State of Bars

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Drinks on you

The state of our bar scene.

*In the gutter by the bio, add “Photo by Candice Vivien” next to his photo.

Back in May 2020, I wrote a column about my love and respect of the service industry, as well as my hope that we would find a way to work together to get through the toughest year ever for the bar and restaurant industry.

For this issue, I reached out to some members of the Northern Nevada bar community and asked them how they were holding up and how they saw the current state of the bars in our area. The responses were harrowing but ultimately positive, from the grim realities of hostile guests to visions and hope for a brighter future. One aspect rang true: Our bar industry employees are battle born and fighting hard.

Old Dogs with New Tricks

“I swear, if I hear the word ‘pivot’ one more time,” is a phrase I find myself saying over and over these days. But the real successes are indeed those who have adapted and changed their business models to get through this.

“Reno bars are having to retrain everyone. For older bars, it’s having to rethink and retrain loyal patrons and employees alike and shake them of decades of expectation and habit,” says Chris Costa, owner of Reno Public House. “No one likes retooling, but it’s a matter of public health and safety, and there are big changes in the way of service for the foreseeable future.”

With no end in sight but hope on the horizon, bars in Northern Nevada continue to learn new tricks to stay afloat and safe.

Golden Rule

My dad always says, “Treat others as you want to be treated,” and that is the true nature of hospitality. Creating environments that are safe and comfortable, that pull you out of your hard day, is what bars are all about. While bars are creating spaces for you, it’s also your responsibility to meet their staffs halfway.

“Do your research on the bar you are going to; observe their safety practices and follow the rules,” explains Sean Sitt, manager at Reno’s Chapel Tavern. “Be patient with us and with yourself because this is new and constantly changing. But please remember to have fun. At the end of the day, we are still here to have great drinks and better conversation.”

Where We Go From Here

The future for bars is a constantly moving target — that was true even before COVID. Trends come and go, but great service and curation of excellent drinks are evergreen.

“I hope we will see a resurgence of excellence and thoughtful service behind the bar,” says Brooke Walshaw, manager at Craft Wine & Beer in Reno.

Walshaw hopes that when people do come out, they choose something a bit more adventurous than what they can have at home.

“After COVID lockdowns, people will want to feel more cosmopolitan than ever before,” Walshaw says. “Ultimately, I think people will desire top-shelf service.”

I am happy to say that despite shutdowns, capacity restrictions, lack of government help or direction, a polarizing election, and so much more, our industry has put in the work to survive. Not everyone has made it, and even more will not survive much longer, but the spirit to fight and create spaces for our community to relax in and enjoy is very much alive and well.

Michael C. Moberly is a spirits educator and creative consultant. His 14 years in the industry have been spent learning, loving, and imbibing with some of its best minds, both locally and nationally. He also is good at wearing hats.

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