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Bar owner: How to make local government work for you and the industry

Last updated March 01, 2024 · By Dylan Blake

Last week Megan Rickerson of Someday Bar spoke about how she first got involved in advocacy for the hospitality industry. (Spoiler: Covid kicked it off.)

This week Megan covers the next step of her evolution: getting involved in local politics, an effort which has now landed her on the executive board of the NYC Hospitality Alliance and a part of the NYC Mayor's Small Business Council.

Megan never thought she'd be here. She was always happy being behind the scenes. She always voted, but was never really involved, and felt that how government actually works is "intimidating and daunting and complicated and frustrating."

Beyond that overarching challenge, there are some serious governmental/advocacy challenges specific to the service industry:

  • "Hospitality" is a sprawling industry, ranging from McDonald's and Jimmy Johns to Michelin stars and James Beard winners. This makes it hard to organize and hard to find solutions that make everybody in the industry better off.
  • Most politicians don't have service industry experience. No matter how many episodes of The Bear they watch, most of them just won't understand the industry very well.
  • Most hospitality people are people pleasers—they get paid to be liked. This tendency doesn't lend itself well to being the squeaky wheel.

But in Megan's opinion, it's extremely true that the squeaky wheel gets that attention. Being squeaky is the most important thing you can do to start making things better.

Here are some other tips from Megan:

  • There's not a secret recipe to find success in advocacy. The broad concept is actually simple: you and your cause must be as loud as you can for as long as you can.
  • It can be tough to advocate for your needs, but keep in mind that you are absolutely not an inconvenience. The people who represent you are supposed to advocate for you. Don't feel like you're putting them out when you ask them to do it.
  • Like most things, take the first step and it gets easier and easier. Just send an email. Or run a quick search to figure out who your rep is and take down their email address. Get past that first step and you're moving downhill.

But does doing this actually work?

Yes! This has worked for Megan and the causes she and her orgs worked for. Drinks-to-go were passed when they absolutely needed it during Covid. The liquor license tax was lifted for a year. Outdoor dining changes were made. They managed to [at least temporarily] block Grubhub from increasing fees. The list goes on, and it's both good for her and Someday Bar and good to know she's helping others as well.

Check out the interview clip for more: