The old proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” has perhaps never rung truer in the bar industry than it does during these pandemic times. With bars and restaurants swiftly and temporarily shuttered around the globe as COVID-19 touched every continent but Antarctica, suddenly each one needed to reimagine their operating model and develop a “plan b” if they wanted their business to survive.
Survival planning mode began without any clarity on when it would end, or what reopening would look like when it did, and so, just shortly after closure regulations fell into place across the country, municipal governments and state liquor authorities generously relaxed liquor laws that, had they remained in place, would have spelled certain death for a high number of bars nationwide.
Relaxing these laws, or at least not enforcing them, gave bars freedom to break out of the three-tier model. It also meant that in many cities where, since Prohibition, drinking happened only inside the four walls of a bar or restaurant, bars were suddenly allowed to provide to-go and/or delivery cocktails for their customers.
Swiftly embraced as an opportunity to keep doors open and keep at least a skeleton crew of staff employed, these new relaxed measures provided a safety net for bar owners who could not expect financial relief from their landlords or the government. It also provided minimal job security for a handful of the 700,000 American bartenders who found themselves out of work.
Guests were pleased too. This new cottage industry of to-go cocktails meant that drinking by themselves at home was guaranteed to be as delicious as at the watering hole that had come to them. Being allowed to pivot like this will, for many bars, be the difference between keeping doors open and getting back on their feet after all is said and done, versus shutting entirely like the 21-year old West Village neighborhood bar Daddy-O just did.
And now, even more than ever as people do not stray far from home, knowing your neighborhood is crucial. Bars like The Snug in Sacramento have dug in deep to satisfy every customer desire. Owner Trevor Easter shared that the bar invested in four different sizes of bottles in order to package up drinks as everything from single serve cocktails to larger format bottles providing both good value and a longer time to savor a new or beloved beverage. Drink size selection is also an option at Gardiner Liquid Merchants in Gardiner, New York where their signature brandy bottles are being repurposed for 350 ml and 750ml cocktail sizes, offering their take-away (and delivery) customers a 4-8 drink option.