I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’m just going to say what a lot of people are trying really hard not to say: a lot of restaurants, and probably almost all of the bars are not going to survive this. Furthermore, those spaces will be replaced by larger “chain” restaurants and retail places, because that is who is going to be able to afford to rent a space. One step further, the “eat in” restaurants that do survive are going to become luxury services. No one is going to be able to survive being a dine-in only restaurant unless they increase their prices by a percentage in ratio with the amount of seats they lost. Expect that dinner that cost $100 just 3 months ago to be $200-$400 in the future for the same types of offerings.
I know no one wants to hear that, but I’ve thought about it every kind of way, and that’s the reality that I always come back to. Many of our dine-in restaurants are tiny. The larger ones pay even higher rents. If it isn’t feasible to do a descent take-out business, then raising prices are the only thing that is going to save them, essentially turning every higher end restaurant in town into the equivalency of “Second Empire”. Going out to a “sit down restaurant” is going to return to the big treat it was when you were a little kid and your parents were young and broke; a thing of birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations.
An even harder truth? I have no idea how bars that don’t serve food are going to make it. There is nothing that says “social distancing” about a night club. That’s not why anyone goes to a night club. They go for the thrill of meeting someone, dancing all squished together with friends, and drunk people don’t understand anything about social distancing. Put this all together with the constant bathroom trips, drunk, spotty hand washing, and the occasional vomiter, I have no idea how a traditional bar or pub is going to stand a chance. Even the more chill “pub scene”, I mean, how do you even regulate that? You can let only 20 people in the door, but you can’t control where they sit or stand. Shit, some of my favorite bars don’t even have 6 feet of “passing by another person to get to the other end” space. How is that even going to work?
Essentially going to a pub, even with only 20 people there, is going to be like going to a grocery store, where no one is wearing any PPE, everyone is drunk, but there is no food. The truth of the matter is, this isn’t going to work. Only the largest (in space) bars and nightclubs could handle this, and at a severely reduced capacity, that rent is gonna be just about impossible to cover. Going to a night club is going to have a high cover, and even more expensive drinks. It will also become a luxury. The days of popping in somewhere for a beer might be effectively over. Patios may save some, though, so I hold out hope for that for my service industry family.
Where does that leave the rest of us “Service for Life” folks. Well, back of house will be able to find some work somewhere, even with take out, someone has to cook the food. Some will find work at the few restaurants braving the new dining room layout, but with less customers, less employees will be needed. Some will hand out those curb-side orders, but you don’t need a whole lot of folks to do that. A handful of bartenders will see the inside of the club, but with less people, it will be just that, a handful. Folks with cars may opt to start doing food delivery.
I predict the rest of us are about to enter a whole new chapter in our resumes. Some folks are going to straight up go back to school (this is the route that I have been thinking about, I only need 27 more credit hours). People are going to switch into places that are hiring (warehouses, truck drivers, other retail opportunities, grocery stores and delivery). Artistic people may be able to follow their passion and truly cut that album/write that book/make that movie/sell some art. A bunch of you are about to learn some IT shit or take up programming, because that seems to be the only job left where anyone can make any actual money. I love bartending, and I’m going to miss the hell out of bartending concerts and shows, but I just don’t know when we’ll be doing that again, and honestly, I don’t know that anyone really WANTS to do that right now with absolutely no vaccine or a cure unless it is just a matter of “do this or you are about to be homeless and go hungry”, aka, what our president is counting on, your economic desperation.
So, I’ve been considering other avenues, because I’m a survivalist, and I feel like I have to. I’m going to encourage you all, gently, to start thinking about what you would like to do if your restaurant or bar does not open back up, or even if it does, and you’re not one of the 5 staff members out of 30 who gets to have their job back. Now is the time to think about what something else will look like. It is hard for me too. Before now I was actually considering going to nail school (seriously), but I don’t foresee that making a huge comeback either, so I’m planning accordingly. I was a horticulture/agriculture major. We will always need plants and food. This is the route that I am planning to go. What will yours be?