I am a Bartender. I Am Begging NYC: Close the Bars

15 Mar

I have seen a lot of folks on social media griping about all the people packing into bars and restaurants in the face of this growing public health emergency. And I get it. Given everything that is happening, given what we know about the spread of this thing, this could prove potentially lethal for a lot of people we love.  We should stay home. We should self-quarantine. We should take the necessary steps not to keep ourselves healthy if we are young and low-risk, but to make the responsible choices for our neighbors, family members and high-risk friends. And on the other hand, as a service worker myself, I  need people to go out to bars and restaurants so I can continue to pay my rent and my bills, to buy food, to live. But as some one who has maybe 2-3 months of savings before I am basically scraping the bottom of the barrel (I understand this makes me very privileged compared to other workers in my position), I am begging Mayor De Blasio, Governor Cuomo and President Trump to mandate the closing of all non-essential businesses, even if those businesses are essential to my financial well-being and the financial well-being of a lot of people who I love.

Here is the thing. You can spend your time online telling people to stop being so selfish, to stop speeding us towards a very dire situation, to think about others but they will not. We have been raised not in a community-oriented society but rather one that is very individualistic, one that focuses on what is good for me not what is good for us. We cannot expect people to, on their own accord, undo all of the training that we have received over the course of our entire lives. Activists should understand this better than most. We spend a lot of our time advocating for the betterment of those underserved by society to see gains made at a glacial pace. People who are “on our side” oftentimes do not spend their time trying to be anti-racist or anti-sexist. They don’t want to make themselves uncomfortable. I get that. Being uncomfortable sucks. So I don’t know why, in this instance, so many activists are asking people to make themselves uncomfortable for the betterment of the rest of society and expecting those people to listen. Why would they start now? And I also don’t know why, in this instance, many activists have turned a blind eye to the real financial disaster looming just around the corner for those of us who will be effected by these closures.

So it is imperative that the government steps and makes it happen. And it is also imperative that the government takes steps to help those of us who will be affected by this. And I am not just talking about service and gig workers, but also small business owners who can only forego a few weeks of loss of income before they have to shutter their businesses. And with those shuttered businesses will come a huge loss of jobs. Mine very well might be among them.

It has been really frustrating and scary these past few weeks and, if I am being honest, it will only get worse. And I am angry. I am angry that while me and a lot of people I know – as well as millions of folks who I don’t – are staring down a very, very bleak spring and summer financially speaking, a lot of people working from home, advocating for quarantine and social distancing haven’t taken a step back and realized how fucking scary that is for a lot of us. It’s not that I want to go out and be in crowded places, touching things that other people are touching. It is that I have to. So while I am advocating for the closing of bars, restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses, I am also advocating for people to take a second and recognize that there are a lot of layers to this disaster. This city, and many cities and towns across the country, are going to look very different in a few months. Loss of life, absolutely. Also loss of livelihood and very different looking business districts. I am just begging you all to be aware of this fact. Ask your friends who walk dogs, work in bars/restaurants, are cab drivers, fitness professionals, small-business owners whether they are okay and what you can do to help.* Maybe just FaceTime them. All of us could use a smiling face in times like these, whether we can work from home or not. Plus it seems like we will have a lot of time on our hands. I know I will! My phone line is open to everyone.

But to get back to the original point, the sooner we close everything down, the sooner we can re-open. The less time this takes, the better off we will all be. If bars and restaurants stay open, people will go there to eat, drink and blow of some steam. That is just a given. So if we don’t want that happening, then they need to close. As I said before, we cannot expect people to make themselves uncomfortable until they are forced to. But until that happens, and mark my words it will happen, I guess I’ll just keep going to work. At this point I don’t have much of a choice.

*Super thankful to all of my friends who have been doing just this. You all are amazing and I love you.

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