Raul Faria has some pretty big heels to fill. The two-year term of Kristen Schaefer, the outgoing president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s Las Vegas chapter, saw the professional group reach its highest membership ever (at one point eclipsing every other chapter in the country, including Manhattan and San Francisco). With Faria as vice president, Schaefer’s council introduced monthly roundtable meetings, appointed members to facilitate charitable efforts and job searches, and established other essential checks and balances that culminated in a celebration of the chapter’s 15-year anniversary, a new logo and the burying of a time capsule at Nora’s Cuisine. Schaefer was never far from support and encouragement from past presidents including Breakthru Beverage development specialist Andrew Pollard. And now that the reins have passed to Faria, he is poised to usher USBGLV into its next 15 years.
Faria, who is also the Southwest brand ambassador for Absolut Vodka, ran on a threefold platform. While keeping numbers up is important to any organization, he wants to focus on quality over quantity. “We’re already going in the right direction,” Faria says. “That being said, I want to bring back a Las Vegas chapter cocktail competition, [one that] focuses on technical [aspects] and the actual art and craft of bartending.” Second, Faria transformed the positions appointed during Schaefer’s term into committees: education, health and wellness, social media, job search, charitable efforts and more. “It’s a way for members to affect policy and the trajectory of their chapter,” he says. And third, he admits he’ll have to play the numbers game: “I do want to be the No. 1 in the nation—and that’s why we have a Membership Engagement Committee.”
In his first 100 days in office, Faria wants to see those committees formed and working, and to get the ball rolling on the competition. One of Faria’s secret weapons is his ability to diffuse conflict and maintain focus on the big picture. “We’re all family here—you fight with your family, things happen,” the father of two says. “I grew up in a Portuguese-Irish household, so I know how to navigate that territory well. That’s part of bringing people into the fold.”
So why should we care if Faria and his council succeed in their mission? “In a word, hospitality,” he says. “Our [members] are the most hospitable bartenders because they have taken the time out of their day to study their craft and trade. They care enough to take the extra step to learn more. When you go to a bar and want to come back—that’s when you know you’re at a USBG bar.”