Sunday update: This Pork Is a Jerk sliders @ Slider Inn Downtown

About 11:30 yesterday morning, my friends Randy and Theresa texted me. “Slider Inn Downtown has their dining room open 4 to 10 today,” they told me. “Want to join us at 4 when they open?”

Human interaction! I was not expecting to have any of that yesterday. “Sure!” I texted back.

I got there a few minutes after 4, and the “Please Seat Yourself” sign at the door had been replaced with a “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign. The hostess at the door took my first and last name and my phone number and wrote down that I planned to sit with my friends at the corner of the bar area. She took my temperature and then I was free to go to my seat. Excellent! That is what every full-service restaurant should be doing right now, and that is what every bar limited service restaurant should do if they are allowed to reopen. No one gets in without a mask, a temperature check, and an assigned seat to go to.

I was starving. We’re having a fruit fly problem in my building right now and I have been hesitant to eat at home and have uncovered food out. So I didn’t eat at all Friday and I hadn’t eaten yesterday. I was excited to be in a place where there were no fruit flies and plenty of menu items I hadn’t tried yet.

As they slowly reopen following a temporary closure a week and a half ago, they are running a limited menu:

I ordered the This Pork is a Jerk sliders with Caribbean jerk spiced pork tenderloin and Jamaican mango cabbage slaw. I got them with a side of fries.

These were outstanding! The pork was juicy and tender, and the jerk spice gave the meat a bold flavor put not overpowering, and the slaw complemented the meat well. I enjoyed the sliders very much, and they looked so good that Randy and Theresa ended up ordering them later in the evening.

I have a very obedient troll:

Normally the troll only stands next to the things I eat, not things other people eat. However, I made an exception when Theresa ordered a side of elotes con crema. It’s an alternative to the fries that usually come with sliders. Have a look at this!

Wow wow WOW. I may never order fries at Slider Inn again. It looked amazing!

Although they were open limited hours this Saturday, they told us they’d be back to full hours of 11-10 next Saturday. They close at 10 because the Health Department says you can catch COVID-19 at full-service restaurants beginning at 10:01 PM. Also the golden carriage turns back into a pumpkin at midn… oops, I confused Cinderella with Health Directive No. 8 there for a minute.

I can hear the Facebook “medical experts” now: “How IRRESPONSIBLE was it for you to meet at a restaurant bar area with two people from OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSEHOLD!!! You should have cooked pork sliders at home, then got on Zoom and compared your pork sliders to the ones your friends cooked! ALONE, TOGETHER!

Look:

  • I had no problem sharing contact tracing information
  • I had no problem having my temperature taken, and would have left (and quarantined until I could get a COVID-19 test and had the results back) had my temperature been above the limit
  • No one was sitting within six feet of Theresa’s left
  • No one was sitting within six feet of my right
  • My mask was on anytime my feet touched the floor
  • I counted to 20 each time I washed my hands after using the restroom

I take careful precautions, but I am willing to take on an amount of risk slightly greater than zero in order to be human. To suggest that we not socialize face-to-face at all for up to 18 months until a vaccine is ready is preposterous.

More from the Facebook “medical experts”: “And you probably had ALCOHOL with dinner, didn’t you??? Don’t you know that the combination of socializing and alcohol causes COVID-19, kind of like kissing in a swimming pool causes pregnancies?”

Health department director Dr. Haushalter said there is nothing wrong with dining at a bar area and having a beer with dinner. It’s just that I considered each individual slider a dinner unto itself, and to borrow a Taco Bell term, I considered the fries to be Fourthmeal. Also my troll had a French fry for her dinner and had a shot of Jameson with it.

Thanks to Slider Inn for an excellent dinner, an excellent overall experience, and for following COVID-19 protocols. If bars limited service restaurants had all followed the protocols as closely as Slider Inn did (especially having a host/hostess at the door at all times), I doubt they would have been forced to close this week.

So, what else was open yesterday?

