4 bartenders share what it’s like to reopen during the pandemic

Erica, 40, a bartender and manager at the Tower Tavern in Kansas City, is returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic since her bar and restaurant reopened on June 5. One of the industrial workers. "We have to stop people from coming in without masks multiple times a day," Erica tells Bustle.

Concerns about the coronavirus outbreak have led to renewed restaurant closures across the country, from California to Michigan to Alaska. According to the New York Times , only 13 states currently meet current testing guidelines. Another seven tests were close to the target number, while 30 tests were well below recommended levels. While overall case numbers are declining, some states are seeing their highest weekly positive case counts to date, CNBC reported.

A March report by The New York Times on the workers most at risk found that service industry workers such as cashiers, hosts and waiters were among those at higher risk of exposure to the virus. Despite the increased risk, only 56% of service workers have access to sick leave, significantly lower than the 74% of all workers who have access to sick leave.

According to Yelp's June economic report, more than 50% of bars and restaurants that have temporarily closed due to the coronavirus have closed permanently. That's the equivalent of nearly 24,000 restaurant closures, potentially affecting ten times as many employees. Restaurant chains from McDonald's to Starbucks have closed their locations permanently, unable to recover from the pandemic shutdowns. Smaller franchises and local businesses have been hit harder and are left with the option of permanently closing their only locations or going into massive debt.

As some restaurants and bars reopen after trying to reopen post-lockdown, others are facing an almost impossible decision: stay open and risk exposure, or close again and risk closing for good. For bartenders, this means new rules, new responsibilities, and in many ways, a new kind of job.

"We all got an email saying we needed to come back or we would be replaced."

Erin, 29, a waitress in Dover, New Hampshire, was on leave from mid-March to mid-June, but she returned to work in mid-June. Although Erin is worried about the threat of a second wave of the pandemic, she doesn't see many options. "When the state's restrictions were first lifted, we all immediately received an email stating that we needed to come back or we would be replaced," Erin tells Bustle via email. Either way, she noted, Unemployment will be cut off. “As a diabetic who needs to feed a young child, neither option is ideal,” Erin said.

In Kansas City, where Erica works, the coronavirus outbreak is far from slowing down. According to the Kansas City Star , confirmed cases are still increasing in the metropolitan area, with the weekly average hovering between 300 and 400. When Kansas City reopened in early May, the seven-day average number of cases was 84. In response, Kansas City's mask mandate went into effect in mid-July.

In New York City, case numbers have dropped significantly since the worst of the outbreak. New York City averaged more than 5,000 new cases per day in April, but has dropped to less than 300 new cases per day in the past few weeks, according to a New York Times database. Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted a citywide open restaurant policy to help expand options for restaurants to reopen while still adhering to coronavirus guidelines.

“I think it’s great to have outdoor seating in New York City, but a lot of bars don’t have that facility,” said Monica, 39, of Wild Birds in Brooklyn. “There’s a huge blind spot there,” although Monica’s bar opened on 7 It will open later this month with outdoor seating, but she recognizes that’s not the case for all businesses. Even among those restaurants that have been able to reopen, many have taken a financial hit from the lack of indoor dining. While the restaurant industry continues to suffer, even in places like New York where the curve has flattened, the government has made it clear: There will be no further relief efforts.

Some customers recognize the financial hit their servers have had to take and are doing what they can to offset it. "People are overly generous and understanding," said Courtney, 29, a bartender at Plow & the Stars in Philadelphia. According to Eater , starting on September 8, Philadelphia restaurants will reopen some indoor seating for the first time since March 16 . Plow & the Stars is one of the restaurants that has had patio seating open since late June. Courtney noted that since reopening, many people have tipped "over 20%, typically averaging 22.8% per night."

Many restaurants without outdoor seating may finally be able to reopen after being closed for nearly half a year. Starting September 30, New York City restaurants will allow indoor dining at 25% capacity. As Governor Cuomo announced on September 9, restaurants will be able to allow limited indoor seating provided they comply with other COVID-19-related guidelines, such as closing at midnight and not offering bar seating. Cuomo said New York City restaurants may be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity in the coming months if the city's infection rate does not increase significantly. Officials will make a decision by Nov. 1.

These are uncharted oceans. We're all just trying to tread water and stay afloat.

Among the four bartenders Bustle spoke with, the list of new health and safety guidelines for their bars and restaurants is long. There are mask mandates, at least six feet of distance between tables, hand sanitizer stations, increased cleaning times, rigorous sanitizing of shared surfaces and awkward conversations with guests to prevent too many people from mingling. Even with these regulations in place, risks remain. “I do know people who have gotten COVID because they went to work,” Monica said of her colleagues in the service industry.

“Most [customers] are great and completely understanding,” Monica continued, noting that she still gets the occasional outlier who tries to sneak in without a mask. Erin, Erica, and Courtney also noted that most guests followed the rules and apologized when they made mistakes. The trickiest rule is often enforcing the mask mandate—and most bartenders are busy talkers having to deal with unmasked guests.

Dr. Fauci and many other health experts have advised against going to bars and restaurants, but even though bars and restaurants have reopened, that hasn't stopped people from visiting their local bars and restaurants. Courtney and Erin don't frequent bars and restaurants outside of work. Erica and Monica only ate at very discreet restaurants. Erica said she has done her homework and will only visit a handful of places to eat where she feels comfortable. “I did a lot of research beforehand on how [those restaurants] were operating and asked how busy they were before going.”

When asked what they want guests to consider when entering bars and restaurants, all four hospitality workers responded in unison: "For God's sake, please be kind."

Erin said customers play an important role in helping pubs stay open safely. "I think it's safe to stay open, but we're only as strong as our weakest link."

"I hope people can understand that most restaurants are staffed on a skeleton crew," Monica said, noting that things like camping out at the table or hanging out in the restaurant after a meal creates extra costs for servers and restaurants. pressure. "If you're not planning on tipping at least 20% or treating your server with respect and patience during a deadly pandemic, please reconsider dining out."

" Everything ... is going to take a little more time to be completed safely," Erica said . "These are uncharted oceans and we're all just trying to tread water and stay afloat."

Despite the risks, Courtney said she still wants to get back to work. "As employees, we want to get back to work and stay motivated," she said, "not because we just want the money ... but because we're eager to work and love the people we work for." Courtney said, She contacted her boss and started working again. “I want to be a part of how they thrive.”