Interviews with working professionals most affected by the world’s current state.
“My name is Rebecca Williams, I am 28 years old.”
Q. What do you do professionally, Becca?
I am the Lead Bartender of Sandbar Sportsbar and Grill in San Diego, California. I’ve been working there for almost three years.
Q. How has your work been affected by the COVID-19 most recently?
Well, my job was informed to close it’s doors like most all bars and restaurants to help from spreading COVID-19. We are currently offering to-go orders, but that doesn’t require a full staff the way a bar running normally would.
Q. How have these changes affected you personally?
It is my livelihood, it paid my bills and helped to put food on my table. I was about two and half weeks away from going on maternity leave, so it granted that a lot earlier than I expected.
It also came at a time during the bar’s transition from winter hours to summer hours. Meaning, we were in the process of only getting busier as the days got sunnier for longer. Not to mention the fact that my husband, who is also a bartender, was informed that his bar would also be switching to the “to-go” food method just one day after I was told.
The biggest hit, other than the financial aspect was how quickly it all happened.
The bar industry is both of our main source of income, so losing that created a slight panic for us both. My sister, brother, and all of my friends work in the industry, so I know I’m not alone. It is definitely hurting us all .
The biggest and probably most frustrating part of this is not the financial part. It is the unknown of when this will be over, only schools, as far as I know have an approximate date in mind as to when things will switch back, but the bars and restaurants do not. There was no “for two weeks.”
Just: “We’re closed until further notice.”
Q. When did the gravity of this situation hit you?
Hmm… I would say the day after my husband was told about his job. That first full day of being home on a day we would normally be working just felt weird, because it wasn’t by choice. I felt helpless because I couldn’t just pick up and grab a different job because every job was being impacted by the COVID-19 prevention methods. I was stressed because I knew I only had a few weeks left before maternity leave, and my plan was initially to work five or more shifts to save for when I was on leave. Losing that sense of security hit hard.
The carry-out orders can only go for so long. Given the most recent update regarding total lockdown (with the exception of essential needed work), I have even less of an idea as to when things will change.
I will say trying to find the silver lining in all of this mess is knowing I have been able to see my family almost every day. My husband and I are getting a lot of time together that we are using to do things around our home and prepare for the baby, as well as just enjoying the “break.”
Q. What resources do you know of (if any) in place to help people in your profession?
The first resource mentioned by my job was unemployment, which is probably the first resource everyone was given. I know that unemployment changed the wait time from a week to a day in effort to get money out to everyone faster. That is helpful— though the sites were slow as everyone was applying.
I was then made aware of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. This is a group created for bartenders and other service industry workers that typically meet for industry-related events. They were given a large sum of money from Jameson Whiskey, in order to fund the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program (BEAP). This allowed bartenders, spouses, and even the children of bartenders to apply online and receive money to assist them during these trying times.
There are also a lot of bars and restaurants that are doing the carry out option for people to be able to have food. My bar has created an employee menu/commissary program, which allows employees of the company or sister company to go in for two free meals a day during this time, which is amazing because I can’t count how many times our meals would be from the restaurant.
Q. What are your predictions for work in the next 4-6 weeks?
Honestly, I have no idea what will happen in the coming weeks. I try to sift through the information provided on the news and from peers to find the truth, but with so many different stories flowing it becomes hard to do so. I will say, I think within the next two weeks things will be the same. The whole idea is to prevent the spread. I think keeping people at home will allow us to limit how many people get sick. I would imagine we may still be in a lock down given the way other countries numbers have increased so rapidly, even with the lockdowns.
I would love to say that we will be back in business soon, but honestly, I do not think we will. I can see it becoming more serious before it gets better. There are a lot of people in California, and a lot of people who are still working at those essential jobs, and then going home to their families. I find it hard to think none of those people will move through without infecting someone else. The lockdown the governor stated still allows people to go to the stores, walk the dogs, and be outside with kids. From seeing people out and about since the announcement, it seems that things have slowed down— not stopped. Not to mention we are the first state to issue the lockdown, but the third most infected state. We need to get serious about this before things can get better.
Q. What advice would you give to people in your same boat?
Try to use as many of your resources as possible— pride aside—they are in place for a reason. Depend on friends and family for support.
Avoid total seclusion, if possible. Our industry is an active one, so find a way to still be social!
Q. What has helped you manage anxiety and uncertainty?
My family has been a huge help in managing everything. We talk most of the day, unless we are sleeping, FaceTime frequently and just try to stay available for each other. Having my husband with no interruptions to leave to work is also another important part.
Oh! And preparing for baby. It is keeping me focused. I know my stress can be felt by my baby, so I try to remember that and find ways to alleviate it. Walking outside, keeping to a normal routine, whether that be for meals or household chores. I am also still in school which is mostly online, so that is keeping my brain working and preventing me from binge watching an unnecessary amount of Netflix.
Q. Any more ways you know of to help supplement income?
Stay informed. I know I have received a ton of emails from my credit card companies and bank discussing the effect of COVID-19, including financial assistance options. Now would be the time to reach out. Perhaps they can halt payments or work with you in another way to help make ends meet.
Don’t believe everything you see or read, research before you decide to do anything.
And again, use your resources! Especially the ones offering financial assistance. I know it won’t fix the income issue entirely, but it may help you stay afloat.
Q. Any tips for quarantine for someone in the service industry?
This is not a time to completely social distance (which I find to be a terrible term), this is a time to be smart and protective of your health and of others’, so call your friends, FaceTime, lay on the grass outside, and remember that being positive will be more of a benefit to you emotionally and physically than being scared and negative.
Interview by Michelle Lozano, A-LMFT
- United States Bartenders’ Guild
- Bartender Emergency Assistance Program (BEAP)
- Sandbar Sportsbar and Grill
- Tell Congress to support restaurants and employees
- Four Corners Employee Relief Fund – GoFundMe
- Restaurants face a historic reckoning
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