  • Local, a bar that is licensed as a full-service restaurant, was open
  • Green Beetle, a tavern that is licensed as a full-service restaurant, was open
  • The Majestic patio was being set up for ghost restaurant Cocozza diners who wanted to dine al fresco (for those who don’t speak foreign languages, that means “while frying like an egg in a skillet,” or at least that’s what it meant yesterday)

(I can just see the Jennifer Biggs “we visited 25 bars which are licensed as full-service restaurants and this is what we found” headline on the Daily Memphian website tomorrow)

Oh also I saw a party pedal bike riding down Main as I looked out the window at Slider. How ridiculous is it that those public nuisances on wheels are allowed to operate, but I can’t sit at the bar and get crawfish mac and a socially distanced PBR and watch a show about a vet rescuing a mangy fox at the Blind Bear?

(God I miss sports)

I may have to take a walk today. Sunday is the day when idiots get out in large groups – idiots who don’t wear masks, often argue when told to put a mask on, and have no concept of giving others 6 feet of space. They probably have no idea the bars limited service restaurants are closed because they don’t read or watch the news. Might be fun to observe them from a distance as they go in bars limited service restaurants and come right back out after being told it’s take-out only.

Let’s have a look at the MemphisWeather.net forecast for today… possible morning shower, then chance of PM thunderstorms. High 91, low 72 with upper 60’s in the ‘burbs. The great news, though, is wind becoming northwest at 10 MPH, shifting to northeast at 4 MPH by night. Oh, man, the rooftop is going to feel so good tonight around sunset! Well, assuming that thunderstorm doesn’t come through right then.

There’s a petition going around for liquor by the drink reform in Tennessee. It was created by Skinny, owner of Hi-Tone, who paid $5000 to renew his liquor license but has been unable to open since. As of this writing about 800 people have signed it, including me.

This is sad:

I’ll repeat something I wrote in Monday’s post since it’s now timely… a friend who went to Loflin Yard next Sunday for brunch said the breakfast sandwiches are delicious, reasonably priced and they fill you up.

That’s it for this post. About 7 I’ll grab the PBR and head up to the rooftop weather permitting. As for between now and 7… yeah I don’t know. Please wear a mask if you go out, and I will see you tomorrow.

Saturday update

I know some of you are concerned with how I’m holding up without access to my holy trio of Bardog Tavern, Silly Goose, and Blind Bear. Let’s have a look at how yesterday evening went:

Ummm yeah I think I’m going to be OK.

You know, the beginnings of my current group of friends that I run around with began on the very same rooftop back in 2005. There was a chef in the building at the time who had a family for 4 and cooked for 15 on the rooftop grills, and we’d bring him wine and eat gourmet dinners. That fall, as it started to get too cool to be on the roof, we started a trivia team at the Flying Saucer. A poker game in early ’06 united the rooftop gang and the Sleep Out Louie’s gang. Later that year one of the guys told me he was thinking about starting a BBQ team at Memphis in May and asked if I’d be interested in joining… and the rest was history.

Nowadays, I know maybe 10 to 15 of my current neighbors (in a building with 112 units), and I look forward to increasing that number while the bars limited service restaurants are unfortunately closed. The rooftop is outdoors, where the virus is one-nineteenth as likely to spread, and there’s plenty of room up there to social distance.

The folks at Alchemy have decided not to remain open in defiance of the health directive closing bars limited service restaurants. The Health Department paid them a visit and threatened them with a $1500 fine and the loss of a liquor license.

I think Alchemy’s new strategy is smart. I mean, say a cop pulls you over on a bullshit charge. What do you do? You say “Yes. sir” and “No, sir.” You comply. You submit to authority. You cause the officer as little trouble as possible in order to escape the immediate situation.

But escaping the immediate situation doesn’t mean you’re done. I suspect Alchemy isn’t done. I suspect a number of bars limited service restaurants that have meekly submitted to the Health Department’s authority aren’t done.

The Memphis Flyer’s Hungry Memphis blog has the scoop on Cocozza, the pop-up/ghost restaurant that will temporarily operate at the Majestic Grille. The place will serve up Italian recipes that feel like they were made at home, and you can take them back to your couch or dine on the Majestic’s patio.

The 117 Prime food truck will be at Crosstown Brewing Co. today from 11 to 5. Try one of those Dog Days pink lemonade shandys with your food. They’re good!

The Masonic lodge building at 154 G.E. Patterson is for sale. If you’ve got a cool mil-six it could be yours. You’d have a short walk to Central BBQ, as well as to The Vault where my friend Chef Steph occasionally runs RAWK’n Grub burgers as specials. You’d also have a short walk to get to-go drinks from the bar limited service restaurant window at Max’s Sports Bar. Just be careful not to socialize with anyone while picking up your order. Socializing plus alcohol is the life of the DEVIL!!! Just ask the Health Department, or Nancy from Facebook.

