The Mess Of Covid For Restaurants, Bars, and Entertainers.
This will be a rant of sorts but I am writing this from the inside of the situation so those on the outside of these industries may have some understanding of why things in their favorite restaurants aren’t what they are expecting right now. I am not writing this as an excuse for poor service, bad food, or crappy music. I am basically explaining what is going on so people aren’t shocked and can have a little more empathy for these struggling industries.
Let’s start with Bars first.
As the new world of our pandemic turns, Bars are either forced to close or forced to change their business model. In most cases it is near impossible to change from a 51% liquor establishment because they simply don’t have the kitchen capacity to sell more food, just to remain open and survive. Cooking 10 burgers on a flat grill is near impossible to manage when that was all that was required pre-Covid to serve their customers, mainly because the establishment was geared for serving your favorite drinks and not food.
This is a bureaucratic mess and our laws should change during these times, just like our businesses must if we want to continue life as usual after the pandemic. It is absolutely ridiculous to believe that 75 people in a small bar, following the same social distancing requirements as a restaurant that seats 300, is more infectious. That is not science and that dog won’t hunt.
Now, instead of coming into your favorite bar and sitting down for a drink, something the establishment is geared to do, they are now forced to come up with a kitchen plan, menu, and staff to serve you. Surely you can see they are just trying to hang on and survive.
Restaurant Dilemma and New Challenges
Let’s start off with the fact that not only are bars facing the above challenges, they are now facing the same extra challenges as our restaurants. How about the obvious; with the extra burden of trying to stay open at 50% capacity, that is a huge pay cut, when the financial liabilities and requirements to keep the doors open didn’t change. They are still paying rent and utility bills as if they are still at full capacity.
Restaurants have to cut corners somewhere just to stay open and sadly it is without their staff, less patronage means less staff is required. The same cooks and waitstaff personnel were either sent home, quit because there were not getting enough hours for good pay, and decided to remain on disaster unemployment payments. That means restaurants, without deep pockets, are forced to survive and provide great service on a skeleton crew. Larger establishments and chains with deeper pockets can almost maintain business as usual with a few alterations. The larger businesses 50%, in most cases, is way more than a small establishment’s ability to earn money at their 50%.
So imagine if you will an establishment has a skeleton crew set up to provide service, and you believe you are going to help them with some business by bringing in a wedding party of 50, without calling ahead. You think to yourself, “Hell the place is dead. Surely they will love us coming in and our service should be impeccable because they aren’t serving anyone else.” Obviously, that line of thinking can’t be further from reality. Now the establishment is forced to jump through hoops to take care of the larger party, only to get a 1 rating on Google.
If you want your party to be taken care of, call ahead, and make some arrangements. During these times, a restaurant can’t operate at full staff capacity so when you come in unannounced, you won’t be taken care of by a full staff or the more expensive chefs. You are getting the lower-paid staff, meant to only care for just a few patrons. In fact, if you don’t give them enough heads up, they can’t get even get some of their staff back fast enough because they had to lay them off. They more than likely will have to contract services ahead of time to take care of your group. It’s important to note, this could be the case with groups of just 8-10 too because there seriously may only be a very small handful of staff on duty. There is absolutely no way for a restaurant establishment to plan for service without a little courtesy from the patrons. One day they have 10 people in their restaurant to service at a time, and you bring them 10 more or double their load.
Musicians and Entertainers
It’s pretty obvious, for all the above reasons, the live entertainment industry is suffering. Restaurants (and former bars newly converted) that support live music can’t afford to pay entertainers to play to an empty establishment. Most of them dang sure can’t pay what they used to at 50% capacity, that’s for sure. Being an entertainer, just like all my music family, certainly feel the pain as a result. I have played for 50 people and I have played for 3, during the pandemic. I have literally told the establishment I will take 1/2 of my pay or play just my tips. Fortunately for me, those people that love live music, that come out despite the pandemic, are so grateful they tip exceptionally well. I have literally had a table-of-ten tip me more than $200, pick up my food and bar tab, and I donated all that money to the FEED MY FAMILY foundation like all artists do. This doesn’t happen all the time but it seems that a lot of patrons are a little more generous during the pandemic, if they are real live music lovers.
Another problem is masks or no masks. There is a huge divide on this issue and it literally can destroy a business. I have spoken to patrons on the matter and they are near equally divided. Some won’t come in if you make them wear a mask, and some won’t come in unless the establishment has a mask-nazi policy. Here is the difference, most anti-mask wearers won’t go to Google a rape them in a review because the establishment required masks, whereas, the fervent mask wearer will warn all their other mask-wearing buddies to stay away, and also leaving a 1 rating on Google. Just a few bad reviews on Google prevents anyone at all from coming and the fervent mask wearer thinks to themselves, “yay, I showed them” as if it was their duty to destroy the business in the name of public health and safety.
A simple fix. Just don’t go to the establishment if the mask-wearing policies don’t meet your requirements. If you are a high-risk candidate for Covid or any contagious disease, by all means, don’t be a customer. Why try to destroy them in the process when all they are trying to do is survive and serve the larges customer base they can. It’s evil and cruel, to say the least.
Now That You Know
A little compassion can go a long way. Despite what you think, the cancel culture is real and it only takes a bad review or two to destroy an establishment. You need to have a little better understanding of what’s at stake for these independent businesses. I have never met a manager or owner that said, “I’m going to start a business and give crappy service or bad food.” In most cases, if someone asked the manager to make it right, they will provide free drinks, comp the meal, and be very apologetic, especially if it something that could have been prevented, or they were aware of a bad server. There is absolutely no need to destroy them on a review.
Now, if the establishment says bite me, go somewhere else, that might be a different story, especially if you called ahead, to warn them with plenty of time to prepare for your party of 10. It’s important to understand that this pandemic won’t last forever, but business closures will. If you want to have an America to come back to when it’s over, you need to know what is at stake, every time you feel it’s your civic duty to blister someone and cancel them on Facebook, Google, or other social media platforms.