BRUISED, NOT BROKEN
A letter to service industry professionals.
Dear Service Industry Professional,
“You are who you are and what you believe. If you are a bartender, you will know it, and so will the world,” said Jackson Cannon, mixologist at Eastern Standard restaurant and bar in Boston.
For most of my adult life, I have worked in the service industry. I first started because of the recession of 2008. I couldn’t afford to stay in school and knew that if I learned to bartend, I always would have a skill to fall back on. So when Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak made the announcement in March that all bars in the state would close due to coronavirus, I was shaken to my core. The most constant thing in my life over the past decade has been working behind a bar, and now to not have that has created a loss that I’ve truly grieved. To be unable to be with my community of peers through this sad time feels like losing a part of me, a phantom that sits next to me as I write this.
The service industry is full of some of the hardest-working people I have ever known. Only in this industry do people wear their insane hours of nonstop motion and constant barrages of ever-changing problems as badges of honor. In this industry, people are kind to every human who comes through their door, and are willing to deal in the emotional currency of service. These people are generous with the best parts of themselves for the betterment of your day for as long as you are sitting with them. This spirit is the nature of hospitality, and it is how we will get through the coronavirus and resulting economic downturn.
We will survive this with every instinct that pushes a bartender to work harder, learn more, and be better. Right now, what the world needs is more of what makes the service industry great. We need every ounce of that greatness so we can show the world how we can reopen our businesses to be better than they were before. We need those problem-solving, creative, and generous minds working around the clock to rally our community and be the leaders we know we are.
My very first bar manager once told me, “See a need, fill a need.” That is what the industry has already put into place. As I write this, it is March 30, and countless business owners have shifted their models to adapt to this ever-changing climate. Restaurant owners are working together to help feed the hospital workers, and distilleries are working around the clock to make the products necessary to help keep first responders safe. Bartenders, who are out of work, are taking to social media to help lift the spirits and the glasses of those stuck at home, some even going so far as to make cocktails to drop off to their favorite regulars. Industry leaders such as Campari America and Diageo are donating millions of dollars to help fund aid programs that have been developed for those without jobs. That’s just part of our DNA — to see innovative solutions where others see just empty glasses or plates.
I hope as you read this, the situation has changed for the better. I hope someday soon we can all sit around a table or at a bar together and enjoy what makes us social creatures. To share those moments that make each bite taste even better and that perfect sip last just a little longer. I believe in our industry. I know that we will get to the other side of this together and be better for it. We will build superior programs that celebrate equality, diversity, and kindness and that will push us into the future. There is a future of long nights, hard shifts, and dirty dishes coming. I personally can’t wait.