I’m surprised the “we should have stayed in lockdown until August” crowd on Facebook and Twitter isn’t pushing for a return to Prohibition until the pandemic is over. It is the Roaring Twenties once again, after all. Hey, then the Blind Bear truly would be a speakeasy!

Here’s a good read: 2020 is a tipping point for college football. The pandemic and the protests are bringing to light underlying injustices in football programs: profiting off unpaid athletes, institutional racism, and failing to properly protect athletes’ health. I’ll share a few facts from the article:

  • When Clemson’s football team reported back to campus a few weeks ago, only 2 players tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, after “voluntary” practice has been going on, 23 have it. Yet the practices have not been suspended.
  • If bringing back college football causes several thousand players to catch the coronavirus, and several hundred already have, it’s statistically likely players will die.
  • A BMI (body mass index) of over 30 is considered a risk for a severe case of COVID-19. The average offensive lineman has a BMI of 36.
  • When Iowa football players reported, only 1 had the virus. Now 21 have it. But that’s OK, because they all signed waivers saying they wouldn’t sue the school if playing football caused them to get severely ill or die.

Three University of Memphis basketball players and one basketball staff member tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to campus last month. That kind of stuff is going to happen. How do you tell a 19-year-old not to go out and meet members of the opposite sex (or the same sex, if that’s what they prefer) and socialize and hook up?

… but, kids, there’s so much you can do besides having sex! You can host a virtual dance party, you can have an online game night, you can take YouTube lessons on how to draw Big Bird and then compare your drawings in a Zoom session, you can livestream a Nickelback concert, you can… all right, I’ll shut up now.

Is YouPorn still a thing? I bet that site is doing gangbusters selling subscriptions this year.

If you missed the documentary on The Little Tea Shop last night, you have two more chances to watch:

  • Today at 3:30 PM on WKNO-2 (rabbit ears 10-2)
  • Tomorrow at noon on WKNO (rabbit ears 10-1)

One of the managers of Loflin Yard contacted me to let me know they are open, outdoor seating only, socially distanced, until 10 PM. I may go check that out sometime today. Not a big fan of 101 heat index, but I’m even less of a fan of being bored.

Blind Mississippi Morris plays Blues City Cafe today at 5. There’s a slight chance you’ll be exposed to COVID-19 if you attend a live music event, but it’s OK because you’ll be on Beale Street and the city’s entertainment district needs to make money.

Bass Pro at the Pyramid is hiring for dozens of positions.

Most of you won’t care, but I’m a former math teacher so I’m linking anyway: A mathematician has created a method that proves there’s no such thing as a bad math student

This will be useful to many of you this summer: How to tell the difference between a fruit fly and a gnat. My neighbor’s tip for trapping gnats – a mixture of 4 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part dish soap – works astonishingly well. Some of the bars limited service restaurants I (used to) go to have had problems with fruit flies. They might want to give this a try when they get back open. Trouble is, it probably wouldn’t be very appealing to customers to have a bowl of dead fruit flies sitting next to the garnishes.

All right, time to wrap up with the usual reminders:

  • If you want to be able to attend a Memphis 901 FC match this year, wear a mask anytime you are out in public
  • If you want there to be football this fall, wear a mask
  • If you want the bars limited service restaurants to reopen, wear a mask, and in the meantime, support them with to-go orders
  • If you want schools to be able to re-open, wear a mask. If you don’t have kids and don’t care, wear a mask anyway
  • If you want to be able to vote in person in a safe environment in November, wear a mask
  • Wear a mask

Possibly back later today with another post.

Friday update: Grizz Burrito @ STIX

STIX, the Asian, sushi, and hibachi restaurant opened in Peabody Place this week, and with nothing else to do, I decided to try take-out lunch there. They had two sushirritos on the menu, and I ordered one, the Grizz Burrito. It consists of spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, cucumber, crab, masago, spicy mayo and sweet soy wrapped in rice and soy paper.

One thing I will tell you: Your burrito won’t hold its shape for long! By 5 bites into each half of the burrito, it had totally fallen apart and I had to get out the fork. Also, the one paper napkin they give you in the to-go utensil pack is not going to be enough. Better have some extras standing by. They gave me chopsticks and 5 packets of soy sauce as well, which I didn’t attempt to use.

