On March 16th, I, Brooklyn-based writer and local bartender Hope Morawa, found myself deemed “non-essential” by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, and, by my former boss at Catfish Bar & Restaurant, “recently unemployed.”
But I wasn’t alone. All bars throughout New York were now left to make a risky choice: close up shop voluntarily with little to no form of income OR, transition into a safe, legal routine that would fit into our new COVID-19-preventive reality.
On the bright side, new regulations now allow takeout cocktails and beers, and sales of DIY cocktail kits, gift cards, and merch are at an all-time high, with some even virtually bartending over Instagram and Facebook Live for a sense of normalcy. Also, tips.
The downside? In order to stay afloat, many bars have cut their hours, menus, and staff down to the bare minimum to save money and fall within social distancing orders. Leaving out-of-work bartenders, like me, stress-crying and calling unemployment 45 times a day to no avail.
Across the five boroughs, GoFundMe campaigns have started serving as pooled virtual tip jars, with patrons donating as if they were still frequenting their favorite bars. Brooklyn-based bars owned by Sal Fristensky (Skinny Dennis, Lucky Dog, Rocka Rolla, Horses and Divorces, and George and Jack’s Taproom) have raised over $15,000 for their respective former employees by offering a free beer or shot with a donation over $20. Union Pool has raised close to $21,000 in less than a month.
Manhattan establishments have also had some luck with virtual crowdsourcing: The Endless Hospitality Family (The Wayland, Goodnight Sonny, The Wild Son, The Lost Lady) has collectively raised over $18,000 for its four locations, and The Garret Bars have reached over $17,000 for their three locations.
To no surprise, there have been varying degrees of success with this form of fundraising, with bigger bar families (same owners, multiple locations) raking in more money than the smaller mom-and-pops or bars that are newer to the scene.
Listen, I’m not going to sugarcoat things. I miss pouring beers and yelling at my regulars more than what I deem a healthy amount, and while I love getting drunk at 2pm with my former coworkers on Zoom, a thought of ~I HAVE BILLS TO PAY~ is consistently at the forefront of my mind.
Bartenders wear many hats and fill a lot of roles in our patrons’ lives: Therapist, Avid Listener, Advice Giver, and Person Standing Between Me and Alcohol. And in today’s pandemic, they need your tips more than ever.
SO, for your consideration, here’s a round-up of some of our favorite local bars that could use a little bit more publicity, a little more love, and your financial support. Remember, 20% is the industry standard. 😉
Drexler’s (with Boulton & Watt, Mister Paradise, Paper Daisy, and Pretty Ricky’s)
Lovers of Today (with Niagra, TSB, and Cabin Down Below)
Mona’s (with Josie’s and Sophie’s)
LOWER EAST SIDE
Banzarbar (with Freeman’s)
Bar Goto (with Bar Goto Niban)
Clockwork (with Strangelove)
Magician (with The Brooklyn Inn and Tile Bar)
Black Rabbit Bar
The Johnson’s (with Welcome To The Johnsons)
Loosie Rouge (with Etiquette and Sauced)
Did we forget anyone? Give them a shoutout in the comments.