How the Industry is Coping: Experiences From Bartenders Around the World

With bar communities across the globe suffering from shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, bartenders are finding themselves in unchartered territories. So we turned to some friends and mixologists from around the world to find out how they are coping – and getting creative – during these unprecedented times.

Christopher Lowder, Proof & Company, Shanghai

“COVID-19 Pandemic has been the largest challenge that the cocktail industry in Asia has faced since the second world war,” says Lowder. “There’s just no other way to say it. For China, because this all started during the national Chinese New Year holiday, most bars have been shut for 8+ weeks already, and are only allowed to apply to the government to reopen from this week. Even now as bars are slowly starting to reopen, there are enormous crowd control measures in place with mandatory temperature checks and serious crowd control limitations.”

“It’s safe to say that even here in China, we’re not out of the woods yet, but we are starting to see the light,” Lowder continues. “For my friends around the world who are just now starting to grapple with similar shutdowns in your own communities, I can only say that we’re all in this together. It’s going to be a long haul, but please take it day-by-day and stay positive. There is no right or wrong way to respond to this crisis, so please stay resourceful, stay humble, and keep an open mind. We are going to make it through as a team, as a community, and as a family. Stay constructive, and keep channeling love.”

Lee Zaremba, Lazy Bird and Boka Restaurant Group, Chicago

“The hospitality community itself is kind of at a historic low point, which is really challenging,” says Zaremba, Beverage Director for Chicago’s Lazy Bird and Boka Restaurant Group. “Think about it – bartenders are generally are extroverted people who thrive not only emotionally and socially on the experience of being around people, but it’s also our livelihood. Without the ability to be around people physically, we suffer financially.”

“Doing our best to cope, bartenders have been doing virtual happy hours together, finding solace in some virtual togetherness,” Zaremba adds.” Some liquor brands are also paying bartenders to post cocktails/recipes using their products from home. I’m a big fan of just calling and checking up on each other. My friend and fellow Chicago bartender Julia Momose is using her voice and platform on social media to push the state of Illinois to legalize cocktails to go – something that would move the needle for bar teams who are out of work.”

Mario Farulla, Baccano, Rome

“Our job is to communicate, and now more than ever we want to communicate to the world that everything will be fine,” says Farulla. “We are separate now but we will embrace each other stronger after. We should use this time as a chance to get to know others better, to get to know ourselves better.”

“Do what feels right, rediscover yourself, don’t feel compelled to do something,” Farulla advises. “Be active, be lazy, as long as you are yourself. Live day by day. Be like children and enjoy the moment. Children don’t think about yesterday, they don’t think about tomorrow but they enjoy the moment they are living.”

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