Despite being messy, the burrito was delicious and they used quality ingredients. I would get it again, although I may work my way through some of the other menu options before I come back to it.

The documentary on The Little Tea Shop premieres tonight at 7:30 on WKNO. You can join a live chat with owner Suhair Lauck tonight at 8.

The Memphis Tigers football program suffered a blow yesterday. The Big 10 announced they are going to play in-conference games only. The Tigers had a road trip to Purdue scheduled for the second week of the season. Not only will the Tigers lose a $750,000 appearance fee, but it will be harder for Memphis to get back to a New Year’s Six bowl without a win over a Power 5 opponent.

Last week I posted an article about the ghost kitchen future of restaurants. Well, Jennifer Chandler, food writer from the Commercial Appeal, posted that she tried delicious fare from an upcoming ghost restaurant called Cocozza. From the photo of the menu she posted, it appears to be an Italian restaurant, and it will be operated by none other than Patrick & Deni Reilly of the Majestic Grille. Chandler said she would have a story about the place next week, so keep an eye on her column on the CA’s website.

Congratulations to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Pinch District, which was recently named by travel agents as one of the 12 cleanest hotels in the world in a Reader’s Digest article.

Fruit flies are out of control everywhere this summer, and a neighbor of mine gave me a tip last night: Use a mixture that is about 4 parts apple cider vinegar and 1 part dishwashing detergent as a trap.

Yesterday’s COVID-19 task force press conference provided a clearer understanding of the serious situation Shelby County is currently in. Testing capacity is becoming strained. Lab reports are not coming back as quickly as they were a month ago. Contact tracing is harder to do now that the average number of cases is around 300 a day.

Here’s a scary statistic: This tool predicts that if 10 people gather at an event in Shelby County, there’s a 36% chance someone there will have COVID-19. Gather 25 people in the county and there’s a 66% chance someone will have the virus. Go up to 50 people and it becomes 88%, and go up to 100% and we’re at greater than 99%. In that light it becomes more clear why they closed the bars. (hat tip to the Daily Memphian for providing a link to the tool)

Health department director Dr. Haushalter said there have been reports of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, and then attended parties or events knowing they were infected. Other people at these events went on to get infected as well. It sounds unbelievable that anyone would care that little for other human lives, but then again I have met a few people in my lifetime who are that evil.

They opened it up to questions, and Omer Yusuf, the Daily Memphian reporter who usually covers the press conferences, had questions. However, yesterday’s conference was unusual in that the DM sent a second reporter: food writer Jennifer Biggs. Biggs had previously published a list of limited-service restaurants that will be required to close. She asked Haushalter if venues that are licensed as full-service restaurants, but essentially operate at bars, will be looked into by the health department and Haushalter said yes. Then Biggs asked about bars licensed for beer only, and therefore would not be on any list provided by the state. Haushalter said the health department has lists of those places too, and they will make sure those places do indeed close.

Despite being a full-service restaurant and therefore technically allowed to remain open, Bardog Tavern is reverting to take-out only. Their temporary hours are 11 AM to 10 PM and you can call 901-275-8752 to order some of Grandma’s famous meatballs, the Amazing Island Club, the sliders or any of Bardog’s other excellent menu items. With the closure of indoor dining, neither the Health Department nor the Daily Memphian will need to send spies out to ensure that nobody is having any fun at the neighborhood tavern.

Max’s Sports Bar can’t serve people inside under the new directive, but they will still sell to-go food and drinks out of their bar limited service restaurant window next to the front door.

RiverArtsFest is the latest festival to cancel for 2020.

In yesterday’s press conference, Dr. Haushalter said once again that once the Health Department officials see more people wearing masks, they will be able to ease restrictions on bar limited service restaurant closings and restaurant closing times. So please, please, please WEAR A MASK any time you are out in public! It will get good people back to work.

Happy Friday. Back tomorrow with more news.

Thursday update

We have a new place to eat in the Downtown core! STIX, an Asian, sushi, and hibachi restaurant, is now open in the Peabody Place/ServiceMaster complex with an entrance on Second. It opened Tuesday and people who have been told me you enter your order on a touch screen. It is takeout only noon to 8 Monday-Saturday. Yummm they have sushi burritos! Expect a picture of Perjorie T. Roll standing next to a Grizz Burrito soon.

