinnati area high school seniors who are active in their schools’ Gay/Straight Alliances (GSAs) and with the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Kathy Laufman, a 25-year volunteer with GLSEN, rounded out the conversation.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Isabella Guinigundo, 18, Bishop Fenwick High School: I’m president of Young Activists Coalition in Cincinnati, and we do advocacy work around progressive issues, including LGBTQ education and support. I’ll be attending Ohio State in the fall to major in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.
Jillian Teeters, 18, Mariemont High School: I serve on the Young Activists Coalition as well and on GLSEN’s SHINE student leadership council. I’ve been a co-president of my high school’s GSA, which we call Mariemont Pride+, for four years. I’ll be attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to study biology on a pre-med track.
Soren Spitzig, 18, Norwood High School: I help run our school’s GSA, and I also serve on GLSEN’s SHINE leadership council. I’m planning to attend the University of Cincinnati in the fall for fine arts.
Kathy Laufman, 77: I volunteer with GLSEN, which works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment. I have a passion for providing youth with safe spaces where they can be themselves and thrive.
Jim Obergefell, 53: I sort of became shorthand for “marriage equality” thanks to Al’s amazing legal work and my love for my late husband. I now speak in a lot of higher education, corporate, and conference settings, and I’m on the board of SAGE, which advocates for LGBTQ older Americans.
Al Gerhardstein, 68: I have been working on gay rights issues since the late 1970s. We won very few of those legal cases until Jim’s case, but we worked hard. It was pretty lopsided against us for a long time. But we represented the right cause, and we helped change the legal norms. There is still much work to be done, and I’m glad to see young people involved because we haven’t cleared the deck of all the challenges by any means.
Why did you undertake that journey to the Supreme Court?
Obergefell: People ask me all the time if I was overwhelmed with negative feedback and people coming at me in public during the lawsuit period, but it didn’t happen. To me the big challenge was losing John and continuing to fight this legal battle while I was going through a grieving process. But it was simply the right thing to do. I just had to keep fighting for John and our marriage, and Al made that easy.
Gerhardstein: You don’t use the law for social change easily. The law is basically geared toward reaffirming the norms that oppressed people for years. I try to seize moments when we can assert our founding values and challenge the powers that be to see where they’ve gone wrong and use the law to push society in the correct direction. That usually means finding a crisis.
When my friends told me about Jim and John getting married in Maryland just so they could be married, with John dying, I knew Ohio wasn’t going to recognize the marriage after they got back home. When I met Jim and John, I told them I could file for a temporary restraining order recognizing the marriage on John’s death certificate, so he could have peace of mind from knowing it would say they were married and that Jim was his official husband. We got Ohio’s marriage law to match the federal law, and the appeals for that case went on to be combined with some from other states to reach the Supreme Court.
How has the Supreme Court ruling resonated with young LBGTQ people today?
Teeters: Five years ago, I was still in a state of denial. I was passionate about the case and knew its importance to the LGBTQ community, but I hadn’t recognized myself to be a part of it. Seeing the Supreme Court uphold the rights of LGBTQ people brought me hope and brought me one step closer to coming out to myself and to the world.
Guinigundo: Five years ago I was in a very different place in my life. I knew I was queer, but I was not out. In fact, I was terrified of it. The weekend of the Supreme Court ruling, I happened to be at a Christian Scouting conference. But that ruling helped drastically change the way I saw myself and the way I imagined my life could end up. It gave me hope that, even with these awful feelings happening around me, I had a path to growing up to become a real person—I didn’t have to hide who I was.
Spitzig: In 2015, I had no idea the case was going on until the ruling was announced and everyone was talking about it. Even though I was 13, it was comforting to know that I had the right to get married like anyone else would. As I got older, my focus turned to fighting discrimination against LGBTQ people, especially trans people. It’s important to educate about trans people and the struggles we face and how you can treat the trans people you meet in your daily life better.
Laufman: Today’s educators often bravely support their LGBTQ students, but I must speak up for parents. Before the Supreme Court ruling, I met some amazing “mama bears” fighting for their children’s rights, but they didn’t know each other and didn’t feel supported. Since then we’ve had an explosion of highly visible parents advocating for their children. This is particularly true of parents of trans youth, and I attribute a lot of that to the Transgender Health Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where those parents have found a place to come together and learn from each other. They’re especially visible at school board meetings asking for student’s rights and safe spaces for their children.
