Tuesday update: My 3-point proposal to keep bars open, volunteer with MIFA, Hibernation Tots, and more

The Shelby County Health Department is expected to announce additional restrictions on businesses this week, in response to the uptick in both number of COVID-19 cases and testing positivity rate. Bars are expected to be at the top of the list for new restrictions.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I like going to bars, and do frequently. They allow me to be social, to meet and know my neighbors, to meet and know the people who own businesses in my neighborhood. They are also my reward after a day at work.

On the other hand, the problems regarding COVID-19 spread at bars are quite real. Many customers simply are not willing to observe the regulations on their own. They either don’t know there are rules, or they think the rules are less important than their partying. They crowd the bar areas, they make no effort to distance, they won’t wear masks. It’s irritating, scary, and appalling how these people have no consideration for others during a pandemic.

I thought to myself, is there a way to control cutomers without putting some wonderful small business owners out of business? Is there a way to eliminate the inconsiderate people’s behavior while not punishing those customers who have been obeying the rules? I propose the bars stay open with the following 3-point plan:

  1. No more “seat yourself.” There has to be a doorman or host at the front door during all hours the bars are open. The doorman takes your temperature, makes sure you have a mask on, and reminds you that you have to put on your mask any time you are not seated. He/she then directs you to a properly socially distanced seat, table, or booth of your choice. If no seat is available, he/she gives you the option of being put on a waiting list. This would ensure that everyone inside has a properly distanced area of their own and would eliminate people just randomly standing around.
  2. Only people seated at the bar area can order at the bar area. For everyone else, the bartender would have to come out to the tables/booths/patio to take orders, or there would need to be a server. This would eliminate people crowding the bar. This would need to be explained by the doorman to customers at the time they are let in. Yeah I know, it would take longer to get drinks and might require staffing up a bit, but it’s better than closing.
  3. No background noise. No jukebox. No Pandora. No Spotify. The TVs can be on but no sound, even for Grizzlies games. The reason why is that music or a TV turned up loud means you have to talk loud to be heard over the noise. The louder you talk, the farther droplets are spread, and the more likely people will be to take off masks to talk. This regulation would absolutely suck, but again, it’s better than closing.

The following measures unfortunately will likely be considered but in my opinion are inappropriate or ineffective:

  • Closing the bars altogether – punishes bar owners, putting some of them out of businesses they have owned for years, because a segment of their customer base are inconsiderate assholes.
  • Banning on-site consumption of alcohol – this also punishes bar owners because they lose revenue from loyal regulars like me. Not once during the lockdown did I purchase a to-go drink from a bar. The reason I am willing to pay $24 for six PBRs at Bardog when I could get the same product for $7.69 at City Market is the social aspect. Take that away and I have no reason to go to bars.
  • Banning seating at bar areas – all this does is reduce capacity even further, and take away a source of revenue/tips. Bar seating is no different from any other seating. Banning bar seating strikes me as a token gesture to show that they did something, rather than taking the time to come up with well-thought-out restrictions.

Since this might be the last week for a while that I get to enjoy my favorite hangouts as I know them, I decided to treat myself to dinner at the Blind Bear last night. I was seated at the bar, six feet from any other customers, my mask on any time my feet touched the floor. One of my favorite dishes is the Hibernation Fries topped with pepper jack cheese sauce, tomatoes, fresh diced jalapeno peppers, onions, and your choice of ground beef or chicken. However, there’s a new wrinkle to the fries. The Bear has tater tots now, so I got the fries made as tater tots with ground beef.

Totchos! Mm-mm-good. I could eat less than half of the order, so the rest is sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for me to come home from work today.

Food truck news: El Mero Taco, which started out as a food truck and eventually became a brick & mortar location, has bought the Say Cheese food truck. The folks who founded Say Cheese felt it was time to move on, that they were missing too much of their kids growing up. Glad the truck will stick around. Say Cheese was the first Memphis food truck I ever tried.

Beer for err-body: Edible Memphis has a story about Beale Street Brewing Co., Memphis’ first black-owned brewery. Meet Kelvin Kolheim, the founder of the company, in the article and learn about his love for beer, and for Memphis.

Small business owners: PPP loan applications are once again being accepted. There’s still money in the pool allocated by Congress.

WREG has a look at the new 100,000 SF facility the Union Mission will soon open to better serve its clients experiencing homelessness.

Looking for some volunteer opportunities? In a recent email, MIFA shared several ways you can help.

  • Make birthday cards for seniors: For many seniors, your birthday card will be the only one they get. Send completed cards to Kristi Estes at MIFA, P. O. Box 3130, Memphis, TN 38137. Learn more
  • Donate cloth face masks for senior clients: Drop off masks at 910 Vance Ave. or mail them to MIFA, Attn: Kathy Williams, P. O. Box 3130, Memphis, TN 38173.
  • Check on seniors by phone: This is a great way to give seniors much needed company without leaving your own home, and you’d be surprised at the relationships that can develop. Sign up here
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels: There are morning deliveries Monday through Wednesday. Measures are in place to keep volunteers and clients safe, including curbside pick-up and contactless delivery. Sign up here

Regarding Facebook friend requests: I am happy to accept friend requests from my readers who I have never met in person. However, from now through November, I am instituting a new rule: If you friend request me, I am going to go look at your public timeline. If more than 50% of the posts I see there are political, I am going to decline your request, although you’re welcome to request me again in four months. Between the debate about COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the upcoming presidential election, I have more than enough politics in my news feed. I’m not going to unfriend anybody over it but I don’t want any more of it. In the past week I have declined at least 2 people, one conservative, one liberal, who I would have let through in normal times.

That’s it for now. Back tomorrow with more news, or later today if there’s anything super important.