I tried a good beer yesterday:

Dog Days is a light, refreshing pink lemonade shandy by Crosstown Brewing Co. If you’re lucky enough to have a pool that is open, this would be a great beer to take to it.

Jennifer Biggs of the DM posted a list of bars limited service restaurants that have to close due to the health department’s new directive. This is such an arbitrary way of deciding who can stay open and who can’t. It punishes small business owners, it puts people out of work for a second time, and it doesn’t address the real issue, which is not the bars themselves but idiots who refuse to follow rules.

I don’t believe either Blue Monkey location is open right now, but under the rules the Downtown Monkey would be allowed to stay open but the Midtown Monkey would not. That is absurd.

Hey, Randy, Theresa, Bardog on Saturday? Because apparently we’re still legally allowed to do that. We’ve just got to make sure Bloom records our phone numbers and where we sat, which should be easy enough to remember since we sit in the same spot every week.

Man… forcing the restaurants to record names and phone numbers of all who come in could be bad news for dudes sneaking around with their side piece.

Nick Scott, owner of Alchemy, says he won’t close down as ordered. Despite how it is licensed, he says Alchemy is a full-service restaurant, and liquor only accounts for such a large part of total sales volume because they use top-shelf liquors in their cocktails. Nick, I support you, and I may well grab a Lyft out to your restaurant to enjoy one of your delicious concoctions in the next couple of weeks. I’ll have some food too of course.

Why are health departments going after bars so hard right now? Well, part of it may be community spread happening at the bars, but I suspect there may be another reason. We are down to one month before what would traditionally be the beginning of the school year, and schools are in no way ready to open. People are pissed that bars are open and schools are not.

Okay. I’m going to make a radical proposal here. Schools have always been about teaching children to

  1. Obey
  2. Memorize

when they should be teaching children

  1. To think for themselves
  2. That we are all in this together as a human race, and what you do for another, you do for yourself; so if you cause your neighbor to become better, stronger, wiser, you cause yourself to become those things as well

Why not do without school for a year and re-think the school system to instill those values in our children? Think of the amazing leadership our country and our world would have in thirty years’ time. Think of how things that divide us, like racism, would wither away.

The coronavirus is our opportunity to re-imagine all of our institutions. Look how creative we have gotten with working from home. Let’s apply that creativity to schools as well.

Sad news: Asian-American restaurant Wok’n in Memphis, located in Puck Food Hall, has fallen victim to the economic impact of COVID-19. They will close their location in the food hall, but will retain their online presence as gourmet provisions provider @wokn_in_pickle_co.

You can play the virtual game show Matching in Memphis, where you try to match answers to fill-in-the-blank questions provided by local celebrities, tonight from 7:00 to 8:30. It’s presented by Cerrito Trivia and Riverset Rye. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, this video will help: (bonus: Betty White!)

I want to give another shout-out to local meal preparation company Eat Amplified. A friend of mine has been ordering their healthy, nutritious meals for about 8 months now. He has lost 50 pounds and is able to do things he hasn’t done in years. They have a menu of their offerings on their site, but my friend tells me you can talk to them, explain what you’re hoping to accomplish, and they will come up with a customized plan for you.

The DM’s Geoff Calkins has thoughts on Dr. Jon McCullers’ prediction two months ago that Neyland Stadium would be empty this fall. It’ll be the best the stadium has ever looked.

Vanity Fair has a look at Ghislane Maxwell’s life on the lam. She was Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged partner in crime, who helped recruit underage girls for sexcapades. She was arrested last week. If I were Bill Clinton I would be very afraid right now.

Remember, everyone… if you want football this fall, if you want to attend a Memphis 901 FC game this season, if you want your bars limited service restaurants back, mask up whenever you are out in public. Back tomorrow with more news.

Wednesday update: COVID-19 task force closes bars

One thing I’ve learned is that when the COVID-19 task force announces new restrictions in their Tuesday/Thursday press conferences, the guidelines are often unclear. You have to turn to the written health directive for clarification. Yesterday’s press conference was certainly no exception.

Dr. Haushalter, head of the Shelby County Health Department, announced in yesterday’s press conference that, due to a large part of the spread of COVID-19 attributed to social encounters, bars would close and restaurants would have to close at 10 PM, “effective midnight tomorrow.” She said that bars that serve food would continue to be allowed to serve food at the bar.