What issues are young people focused on today?
Teeters: The importance of civil rights is definitely on the back burner of much of America’s mind. But people of color, the disabled community, immigrants and undocumented people, and LGBTQ people are still very much in the throes of fighting for civil rights. When we do talk about LGBTQ struggles in class, we often refer to them as “others” and the teacher will say, LGBTQ are fighting for this and that—but you’re talking about me, and I’m in the room.
Guinigundo: I go to a Catholic high school, which comes with challenges. We aren’t allowed to have a Gay/Straight Alliance, for instance. I think a lot about how we’re protecting people of color, especially trans women of color. There’s unfortunately a high rate of murder, suicide, and health issues in that segment of the community, and the greater population doesn’t know as much about those issues as they do adoption, marriage, or gender identity. There’s no big moment in this struggle like we had with the Supreme Court ruling, so I’m often wondering how to better raise awareness.
If there isn’t legal protection, then no matter how progressive your environment is or your school is you’re not truly protected.
Spitzig: The legal issues are important to me and my peers because a lot of us feel that if there isn’t legal protection, then no matter how progressive your environment is or your school is you’re not truly protected. The adults in our lives are supposed to keep us safe, so when they come up short we see where the laws are lacking. We’re focused on advocacy and education more than legislation.
Laufman: These young people and others are taking their fight to the schools, too. For transgender youth, the bathroom issue is a tough fight, as is the fight about sports participation.
Teeters: At my public school, we get no LGBTQ history in our history classes, including AP U.S. History. We don’t have inclusive sex ed in any way. In my sex ed class I was told that LGBTQ people exist and their sexual experiences are different, but we’re not going to talk about it. That’s just not a good way to prepare young people for life. Since I want to go into the medical field, it’s important to me that people have adequate knowledge about how to take care of their bodies and stay healthy. We need better information in high school, in medical schools, for nurses, and for pediatricians so LGBTQ kids can feel included, supported, and valued.
Obergefell: There’s no similarity whatsoever between my high school experience and these three. I was afraid of being gay then, because I had no role models. I didn’t know anyone who was gay, so for me being gay was shameful and bad. Then the AIDS crisis hit, which made it even scarier. In college I thought, If I kiss this boy, I’m going to die. I thought it was a death sentence. I’m so thankful and happy that high school kids today are experiencing something vastly different. The fact that there are GSAs and out students of all orientations and teachers are out and proud, it’s like an entirely different world.
Is there a sense that LBGTQ activists have relaxed since the Supreme Court ruling and that the fight for equal rights is done?
Obergefell: Back in 2015, there was certainly a feeling of victory. A state equality organization in New York closed down because they said, We won, there’s nothing else to do. I never really felt it, because my experience in the legal system opened my eyes to the reality that there was still so much risk to people. And right after the Supreme Court decision, you had Kim Davis in Kentucky and the state of Alabama fighting against it. Today Tennessee is trying to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. I have to admit that that day at the Supreme Court was the first day I felt as an out gay man I was an equal American, but there was an asterisk with that feeling—I still knew that I wasn’t fully equal.
The backlash has been terrible. This whole religious refusal argument gives public businesses and healthcare professionals the ability to say, No, I refuse to serve you or help you, even though you’re dying, because my vague deeply held religious beliefs are more important than you. We should have a nationwide ban on conversion therapy. We’re far from done. There’s so much more to do.
When I look at life today for 18-year-olds versus when I was 18, yes, life is vastly different. Marriage was only a step toward full equality. It certainly wasn’t the end. People who thought it was were honestly fooling themselves.
Gerhardstein: One of the big issues we were litigating with Jim’s case was whether this decision should be in the courts at all. One of the reasons we lost in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is that two of the three judges felt we should leave the marriage equality decision up to the voters. But having to raise money to get a ballot initiative voted on in order to overturn the Ohio Constitution’s proclamation that marriage is between a man and a woman is ridiculous. That’s not the way to protect people’s fundamental rights. So there’s still this debate going on about whether we should let these issues be decided by politics, which can be very divisive and don’t really protect those on the margins of power, or agree that these are fundamental rights of equality and go ahead and permit courts the ability to finish the work that’s been started.
