Op-Ed By Jake Powell: Catch 22 As Bars Reopen After COVID-19 Shutdowns

As bars reopen we’re faced with a Catch 22:

It’s too early to be reopening. Strictly looking at it from a public health standpoint, there’s too much risk, especially with many states now having higher numbers of cases than they did a couple months ago. Economically though, bar owners are at risk of losing their businesses and states are eager to reopen because it gets people off state funded unemployment. If a restaurant reopens and offers an employee their job back, they basically have to take it. If they decline, the restaurant must report that and the person loses their unemployment. As service industry employees, going back to work right now is far from things going back to normal, so our options are either:

  • A) go back to work and risk our health and safety while not making enough to pay our bills due to capacity restrictions
  • B) decline the return to work and have literally zero income or assistance

Service industry workers are screwed either way, and the government knows this. They don’t care though because it reduces their unemployment spending.

What can you do?

Well, ideally you wouldn’t go out at all. BUT then again these people are being forced back to work and are facing eviction and bankruptcy. So you also want to support them.

So how can you help? Go out if you want to. But follow these guidelines:

  1. Go out in groups of 2-4. Stop meeting up with large groups. You don’t have to see all your friends at once.
  2. Wear a mask. Not just as you walk in. Unless you’re actively eating or drinking, keep it on. It could save your server’s life.
  3. Tip 50-100%. 20% isn’t enough when restaurants are at 25% capacity. It’s just not a liveable income. If you’ve been quarantined and working from home, you likely have some saved up money to spare, so if you need to go out you can over tip. It could be the difference between someone paying rent or being evicted this month. Please. Please please please. Tip 50% or more.
  4. Respect the rules of the establishment. They didn’t make them up, the state did. They’re just doing everything they can to stay open to serve you, and keep everyone safe.
  5. Be nice! Your server is under an incredible amount of stress and trying to survive, all while making sure you’re enjoying yourself. Just be nice to them.
  6. Sign petitions, write to your government officials, or call in, asking them to extend the additional $600 assistance beyond this week.

And if you have a bit of disposable income and you aren’t ready to go out again yet, or you know it’s not the safest idea but you have a local watering hole you want to see reopen after this, consider donating to their workers fund! Almost every place has one going. It could be the difference between them reopening at all or closing for good.

Jake Powell is a New York City based bartender, you can follow / contact him on on Instagram – @jakethenomad

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