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Competition finds best bartender in Toledo, while raising money for community organization

The first "Pride and Spirits" competition brought together bartenders from across the area to raise money for Equality Toledo.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The first ever "Pride and Spirits" competition, held at Barr's Public House in Maumee, was created to find the best bartender in the 419, and support the local LGBTQIA community. The event was the idea of former Barr's employee Jeffrey Foor.

"Once COVID cleared out, I wanted to reward the community and create something awesome and cool to showcase the camaraderie that we have in the 419. We really have an amazing community," Foor said.

Eight bartenders got narrowed down to just one, after six rounds of creating their own cocktails. Contestant Elizabeth Arden says the competition is a great way to make connections in the bar community.

"I am so nervous, I feel really good, I love the drinks I've made. I would be proud to serve them," said Arden, in between rounds. "I also know that the other bartenders here are phenomenal. The competition is really tough but it's great. We're all making friends and I love it."

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Radio personality and judge Deitra Hickey says the best cocktails are the ones you can't find just anywhere.

"What I'm looking for as a judge is something that you can't just go to a bar and order and any common Joe can make it," Hickey said.

But most importantly - part of the event's proceeds go to Equality Toledo, a local organization that supports the LGBTQIA community. Barr's managing partner Stephanie Soldner says an event like this is an important celebration of that community.

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"There are so many people in the LGBT community in the area and they need representation. We need to make sure that everyone feels safe. This is a big celebration of that," Soldner said.

The winner of the competition was Colleen Bruce of Kengo Sushi and Takitori. Her winning cocktail is joining the menu at Barr's public house through at least the summer, and one dollar from every drink sold will go towards Equality Toledo.

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