Now, I think Dr. Haushalter has generally done an amazing job communicating with the public during this pandemic, but I have a bone to pick with her here: I wish she would use the same language that defines establishments in Tennessee liquor-by-the-drink licenses. As I understand it, a true bar is an establishment that sells only beverages. Establishments that serve food but are more bar than restaurant are licensed as limited-service restaurants. For example, the Blind Bear is a limited-service restaurant; I know so because the owner told me. I believe the other places I mention frequently on here are too.

Dr. Haushalter then went on to say that bars that serve food can continue to serve food at the bar. She did not say whether they were allowed to serve liquor when customers also order food.

Also, she said the new rules would go into effect “midnight tomorrow.” That was unclear too. Since midnight is the first minute of the day, that would imply the bars would have had to close 8 hours ago as of the time I’m typing this post (about 8 AM Wednesday, July 8). But most people, when they say “midnight tomorrow,” really mean the first minute of two days from now. Different news sources reported different days as a result of this confusion. This is why a lot of contests write in their rules, “entries close at 11:59 PM.”

So, let’s look at the health directive

Any changes between this Directive and Directive No. 7 shall take effect Wednesday, July 8, 2020, at 12:00 p.m.

There you have it. It’s not midnight after all. The changes go into effect today at noon. So whatever business are going to be closed, probably shouldn’t even bother opening today, or else it will be a real short day.

All businesses in the county may open, except

  1. Bars, Limited Service Restaurants, and Clubs.

There you have it. Places that are more bar than restaurant can’t be open.

Cloth face coverings or masks should not be placed on young children under age of two or on children [under] twelve if they cannot understand how and when to wear a face mask

That clears up the misunderstanding of whether face masks have to be worn by everyone over age 2 or age 12.

What Dr. Haushalter said about “bars” being allowed to still “serve food at the bar” does not appear to be covered anywhere in the health directive.

Interestingly, there’s nothing in the health directive about restaurants being restricted to a 10 PM closing time either.

One other interesting thing in the health directive that I have never heard discussed at any press conference: Restaurants are supposed to maintain charts of who sat where, with a minimum of first and last name and phone number for at least 21 days to assist in contact tracing. I have yet to see any restaurant actually do this.

What a mess. I get the sense officials, having announced they would look at restrictions on restaurants and bars early this week, felt pressured to get something out there by yesterday. If they didn’t, no doubt the Facebook “medical experts” would be posting this morning, “Dr. Alisa ‘Take Your Time’ Haushalter promised us restrictions on bars early this week. Well, it’s Wednesday, and we’re hearing crickets. WEDNESDAY IS NOT EARLY IN THE WEEK!!!”

Haushalter did tell us exactly how to get our bars back. She said that the restrictions don’t have to be kept in place long, and the key is that they need to see an increased number of people wearing their face masks. So, wear your masks, everyone! Even if you think they are no good health-wise (and I would disagree), do it so some great small businesses can get back open as quickly as possible.

An announcement we all knew was coming was released yesterday: The Breakaway-Bardog 5K and Monroe Avenue Festival is canceled for 2020. There’s just no way it could happen in the middle of a pandemic. That event has become the kickoff event for the late summer/fall festival season. This year, yesterday’s announcement will be the kickoff of more cancellation announcements.

Raymond James is taking one more step to leave Downtown, filing permits to renovate the interior of its new East Memphis digs. That sure sucks for Raymond James employees who moved Downtown so they’d have a very short commute. Now they’re going to deal with Poplar/I-240 traffic at 5 PM. Been there, done that, and it is not fun.

Off to work, and after that… well, nothing, I guess, unless I find out I’m wrong about the restrictions going into effect at noon. Back tomorrow, although I have no idea what I will write about.

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.

 

 

Monday update

Miss RAWK’n Grub’s food? You’ll be able to get a couple of popular items tomorrow at The Vault, 124 G.E. Patterson. Check out these two posts from Chef Steph Cook:

Ok groupies it’s been a minute since we’ve posted as a lot of new things are in the works for a new location but in the meantime our friends at The VAULT on GE Patterson have graciously allowed us to satisfy our fans tastebuds to serve special burgers, sandwiches and some classic hits. So this Tuesday July 7, we will feature The Big Popper and Swiss You Were Here Burgers. Thanks for everyone’s patience while we regroup and get situated in our next place. We’ll post pics and deets of the burger and logistics. RAWK ON!!!

