We know the hospitality scene well. The echo of conversations mixes with the hum of laughter, setting the mood as menus are passed out before us. The bartender smiles, fills a Collins glass with water for each guest and asks how we are this evening. Chit chat follows and soon choices from the menus are made. Wine is poured and tasted, the top of a beer is cracked open and tipped into a tulip glass, the head rising to the top, and a cocktail is measured out, enclosed in a set of silver tins, and the rattle of ice and metal joins the bar’s ambiance.
The first sip relaxes the tongue, the flavor of each drink coming to life with its own personal mix of acidic sweetness. Smiles are shared, and the evening truly begins. This is hospitality.
Of course, the feeling of sitting at a bar has become a somewhat distant memory for us as bars keep their doors closed due to the Stay at Home restrictions. Yet, if it feels so distant to us, how must it feel for those who work in the service industry? Graphs show that Washington state has seen 100% of bartenders file for unemployment by April 25th, while 68% of Americans fear the lifting of restrictions happening all too soon.
Over the last decade, Detroit has become well acquainted with the spark of a resurgence, letting the hospitality industry take a special part in the city’s rebirth. As they have spread throughout the city, bars have brought a certain tone to each neighborhood. Each bar gives a feel of escapism in their own special way. Kiesling in Milwaukee Junction, Lady of the House in Corktown, and Standby found in the Belt downtown to name a few. Each has their own experience and appeal that melds perfectly with the tasty drinks they serve.
Allison Everitt, head bartender at Wright & Company who has been bartending for upwards of seven years says, “I miss bartending. I miss socializing and being a functioning part of society.” One can only imagine how it feels to go from the stimulation of attending to guests every night to simply being home. For those in the service industry, the shutdown seems to be a breath of fresh air. “I was exhausted,” says Everitt, “service industry employees are overworked and under-compensated. The shutdown has given me a rare opportunity to focus on parts of my life that aren’t work. I’m truly going to miss that when I go back to working 12 hour days again.”
The last few days before the shutdown were described as apocalyptic for the hospitality industry. The few guests that ventured out were wearing gloves and masks and sanitizing everything as they drank and dined. The atmospheric feeling was shattered by the straight-out-of-a-film surroundings. “It makes me sad to imagine that type of service every day. It would suck the fun out of my job and out of the guests’ experience,” Everitt says.
An empty bar affects more than just the guests, however. With talk of bars cutting back hours to be able to abide by state orders, employees in the hospitality world will be taking a severe pay cut. To take a bar from being open six nights a week to only two, the ripple effect could be drastic.
After asking Allison if this worried her she responded, “That means losing about 60% of my income. You also have to imagine that those two shifts you get are now in a space that is operating at 50% or less capacity to control social distancing. Less customers means less staff needed. All former employees will not have a guaranteed job when businesses reopen, and those that do will be making less tips overall while still risking their health.”
Considering the projected spike of the virus in the fall, Everitt alludes that it may be better to keep the feeling of sitting at a bar as just a memory for a little while longer. According to her, it will help keep the well-curated atmosphere within each bar and restaurant of Detroit intact as well as keeping those in the service industry, and guests, safe. “I personally think the obvious risks outweigh the potential short-term benefits of providing dine-in services at this time,” Allison says. “Before the virus is contained and without a real bailout from the government, it feels wrong.”
So, as we progress further through this pandemic, let’s wait patiently for our favorite bars and restaurants to reopen. And, next time you see your favorite bartender, a quick thank you for all they do may just be well received.