One of the main problems we need to fix in the courts is this religious exception that Jim brought up. Some people are asserting opposition to treating people equally claiming a basis in religion, and that’s not what the First Amendment was designed to promote or what our anti-discrimination laws were designed to promote. It’s shocking to me that it’s been tolerated to the level it’s been. We solved those problems back in the 1960s and ’70s when people tried to object to interracial marriage on religious grounds. As a society we balanced all of those issues to address that, and now we’re bending those laws and that precedent to allow people to use religious grounds to discriminate against LGBTQ people. That’s just wrong.
Why are you a leader in today’s LGBTQ movement?
Spitzig: Having parents who were accepting and who were advocates for LGBTQ issues helped a lot. But one of the main reasons I became outspoken is because I didn’t see many other people doing it, especially around trans rights. So I felt that if I was going to see change I was going to have to push for it myself and get other people to show up with me. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. There will always be people who disagree, but the work that you’re doing for other people as an activist is so rewarding that any opposition you face isn’t important.
Guinigundo: I was the nerdy middleschooler who read feminist theory and queer theory, so I got involved at the beginning on the academic side. There’s a lot of talk in the LGBTQ community about the “chosen family,” the people you find who are like you and who feel like home. Well, I had this group of people who I loved and wanted to fight for, so I stepped up. Some days you turn on the news and hear a politician saying that you’re not human and you cry, because you have these young people who look up to you and you want to hug them and tell them it’s all going to be OK. And there are moments when you have hope, maybe an event put on by GLSEN where you go and be yourself together. It’s a mixed bag.
Teeters: My family taught me that there aren’t bad people, there are just bad decisions. So I’ve always thought that when people are being homophobic, racist, sexist, and generally disrespectful, it truly comes from a place of misinformation. And a lot of times that attitude can be altered if you have a one-on-one conversation with them and create a relationship with them. But not everyone is in a position to do that, and maybe they’re not in a household where that’s safe for them. But I’m lucky to live in a household with parents and a sibling who are amazingly supportive of me, so I take every opportunity I can to create those relationships.
Obergefell: I never wanted to be someone who people recognized or a public person, but I’m OK with it because I think about what the world has gained by me being a public person and taking this fight to the Supreme Court. I’ve never once regretted it. It actually surprises people when I have speaking engagements, they’ll tell me, When you’re done you can go, we’ll sneak you out a side door, and my response is always, Absolutely not. If someone wants to stand in line to wait to talk with me, I couldn’t live with myself if I walked away. The gifts I’ve gotten by becoming this public person are so amazingly worthwhile. I feel so fortunate to have the life I have now, because it was all based on love.
I really believe that so much of the anger, hatred, and push to deny equal rights to LGBTQ people or any minority group or effort to treat them as “less than human” are doomed. I love that this younger generation doesn’t see differences the way that previous generations did and do. A lot of our elected officials are old and stuck in their ways and see things differently, but our country has bright days ahead.
Gerhardstein: I sense in these three young people a real love for community, friends, and family. Of course, with Jim and John they were also working from a strong loving relationship. I only got to know John for a few months, but I am so clear that he’s proud of Jim for how Jim carried on after his death. This whole movement is and should be based on love, and that will carry us forward and will help us make everything right.
Happy Pride Month! On this month’s podcast, we take a deep dive behind our Pride issue, in which we highlight local LGBTQ leaders, including Jim Obergefell, whose landmark Supreme Court victory legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. five years ago. Plus, we discuss Cincinnati’s newest councilmembers and a profile on a local man who turned his life around after serving a 21-year prison sentence.
With residents across the region staying at home in compliance with recommendations to self-quarantine, feelings of boredom and loneliness have spread across the tri-state as fast as any virus. In response to a growing sense of disconnectedness, one Northern Kentucky University student is using photography to bring people together.
Adil Akhtar spent his time in isolation developing a photo project dubbed “Staying Safe,” which features a series of portraits showcasing Cincinnatians’ everyday quarantine experiences. The 21-year-old Newport native captured his subjects through their windows, under their doorways, on their front porches, and in their backyards, all while following social distancing guidelines.
The project is a personal extension of Akhtar’s career as an aspiring photojournalist, which he is working toward as a fifth-year student in NKU’s studio arts program. His love of photography started in high school, during which he says he used a basic point-and-shoot camera to document dirt bike races. After more formal training, he began shooting on film and taking portraits of friends skateboarding. “I didn’t have a skateboard at the time, so my contribution was bringing a camera,” he says. “Ever since then, I’ve gotten more and more into it.”
