New York (CNN Business)Americans are gearing up for a celebratory summer by buying more lipstick, dressy clothing and condoms. And bars are ready to greet them.

During the pandemic, bars faced strict restrictions. Along with restaurants, they were ordered to close their doors for months. When they started to reopen, curfews were set in place, and distancing rules enacted — a challenge for locations designed to allow people to mingle, stay out late and, often, meet others. But things are changing. “Now, there’s a vibrancy back,” said Erin Bellard, who owns e’s Bar in New York City. “People are getting together with groups outside of their pod,” she said. They’re “ordering a round of Prosecco to cheers that they’re together again.”Bars are eager to welcome people back, but it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. During the pandemic, customers started valuing different things, like reconnecting with friends while staying safe and healthy. Now, bar owners have to make sure people feel safe as they come back but still get the experience they’re looking for. Read MoreLeaning into a party vibeZeppelin bar, in Nashville, is moving toward a club vibe. Zeppelin bar, in Nashville, is moving toward a club vibe. Zeppelin bar, in Nashville, is moving toward a club vibe. Scott Baird, an owner of the Nashville rooftop bar Zeppelin says he is planning to adapt to his customers’ preferences by making the space feel more like a club. Zeppelin opened during the pandemic as a restaurant and bar. But Baird’s been noticing that patrons are more interested in the bar side of things. “It’s definitely a less hungry and more thirsty crowd,” he said. Now, Baird is planning to throw parties and hire DJs. “If that’s what the people want, I want to give it to them,” he said. Plus, margins on drinks are higher than on food, so focusing on alcohol could help Zeppelin’s bottom line at a time when it needs more revenue. The last year has been “torturous” for bars and restaurants, Baird said. He and his friends in the industry “are talking about how do we keep our profession and our industry alive after all this,” he added. But one thing that gives them hope is that “humans are social creatures,” he said. “They want to come out and they want to see each other and they want to have drinks.”Vaccinated and unvaccinated sections e's Bar, in New York City, has vaccinated and non-vaccinated sections.e's Bar, in New York City, has vaccinated and non-vaccinated sections.e’s Bar, in New York City, has vaccinated and non-vaccinated sections.E’s Bar, in New York City, is easing back toward normalcy with vaccinated and non-vaccinated sections.”We decided to do it like when there used to be smoking and non-smoking sections,” said owner Bellard. “Our main bar area, where we have a communal table and bar seats, we’re doing vaccinated only,” she said. In that area, they removed the plexiglass they’d put in during the pandemic. The unvaccinated section is in the back, where e’s Bar has a larger room and banquette section. “That way we have space to socially distance,” she said. Most people responded well to the system, said Bellard. “People were happy about it and felt more confident coming into the space knowing that that the team was vaccinated and that the majority of the guests were too,” she said. But the policy has exposed some tensions between those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who haven’t received the vaccine. “If a table of six comes to the door, and five out of the six are vaccinated, that person is totally on the spot,” Bellard said. “Their friends give them a hard time.” She’s also seen awkwardness between customers who are on dates. For example, she’s seen an incident where “the woman is vaccinated and the man’s not. And then she’s angry.” Earlier open and closing times Marva Babel, standing, owns Ode to Babel in Brooklyn, New York, along with her sister Myriam, seated.Marva Babel, standing, owns Ode to Babel in Brooklyn, New York, along with her sister Myriam, seated.Marva Babel, standing, owns Ode to Babel in Brooklyn, New York, along with her sister Myriam, seated.Ode to Babel, in Brooklyn, New York, is also making adjustments as it prepares for summer. Since reopening in March of this year after closing for winter, the bar has seen sales jump by about 25 percent compared to before the pandemic, said Marva Babel, who owns Ode to Babel, along with her sister, Myriam. Babel attributes the boost to a number of factors, including buzz that built around the bar over the past year. At the start of the pandemic, Ode to Babel started offering cocktails to-go. “Because of that, we almost became more popular,” Babel said. “A lot of people were home, people were bored, people were looking forward to our cocktails,” she said. “And I started seeing the word get out more.” She’s also noticed that some local customers are bringing family or friends that are able to visit from out of town now that pandemic restrictions are loosened. “We are now in a position of trying to really figure out how to accommodate the growth and continuing to do it safely,” she said. Before the pandemic, Ode to Babel was open from 5 PM to 2 AM five days a week. The bar only stayed open until midnight during the pandemic because of local restrictions. Those have been lifted, but Ode to Babel plans to keep closing at midnight so as not to disturb neighbors with its new outdoor section. Instead, the bar is now opening at 4 PM and considering even earlier times on some days. It is trying to hire more staff to make sure that it doesn’t get overwhelmed by crowds, Babel noted.That’s not all that’s new. As a small business owned by black women, Ode to Babel received support from patrons who wanted to help them out during the pandemic, Babel said. Now, she’s using the bar to host marketplaces where other small businesses owned by people of color can showcase their goods. “We’re introducing that as another thing for summer to celebrate all the small entrepreneurs who made it through this pandemic.”

Source Link:
https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/04/business/bars-reopening-covid/index.html

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