New York is the city that never sleeps. Yet, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has forced the city to slow almost to a halt. Governor Cuomo's order for New York on 'PAUSE' has created a new reality -- changing the way we live and work overnight.
Now, in the aftermath of the March mandate, more and more of our favorite watering holes are making the difficult decision to temporarily close their doors or continue a delivery only service. Owners and staff weigh the benefits of providing a service to their community against their personal safeties and mental health. Some restaurants have a steady stream of takeout orders coming in, along with an outpouring of love and support from their customers. Others have decided to keep their employees at home with the plan to open up full force in late April. Unfortunately, many bars in our city without a full kitchen were not able to make this choice, leaving thousands of people either temporarily or permanently out of work.
At TapRm we have the unique opportunity to see this shift from multiple perspectives as we work with supermarkets, bodegas, bars, restaurants and offices. Which establishments stay open in the crisis, and why? As with most things, demographics dictate these choices. Fast-paced hotspots for business lunches and happy hours saw a significant drop in traffic even in early March, as folks in the surrounding offices chose to work from home and self isolate. Neighborhood bars, on the other hand, were filling up in the daytime with these same professionals. (If you can take your laptop - why not enjoy a pint while you work?) Supermarket lines across the city stretched to holiday-level lengths as people began to stock their pantries with home essentials. Businesses across the board have been hit by the effects of this pandemic in a spectrum of different ways.
I sat down (virtually, of course) with bartender Jeff Cinco of d.b.a, an East Village institution that’s been serving its customers “the good stuff” for over 25 years, and Julian Church of Reclamation Bar, an East Williamsburg “neighborhood living room,” to ask a few questions about this unusual experience.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected you and your place of work?
Cinco: The hammer came down during our annual “Crown of New York” tournament, a tiered beer competition, so it couldn't have come at a worse time. We depend on our crowd, and the neighborhood depends on us as their second home.
Church: I manage a bar in East Williamsburg so unfortunately we had to shut our doors a week ago. However, with the understanding that when allowed we all have jobs to come back to, for now it's simply just a waiting game. Management started a GoFundMe page for the staff also!
Q: Is your place of work able to do deliveries?
Church: We are now open everyday from 2-8PM for takeaway drinks or no-contact delivery. For delivery to your door, you can DM us on Instagram (@reclamationbar) with your order request, or just use the delivery link on our website here. We are offering liters of pre-made cocktails, batches of signature "Rec cocktails" as well as traditional cocktails (margarita, negroni, dark & stromy, Kentucky lemonade, Tom Collins, etc) draft beers from our brewery partners, all sorts of bottles/cans, and even beer-and-shot combos in little takeaway cups to go!
Q: How are your coworkers keeping in touch?
Cinco: We have a company wide email and text thread with a lot of support going around between our sister bars. Joking around, sending memes and offering anything needed is keeping us positive. We're very much a big family and it shows through it all.
Church: We run a pretty small staff so I feel like I'm interacting with everyone individually pretty regularly - either via text or sending each other funny posts or in our group WhatsApp. It's very much a "we're all in this together" kind of vibe.
Q: What are you personally doing to stay healthy mentally, socially or physically?
Cinco: I'll get back to you after this 3rd bowl of mac & cheese (kidding... sort of). We take my partner’s dog for walks throughout the day - that's when I get to chase a couple of Pokémon around the block (6 feet away from anyone around of course). Instagram keeps me as social as possible, I'm constantly on it chatting with friends and answering DMs as I run 3 to 4 different Instagram pages daily.
Church: I've been trying to keep myself on a productive schedule. I have a little home studio so it's been my goal to write a song/make a beat every day. I'm also trying to spend some time away from screens, whether reading or writing or doing little projects around the house. We have a pretty stacked home bar & I have three roommates so I've also been 'working from home' aka making them different cocktails every day (last night was Emergen-C daiquiris)
Q: Are you discovering any silver linings?
Cinco: I can finally put a dent in those streaming service watch lists, huh? Having an apartment full of instruments has me working on new things here and there for my band #ROLLINBONEZARMADA. Drawing and making any kind of art keeps me the most sane for sure - I have a million projects I can get to -- I'm happily an indoor kid. Being a graphic designer and merch maker, there are commissions I can work on as well as selling my lapel pins, patches and clothing. Check out my Instagram for more. (@jeffcinco)
Church: I've only lived in New York for a year and a half - so honestly, if nothing else, I'm grateful for the pause. Time tends to fly by so fast here to the point where you blink & then realize you haven't spoken to your sibling or best friend in weeks. So I'm very grateful for these opportunities to connect with the people I love. Teaching my mom how to FaceTime has also been a privilege. I'm feeling pretty confident that we're all going to come out of this feeling refreshed, eager to create & hopefully a bit more connected as humans. Times are dark but on the bright side - my apartment has never been cleaner.
Q: Any last thoughts?
Cinco: Wash your hands!
Church: At the end of the day - it is what it is. All we can do is our best; our best to stay positive, to contribute to our communities, and to minimize the impact of this pandemic. The stricter we are on ourselves during this will make it quicker that we'll all be able to bounce back from this.
We are experiencing an unprecedented moment in modern history, so of course there’s no rulebook on how to react. Reaching out to friends and professional contemporaries can be a great way to find inspiration and solace in these times. New York City has shown great empathy and support to its favorite spots to eat, drink and come together in the past two weeks, and with that level of engagement folks can make it through together.
TapRm launched its Community Relief Fund on March 25th, 2020 to benefit displaced beer community workers. $10 of every $50 purchased through this program will be donated for the duration of the government-mandated shutdown.
Links from the article:
Jeff Cinco, d.b.a.
Personal Instagram: @jeffcinco
Julian Church, Reclamation Bar
Personal instagram: @julianchurchGoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/reclamation-bar-staff-help