Like most other college students, Akhtar’s education has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. He says he was devastated when schools began to close in mid-March because it meant he would no longer be able to participate in hands-on studio courses. The silver lining was that the flexibility of at-home schooling allowed him more time to launch his “Staying Safe” project. “I realized this was the perfect opportunity to make my mark,” he says.
To find subjects for his project, Akhtar used social media to seek out volunteers that would give consent to being photographed at home. He ended up with a diverse group of participants from across the Cincinnati area, including many living in Northern Kentucky and NKU’s dorms. “The majority of photos I took involved the person saying, Hey, you’re the first person I’ve seen since all of this, almost like we were hanging out.”
Ultimately, Akhtar feels that his project succeeds in illustrating the idea of togetherness. “I wanted to get across that we’re in this together,” he says. “The whole point of my portraits was correlating people’s houses and their personalities with what someone is doing during COVID-19. There really wasn’t one scene that was made by me.”
Click through our gallery to view the rest of Akhtar’s photo series:
Cincinnati has been buying wine from Michael Maxwell for more than two decades. The longtime Newport resident spent six years at The Party Source in Newport before opening his own shop at Findlay Market in 2008. Market Wines is both a retail outlet and a wine bar, known for its eclectic and generous tastings, where Maxwell guides customers through pours of four wines (for $8) each Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Those tastings have been on hold since March, of course, but with the market remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic—people still need meat, cheese, bread and produce, after all—Maxwell’s customers are still coming in to pick up a favorite bottle…or three, or six.
So is it true that wine sales are up in the age of shelter-in-place?
Yeah. We have seen our sales be pretty strong. Part of that is because we are at Findlay Market. One of the comments I’ve gotten from multiple people is, Oh, the guys still have chicken down here. They still have sausage. They still have steaks. The [supermarkets] are out of all those things.
I know they’re saying wine retail is up [in general], but a lot of that will be items that are in Kroger, not necessarily items that happen to be in my store. Big brands like Barefoot and Beringer, those brands are probably up. Small producers, it may not be the same. Isolated wine shops, and wineries that sell 50 percent or more of their wine in restaurants are probably seeing a downturn. But with people not buying wine in restaurants, they’re having to buy retail.
I assume a lot of your usual market customers have a weekly routine: meat, produce, bread, wine?
Yeah, that is the one thing that has been the most fun for me. I’ve been a market shopper for close to 28 years now. Being down there as a business, it’s nice when people come in and say, Hey, this is what I’m having. What do you suggest to go with it? Pairing up a dish, that’s the part I think we do particularly well. We look at what people are eating and focus them on not only what their main dish is, but the whole meal.
A lot of times people say, Oh, I’m having steak tonight. Well, what are you having with steak? Is it just steak and potatoes or are you doing something a little bit different with the steak, or something a little bit different as a side? Then we might go in a different direction.
Any pairing myths that you like to debunk?
Well, there’s certainly, an aspect of, “drink what you like.” I’ve spent time working with people to find a wine that goes with a particular dish, and after about 15 minutes, they’ll tell me, We pretty much only drink cabernet sauvignon. Well, if you want me to recommend a cab, I can. That’s not the ideal wine for that dish. But I’m not going to try to make you drink something that you’re not going to enjoy.
Do you feel like you have a specialty or certain way you lean?
French and Italian tend to be what I hand-sell the most. A decent amount of California and South American. We’re probably the weakest on Australia, although I have some interesting wines in that category too.
One of the things we did from the very beginning is we really pushed rosé. Particularly Southern French rosé, but we’ve always had a pretty decent selection of dry rosés from all over the world. Compared to most places at that time we were a little bit ahead of the game. Through our wine tastings, we were able to get a lot of people to try them. Even within the last couple years, people still look at them and say, Ahhh, I don’t like sweet wine. And then they’re like, Oh, I’m so surprised by that!
You haven’t been able to do the weekend tastings for obvious reasons, but what are they normally like?
We set them up to be pretty informal. And just, a lot of fun because that’s how I see wine. It should be fun, it should be enjoyed, it’s a beverage, you should drink it. And so we try to do generous amounts on our pours, and let you really taste it, because I think sometimes we have to taste it two or three times before you really get the idea what a wine is.
So you get a generous pour, and we’ll do four completely different wines. Usually we’ll throw in some wines that you may have never even heard of. A Fiano, or a falanghina, or we’ll do some sparkling wines from areas in Southern France that are made from the Mauzac grape. If we just did grapes that people pretty much know and wines that people are extremely familiar with, there’s no learning there. There’s no experimenting.
