On February 1st, by Jay Inslee’s order, a majority of the counties in Washington moved to Phase 2 of pandemic protocols. This means that formerly shuttered restaurants and bars can reopen at 25% capacity, in addition to already allowed outdoor dining. This decision comes at a time when several obvious reasons not to make it are in plain sight: multiple new variants of Covid 19 are landing on U.S. shores, we’re being told to double mask, and we are ostensibly just weeks away from a new federal stimulus package.

In short, moving to Phase 2 at this point is stupid and premature.

We don’t know enough about the incoming variants, service industry workers are still at least a month out from receiving vaccines, and we don’t have enough information about potential small-business relief to make informed financial decisions.

Not to mention the fact that working a bar or restaurant open at 25% capacity sucks. Everyone is running on skeleton crews and cleaning duties are far more rigorous — as they should be. Meanwhile, there’s only so much money workers or business owners can expect to make at quarter capacity. You end up doing twice the work for a third of the money — at significant risk.

In many ways, it’d make more sense to commence with reopening if there were no end in sight. If it felt unavoidable. But as is, with vaccines rolling out and financial relief on the way. . . we couldn’t wait another month?  Until we at least have more info? But no. 

As a service industry worker, it’s hard not to feel like cannon fodder.

Which leads to a cognitive dissonance every time I go to work. Like always, I want people to come in, spend their money, tip me, be friendly. But unlike always, I also want people to be safe and responsible, not to take unnecessary risks, and I DEFINITELY don’t want to be working in a packed room.

It’s common practice for bartenders to advertise their shifts on social media. A well placed Instagram story can bring in friends who tip well, hang out, and generally add to the community vibe that is the reason bars exist in the first place. But what do I say?

“Hey! Put yourself in harm’s way so I make money? Disregard good practices and come sit in a room with strangers drinking alcohol and therefore getting less careful about masks and social distancing?”

But, conversely, being out here working, it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stare at the wall all night. If I’m going to be out of my apartment, I might as well make SOME cash. My poverty doesn’t help anyone.

The uneasy compromise I come to is this: no one should violate their own conscience or sense of safety just to support workers and businesses in person. Most spots are selling take out, and you can support them that way with far less potential exposure. 

But if you ARE going out and it’s safe —  because you’ve been vaccinated, you’ve been responsibly podding, or perhaps you also work with the public and a masked visit to a restaurant isn’t going to significantly increase your risk of exposing/exposure — by all means come see me! And give me your money.