I’m still perplexed that bartenders didn’t make the essential workers list. Okay, maybe that’s asking too much. However, from the bartender friends I’ve spoken to since COVID-19 hit, and with bars still closed ,there’s a tremendous void of epidemic proportions going on in NYC. In case you haven’t realized this before, bartenders are not just the people who make your drink and bars are not just where you go to have a drink.
Bartenders are telepaths and empaths. As soon a patron takes a seat, they can quickly assess what kind of mood they’re in and what kind of drink they need (or not need). And for the record, it wasn’t the alcohol or the cute guy that keep me at the GAF East past my bedtime. It was the bartender banter that intoxicated me; a combination between psychologist and stand-up comedian or a philosopher and aspiring actor served on the rocks. I’ve discussed many things to my favorite bartenders on the Upper East Side, from travel recommendations to whether or not to befriend an ex or which golfer was going to win the Master’s. And then there are the people sitting to my left and right, strangers who have grown into close friends.
With indoor dining quietly coming back next month, NYC bars still need a Bar Rescue. Throw in the cool fall and winter temperatures, and it’s likely that many bars will permanently close … unless they innovate fast. How do bars take what they’re really good at – creating community and a space for people to connect? And at the same time, be profitable. Free Online bars have already emerged, offering people across all time zones to converse and connect in a comfortable setting. The plus side? You don’t have to drink or figure out how you’re getting home. The minus? These spaces don’t serve food or drink and like the real life version, you never know who you are going to meet.
Now more than ever, the hospitality industry needs to collaborate. The creative minds of hotel owners, restauranteurs, general managers can surely brainstorm a plethora of ideas that won’t hold a candle to my top ideas:
1. Bars on Wheels (akin to food trucks) or beer and wine kiosks, conveniently adjacent to the pretzel and roasted chestnuts stands.
2. Private bar rentals for you and your closest 15 friends.
3. Virtual beer, wine, cocktail tastings live from your favorite bar.
4. Hire your favorite bartender to come to your home for a small gathering.
Luckily, Jon Taffer was on top of the issue and made us realize that local and federal governments need to step in to offer tax breaks for bar and restaurant owners. Unlike scientists, designers have reign to think outside the bar and set the vision for the future of hospitality. What if we really acted like “we’re all in this together” instead of just uttered the words. I’m in, and if you are too, leave a comment with your ideas or drop me a line!