By Terrance Blowe
It’s been more than three months into 2020 vision, and three weeks since Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the first coronavirus (COVID-19) case was reported in the nation’s capitol. The case is considered to be the result of community spread. In an effort to curtail opportunities for groups of people to congregate, Mayor Bowser issued a mandate closing all nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
According to a recent report, from the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture, bars, restaurants and nightclubs in D.C. sustain some 65,000 jobs and bring in more than $7 billion in annual revenue. Like many in the community I was shocked. Understanding that these measures are mandatory to flatten the curve of contagion, I was shocked at the lack of solutions being presented by our leaders to help the service community sustain.
The trickledown effect of tone-deaf leadership is real.
The average tip wage employee makes a little under $3 an hour. Consider the impact of only being guaranteed $3 (F$!k Herman Caine) an hour, and having to depend on effective patronage, and the retention of tips to preserve your quality of living. In the face of a paralyzing pandemic that has ended the aforementioned patronage and tip retention, and the venues that you have literally poured blood, sweat and tears into have nothing for you in a space of support, one is left to wonder, who will bail out the restaurant industry?
As a 15-year member of the 65,000, I have prided myself on being prepared for every shift behind the bar. “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance,” has transitioned to “Purp (colloquialism for marijuana), Porn, Pilsners and Pajamas on the Patio.” Give or take a “P,” my experience almost assuredly mirrors that of other service industry professionals in the District of Columbia during the coronavirus/ COVID-19 pandemic.
To quote the old Kanye in the opening line of H*A*M, “It was all good just a week ago.” Trailing the warmest transition from February to March in recent memory, the optimism of an early spring in D.C. salivated the pockets with expectation. I could almost taste it! But life happened. It has a way of doing that, and it forces you to realize that you are just hurling through outer space on a spinning sphere with no control over any part of it.
Being one who thoroughly enjoys being in the house I have embraced the “Stay At Home” orders with open arms. Filled the fridge, paid what bills I could, effectively executed the professional voice to set payment arrangements for the ones I couldn’t and sat down. Our parents and grandparents were called to war, civil rights activism, protest and marches. We are being asked to sit on the couch for a couple months. It could be worse baby!
As the infection rates skyrocket and the death tolls rise, my heart goes out to all of those impacted by this devastating pandemic.
I took some time in my solitude to ask myself how can I be an effective catalyst for change and have a positive impact on my community? 16 million Americans have filed jobless claims requesting unemployment assistance- half of which work in the nightclub, bar and restaurant industry.
In my space and given the ethos I have garnered in the District, I have a responsibility to speak for those with smaller voices and demand change. I have trained, developed and mentor scores of service industry professionals, from kitchen to the dining room. If I don’t speak up for them, no one will. In this space we have an opportunity to ask the powers that be, “How is our value as service industry professionals measured in the District of Columbia?” We have shown up for you sick, depressed, bleeding, bruised, bright eyed, bushytailed and ready to perform. Unlike any other city, D.C.’s entertainment industry drives the business for a multitude of organizations and industries.
One hundred seventy-five (175) countries have embassies in D.C. Every agency government or private, has active representation in D.C. These entities conduct business meetings, banquets, receptions, etc. in clubs, hotels, bars and restaurants. With the District being such a transient community of people, our entertainment and service industries share the same said transience. If our effort provides a platform to solve the world’s problems, why aren’t these entities doing more to preserve this $7 billion platform and its operators?
Terrance Blowe is a veteran bartender, restaurant consultant and event curator, who was recently named one of the “9 Best Dressed in Washington Right Now,” by the Washingtonian.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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