Master mixologist Tony Conigliaro of Gazelle Mayfair has hit out at global liquor brand Martini - accusing the company of "taking" his idea to stage a charity bike ride and turning it "into a marketing ploy".
In an open letter to the company Tony claimed Martini, which worked in conjunction with him in previous incarnations of the Bar Termini Milano-Torino bike ride, had removed him from the process for the 2018 event.
He added that he would stop using any of the company's products in his venues following the alleged snub. Martini deny claims they took his idea and instead claim that, while similar events in the region have been well established, they had different ideas for the future of the event and parted ways as a result.
Conigliaro devised the inaugural Milan to Turin bartender bike ride in 2016 to raise money for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, and offer the bartending community a chance to focus on their physical and mental wellbeing.
He wrote: "When I reached out to discuss the 2018 event, you informed me that you were simply taking my idea, staging it yourselves and turning it into a marketing event for Martini.
"By doing so, you have endangered the very character and fundamental essence and integrity of it. To add insult to injury and as a ‘gesture of respect' to our ‘past partnership' you graciously offered us ‘three spaces within this new programme'. It is clear that we have a very different definition of what respect is.
"Respect is not turning charity into a marketing ploy. Respect is not appropriating an idea and passing it off as your own for your own corporate gain.
"Respect is not abusing a long term partnership with a prestigious and well respected industry name and piggy backing on their creativity to hide your own glaring lack of imagination. Respect is not using your undeniable muscle to try and frustrate our own attempts to stage and continue to run the Bar Termini Milano-Torino ride in 2018."
Conigliaro added that he felt there was no option but to "make a stand" on behalf of the industry.
He added: "If you are prepared to act in this way in relation to a large and prestigious UK partner and customer without even a second thought, how will you treat the smaller companies and individuals starting out and carving their own spot in the industry? "
In a statement Martini's global head of advocacy Jacob Briars said he read the letter "with a heavy heart". He went on to state "that the idea of cycle rides for charitable causes, including bartender rides is not new. Even riding from Milan to Turin is not new as the classic Milano-Torino has been run for over 140 years."
He added: "In 2018, as we readily began discussions with Tony and Bar Termini about the event, it became clear we had differing views about how to move forward. For example, as part of MARTINI's 50th Racing Anniversary, we were looking to create an international project, where more countries could participate. We wished each other well, agreed to part ways and hold two separate events.
"The relative novelty in our event is its aim to support longer-term health, fitness and community in the industry. It is also simply the high point of a series of spin classes and rides held over many months, across many countries, requiring participants to train hard and earn a spot at the final event. As far as we're concerned, there can never be too many opportunities to get bartenders out on bikes.
"To allege that our efforts constrained Bar Termini from holding their event is just plain false. They were able to hold their ride on the same route, the same time and with the same name as the original Bar Termini ride in 2016. They were also successful in securing sponsorship support and raising funds for charity."