You’re going to meet a lot of people, too, and that’s one of the other fun things about what we do. Findlay Market has such a great collection of people from all across the area. You might be sitting next to a doctor who’s sitting next to a professor who’s sitting next to like a starving artist who’s sitting next to a soccer mom, and you might not know which is which.
You also do quite a bit of beer.
Oh, yeah. I think that beer has come a long way in the last 20 years to being somewhat on par with wine and how it’s served in restaurants. There are a lot of places that will pair it up with food. And there are so many different styles. You may think, I don’t really like beer, but there’s a whole lot of beer out there to try. I’ve had [customers] who’ve said, I don’t like stouts, and I say, Well do you like coffee? Yes. Do you like chocolate? Yes. Try this and think of coffee and chocolate. [And they say,] Oh, well, that tastes great! You can find things that you like in just about any type of beer.
Do you have any go-to, everyday recommendations?
Yeah, there are a couple of things that I will go to all the time. Château De Ségriès Côtes du Rhône is a red wine that goes with a ton of different food. Short of maybe a really light white fish, or a very heavy, rich, spicy dish. But it can go with just about everything else in between. And in the summertime, when it’s hot and they need something that’s super-refreshing, Château du Campuget rosé. Those are two things where it’s very easy for me to grab a bottle and put it in somebody’s hand and be really sure they’re gonna like it.
Is Ohio wine in the mix for you?
We do not do a large amount of Ohio wine. Most of the Ohio wineries, usually, their best wines are also their smallest production. A lot of times they can sell it all themselves. But I’m always willing to spend two or three more dollars on a bottle of local wine, as long as it’s in the same kind of quality as one that’s maybe a couple of bucks cheaper from California or France or what have you.
We have seen some people that produce locally. Burnet Ridge, most of the grapes come from California, with the exception of one or two things, but people are willing to spend $25 to $30 on wine produced in the area. And Meranda-Nixon is a winery that has wines in the middle to upper teens that we have also been able to sell fairly well.
Has there been any pandemic stockpiling? Like, Give me 10 cases of wine?
Nobody’s really stockpiled anything. We are seeing people bump up. People who would come in and buy two or three bottles are buying six bottles, and people who were buying four or five bottles are buying a case. For the people that work from home now, cocktail hour is sometimes starting at 2 or 3 o’clock. Like, I’ve got to stay in and work, and the wine’s right here. May as well open up a bottle.
I had one customer that came in, [and] he said, I’m not going to come back out for another three weeks, but I need more inexpensive wine, because I all I have at my house are, like, my $50 to $100 bottles and I don’t have anything between $15 and $20. You can’t drink all my, y’know, Grand Cru champagne, on a Tuesday night.
Market Wines, 128 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 744-9888
This year’s Cincy Fringe Festival will be even more different than usual, thanks to the new collective pandemic reality: All performances and art installations will stream online from May 29 to June 13. Know Theatre continues to produce the festival, enlisting Darnell Benjamin once again as a juror, a role he’s served since 2010. He’s also choreographing a dance piece, Dream&, for this year’s event. The local actor, director, and teacher shares what he looks for in a Fringe performance, how an application can hook him, and the sort of pieces he’s already anticipating next year.
What does a Fringe Festival application entail?
If it’s a play, they’re going to submit their first 10 pages, but a lot will also submit the full play. They’ll have video, if they have any recordings of the production. If they’ve shown it to an audience, you have the reviews and the testimonials. We have a month or two months to get through it all. [The 2020 Cincy Fringe Festival received a record 127 applications.] It takes some time being as thorough as possible and as fair as possible. From there, you have the assessment form to ultimately rate them based on what you read. Know Theatre staff compare and contrast their own notes with our forms.
How many submissions do you review?
We have a form we fill out before we actually do submissions that asks, How many do you think you can realistically do? What’s your max number? I always tend to be more comfortable with a higher number because I like doing it. They also make sure we’re being unbiased. If [a submission is from] someone we’re really close to, you can trade it for another.
How do you rate performances?