The Big Popper! 8oz of our special grind, Angus Chuck, Brisket, Tenderloin, Short Rib, stuffed with a Jalapeño Popper, yes a Popper IN a burger. Topped with Provolone, Pepperjack, Cream Cheese with diced jalapeños, Bacon and Hot Sauce, Arugula tossed in Bacon Jam Vinaigrette. This is available by calling or texting your order to 901-728-2660 and pickup at The Vault on 124 G.E. Patterson. Come in and grab a local brew or curbside if you prefer. Also available is the Swiss You Were Here Burger. Hope to see allot of our regular groupies and some new ones Tuesday!

In other food news, I want to pass along a recommendation from a friend of mine: He says that the $5 breakfast sandwiches at Loflin Yard’s Sunday brunch are delicious and they fill you up.

Regarding policing each other on masking and social distancing, this is not a terrible idea:

Flooding at Loflin Yard yesterday:

Up in my neck of the woods – I can see the intersections of Second and Monroe and Main and Monroe from my windows – it was blowing sheets of pea-sized hail sideways for more than 5 minutes. I haven’t seen a hailstorm like that in many years. Thank goodness the pellets were small.

That’s it for now. Back to work on Monday after a dull weekend. Back tomorrow.

Extremely important PBR news

Jeannette at the Blind Bear is constantly looking for ways to keep her customers and employees safe during the pandemic. One thing she did was install foot poles on the bathroom doors so you don’t have to touch the handles. That is much appreciated, because as was demonstrated earlier in the week, not everyone washes their hands.

Jeannette also recognized that every employee-customer interaction was a possible chance to transmit the virus, and she looked for ways to reduce the number of those interactions without compromising customer happiness. Therefore, she has instituted bucket specials.

The specials are:

  • PBR – 5 16-ounce cans for $10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥
  • Domestic bottles – 5 for $15
  • Import, craft and local beers and White Claw – 5 for $20

That PBR special is a game-changer. The reason I’ve been spending so much time at Silly Goose lately is their incredible happy hour where 16-ounce PBRs are only $2. With the Bear effectively offering PBRs at the same price point when bought in buckets, they will re-capture more of my business.

From their standpoint, they’re protecting their employees by facilitating only 1 interaction with a customer rather than 5. And, by the way, I watched them sanitize several buckets before re-using them.

The concept of using buckets to cut down number of customer interactions is nothing new. Years ago, bartenders at Max’s Sports Bar noticed that several old poots who sit at the corner table were big-time Miller Lite bottle drinkers. By using buckets, the bartenders might have to venture over to check on the poots 5 times a day instead of 25. COVID-19 was not a thing back then, but the poots have a condition called “notrophy” that the bartenders didn’t want to catch.

I hear that Miller Lite goes great with Bananas Foster…

442 new cases of COVID-19 with a 12.9% positivity rate yesterday. The numbers are expected to continue to climb according to Dr. Manoj Jain, to a predicted peak of 670 new cases a day in November. So we’re not even at the top of a peak in number of cases. We’re on a steady upward climb. Geez, are we still going to be in Phase 2 by the end of the year?

Of course, we could follow the Stable Genius’s advice and get case numbers back down by not doing any testing…

Reminds me, I saw a great meme yesterday: Biden said, “I’ll read my daily briefings,” and the Republicans for Biden replied, “You had us at ‘I’ll read.'”

The Daily Memphian’s Sports Notebook reports that nine new cases of the coronavirus in NBA players were reported this week. Can the Orlando “bubble” really be safe? They have  a new health safety handbook, but several players point out that team rules are broken all the time.

There were people shooting fireworks on Monroe Avenue near Main at 2:15 this morning. Gotta love Downtown on the Fourth…

Graber Gryass brings their acoustic sounds to brunch at Loflin Yard today noon to 3.

Today’s the final day of the Quintessential Summer Celebration on the river.

Yolanda Harper’s Double Entendre plays Westy’s today 2 to 3.

A word of advice: If you go out to a bar today and plan to order a muddled drink, first look and see how the muddle is stored behind the bar when not in use. The reason I say this is that the fruit flies are the worst I have ever seen them. You don’t want your drink muddled with a tool which has been crawled on by 20 fruit flies.

