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BevCon to go west for 2018. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

After two successful years in Charleston, BevCon, the industry conference providing educational opportunities for bartenders, independent distillers, winemakers and craft brewers, is moving to Los Angeles.

Founder Angel Postell, former executive director of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, says she’s taking the event to California because of the availability of bigger sponsorships and better venues there. But local members of BevCon's advisory board were surprised to learn of the change since there had been no discussion of it.

On a recent trip to Los Angeles to book a BevCon promotional event, Postell, who says she had been having a hard time securing a venue in Charleston, floated the idea of hosting the entire conference there and found a receptive community. “There are Charleston people there and BevCon people there,” she says.

It also proved an easy sell to sponsors.

“I want to grow the event financially and in talking to underwriters, some offered me double because they have more to work with in bigger markets.”

Back in Charleston, though, the move was a shock to those who had been part of the event from the earliest stages of brainstorming.

“We were surprised to learn last week about the sudden change in location for BevCon,” says Ann Marshall of High Wire Distilling Co., a major supporter of the event here in Charleston. Both Marshall and her husband and business partner Scott Blackwell have worked closely with Postell on the first two BevCons.

“While L.A. presents certain challenges for such a young event, we believe in the mission of BevCon and its ability to provide advanced educational opportunities and foster meaningful discourse in the beverage community," Marshall says. "We are confident it will continue to deliver in those respects."

Marshall says it’s a little early to determine the extent of their participation once BevCon relocates. “We plan to continue to be involved in BevCon in any capacity that makes sense for us and our business,” she says.

Brooks Reitz, owner of the cocktail mix company Jack Rudy, is excited about the move. “Jack Rudy has awesome representation there,” says Reitz. “It’s one of our biggest markets ... I love L.A., and BevCon is an important conference for Jack Rudy.”

Other advisory board members declined to comment on the record, but there is general agreement that a conversation about BevCon having a presence in other cities dates back to the event’s earliest planning stages.

“I was considering Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, D.C., San Diego and Denver,” says Postell, who admits that the move came sooner than had originally been discussed. “In the future, it will be planned out with more vetting from the advisory board ... This was never meant to be a Charleston event — it’s not for Charleston but for the beverage industry.”

Follow Stephanie Barna on Twitter @stefbarna.

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