The application is good about making sure that we’re not saying something is necessarily good or bad art, but instead it’s about, Does it speak to you? Do you see this being unique and applicable to where we are in Cincinnati? I love those kinds of questions, because it keeps you from judging whether or not you approve of the content. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve seen where it’s like, If I read another play about President Trump, I’m gonna kill myself. But at the same time, if the person has an interesting angle that’s a little more exciting, well…. One of my favorite [questions on the application] is, Is this applicable to this region? Obviously there are different issues in different places. I’m expecting, of course, that next year’s Fringe will have a ton of coronavirus plays and pieces about isolation.
What do you look for in an entry?
The whole business of art is being able to sell yourself and sell a product, and I feel like you have to be genuine about it. I love the fun proposals—let’s say it’s a clown show, and they decide to write their proposal from that perspective. The other thing I find really important is source material, whether you have videos or reviews, just so I can get an idea of what other people are saying about your work.
I have to be hooked from the beginning, but it’s not hard to hook me. A lot of times, people get a little bit relaxed, especially if they’ve done the festival a few times or if they’ve done multiple festivals. My favorite entries are the new ones, when it’s their first time applying to a Fringe festival, the excitement that they have. There’s nothing more inspiring than to have someone who’s taking a risk and trying something different.
In addition to attending Fringe online, how can people support local artists during the stay-at-home order?
Keep an eye out for projects people are working on. There are tons of artists, large- and small-scale, creating amazing work on social media. Follow their work. Venmo them. Reach out to individual artists whose work you enjoy. Commission them for projects, if you can. And maybe create art inspired by your favorite local artists. Things like that will inspire and lift us.
Before the stay-at-home order, what were you working on?
I was acting in Pride & Prejudice at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and I was also directing The Agitators at Falcon Theatre in Newport. We actually would have opened that show on March 20 [without the stay-at-home order]. At the end of April, I was going to start rehearsal for The Book of Will at Cincinnati Shakespeare, but it was cancelled. So I had a lot of things all lined up, and one by one they all started dropping off.
There’s been a rush to celebrate “heroes” during this pandemic period, and to honor their roles in trying to keep us all healthy, safe, and sane. Our admiration for those on the response’s front line—doctors, nurses, police, teachers—remains strong, but we’ve also found new targets of affection. Grocery store clerks, bus drivers, mail carriers, and restaurant kitchen staff were deemed “essential workers” by the powers that be and called “heroes” by the rest of us.
I doubt that many of them really felt like heroes showing up each day to work. Real heroes never admit to being heroes. They just do what needs to be done, crisis or not, while usually downplaying or ignoring the consequences.
A lot of people consider Jim Obergefell a hero. His name graced a lawsuit that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the decision in his favor five years ago in essence legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S. Those of us who aren’t attorneys or history majors can name just a few key Supreme Court rulings that really mattered: Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Roe v. Wade. Future generations will likely include Obergefell v. Hodges in the same conversation.
And yet Homer Plessy, Oliver Brown, Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe” in court documents), and Jim Obergefell were ordinary Americans seeking equal opportunities and equal treatment. Like our current cast of heroes, they were real people dealing with a problem they refused to avoid.
As we planned to celebrate Pride in this month’s issue, I reached out to Obergefell to participate in a roundtable discussion with local high school LGBTQ activists. I was interested to hear their reactions to his Supreme Court experience, and his thoughts on the challenges young people are trying to overcome today. Obergefell was open, curious, and humble in our conversation. The very premise of his lawsuit—seeking the legal right to be named spouse on his husband’s death certificate—was and remains bittersweet. He regrets only the necessity of the fight, not the effort or sacrifice to see it through. Much like our frontline heroes today.
What do you get when you cross a home baker with a bodybuilder? A line of treats without refined sugar or other unhealthy ingredients that—wait for it—actually taste good. Personal trainer Rebecca Ward founded The Body Bakery & Co. after she started bodybuilding and found that most healthy “desserts” didn’t make the grade, flavor-wise. And she’s serious about getting it right. “I will not put a product out there just because it hits macros,” she says. (For the uninitiated, “macros” are the macronutrients that make up a food’s calories: fat, carbs, and protein.) “When I say ‘double chocolate chip muffin,’ it has to feel like a double chocolate chip muffin. It has to smell like it and it has to taste like it,” Ward says. “I can’t call it a muffin and have it be chalky or dry.” Ward creates cheesecake, buckeyes, and other desserts from natural ingredients like apples, sweet potatoes, and oats, and then tests and retests them to make sure they’re worth the calories.
Available at GNC, Better Blend, and other health food retail locations