Laughing Through The Tears – Hospitality Op-Ed by Eli Servance III

Laughing Through The Tears – Op-Ed by

One of the worst times has forced the best out of a lot of us. The pandemic has been crippling and devastating. We fell very hard and as a result jumped to stratospheric heights. “I’m all dressed up with no place to go.” When Kanye said that years ago, I took it as him being cheeky. I never realized this would be life for a year. I lost my first gig March 12th, 2020 and by the 21st I had lost them all as well as a painstakingly, meticulously, built six-figure stream of income.

I had the luxury of working for some of the best of the best. My Arlo Soho nine-to-five day was one of the best jobs I ever had, working along Gary Wallach and being behind the scenes on the Beverage program. For one of my side gigs, I was able to work under Jason Littrell and if there’s ever a person you can learn from, it’s that man. He made me appreciate detail on a level the way Kobe or Michael or LeBron looks at basketball. Yes, it’s a game. But there are so many moves and plays within the game that will lead you to success. He also put me in a position to meet powerful people in the industry. Doors don’t open if the person on the other side of the knob isn’t familiar with you. That’s life.


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One year later and with no end in sight, at this point all anyone can do is change their perspective. Or maybe we’ve become so numb to tears that all we can do is laugh through them because we don’t have the strength to cry anymore. It feels like a coping mechanism to convince ourselves things are ok (far from it), because what other option is there? I have seen industry friends become new and expecting parents and a few engagements which is amazing. A few bartenders we know and love got hitched. I absolutely love the community fridge movement; the folks who dreamt that concept up are the most virtuous souls of society. I
don’t know who did it first, but the spirit to put forth such an initiative is incredible.

The safewalk programs speak of Panther energy to me; to take back our neighborhoods and police ourselves. That level of love and community is what it will take to protect women, minorities, and LGBTQIA+ against hatred and violence. In the face of extreme poverty (I’ve been there before) the pandemic has created hundreds of new entrepreneurs, myself included. I’ve supported more budding entrepreneurs, no pun intended (and also no snitching), than I ever have in my life. I’ve bought cocktail kits, nutcrackers, cocktail mixers, Coquito’s, and participated in a few virtual cocktail hours. Michelin starred and unaccredited chefs who cook meals in ghost kitchens and their own homes have started delivery services. One bartender turned into a documentarian. I joke with Joanna Carpenter that she’ll be in Congress representing us all one day and I want a parking pass.

It’s also been a time for amazing charity. 2021 going forward you can’t talk down on Flavortown! Rush died and an Instagrammer was able to raise $1,000,000 in his name towards Planned Parenthood. That’s arguably the biggest in-your-face moment of the past year. As we all scramble to figure out how to quarantine, survive, and vaccinate ourselves, I’m happy to see droves of people creating and finding their own ways of thriving in chaos and laughing through the tears. Our greatest strength is each other.

I survived the crack epidemic in New York and the parallel to this pandemic has been how we navigate chaos, uncertainty, an inept government response, and death. I pray for the families who have lost folks and for the people and businesses currently suffering. We need to offer support to the extent of how much bandwidth you can give to help our communities laugh through their tears. We can all be the St. James Joy.

Eli Servance III – @distillmatic718 

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