Also, if you go out to a bar today, don’t expect to see me. Staying home. Sunday Fun Days aren’t fun during a pandemic. Too many people who don’t follow the rules. I have seven books on deck to read and that’ll keep me busy. Back tomorrow with more news.

Saturday update: COVID-19 continues to rage in Downtown Memphis

Happy Fourth!

The COVID-19 news Downtown looks more and more grim every day. I learned yesterday that they plan to keep the Flying Saucer and Flying Fish closed for two months, and have told their staff to file for unemployment. The fact that they closed the Downtown Saucer but not the Cordova one is another indication that Downtown is a coronavirus hotspot right now.

Residents of an apartment building in the Downtown core (not mine) received notices on their doors that several of their neighbors had tested positive for the virus. Yikes!

Longshot has shut down indefinitely, and will likely stay closed until this wave of the virus passes.

The Shelby County COVID-19 task force had a press conference yesterday. It is rare to see them on Friday and even more unusual to see one on what was an effective holiday for most people, but they had a couple of important messages.

First, Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said they have received a legal opinion that they can enforce mandatory masking. In light of surging numbers, they have chosen to do so at this time. Read the health directive. You have to wear a mask when in public in Shelby County except

  • If you’re under age 2
  • If you have a legit medical reason not to wear one
  • When you’re outdoors, unless in a situation where proper social distancing is not possible
  • When in a vehicle, other than for hire
  • When at work, and you have your own room
  • When at a place of worship
  • When eating or drinking at a restaurant or a bar

That brings me to my next point… Dr. Haushalter said that among the causes in the spike of cases are situations that provide for social interaction, such as bars. She also noted that when alcohol is consumed, it’s easy to forget the COVID-19 recommendations. Therefore, next week, the task force will look at restrictions on bars. It’s not clear if that means minor restrictions, like banning seating at bar areas, or more severe, like closing bars altogether for a while.

As someone who goes out to bars regularly, I am going to state an opinion that may surprise some people. I would TOTALLY support closing the bars. Not only for health and safety reasons, but for the same reason a teacher takes away her entire class’s recess because five or six kids won’t stop misbehaving. There are a lot of knuckleheads out there who just don’t take the COVID-19 restrictions seriously, and they make it dangerous for those of us who try to play by the rules as much as possible… and they make it dangerous for bar employees too. The only way to get them to behave is to take their toys away for a while.

If the task force does not choose to go as far as closing the bars, I still like the idea of requiring bars to have a doorman or host at all times they are open. Have the host either direct people to seats, or if none are available, putting them on a waiting list. That would prevent people from barging right in without masks, and walking right up to the bar. To me that seems like a much more effective solution than taking away bar seating.

If the Health Department wants to get a real look at what goes on in bars, I suggest they visit areas where several bars are within walking distance of each other between 3 PM and 6 PM Sunday. That would provide them with a more accurate look at the problems than sending a code enforcement crew out at 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. I think they would also quickly understand why I have decided not to go out on Sundays for the foreseeable future.

Funny story: Last night I dreamed that I had a work-related meeting at the Health Department. I brought along a baseball and asked Dr. Haushalter and county health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph to sign it. A third doctor signed it too but I can’t remember his name. You da real MVPs!

There was one piece of positive news yesterday. Two bartenders at Bardog, Melissa and Dani, had their COVID-19 tests come back negative, and they got the bar open for happy hour yesterday. It’s not yet known if or when they will open today. The opening was several days earlier than expected, and my check-in on Facebook got some of the local activists questioning their decision. I have known Aldo for 12 years, and I can tell you this: He is not someone who puts profits before people. If he thought there was a reasonable chance opening could infect customers, he would have stayed closed.

I’ve been told that Elite Total Health offers both deep-nose swab and blood tests for COVID-19. The advantage of the blood test is that it checks for antibodies, so not only do you find out whether you have the virus currently, but whether or not you have had the virus.

He who goes forth on the Fourth with a fifth… is livin’ life right. Go see my friends at Downtown Wines & Liquors at Madison and Main for all your alcohol needs.

I want to close this post with a quote I came up with thirteen or fourteen years ago.

There are two kinds of people in Downtown Memphis: friends you have, and friends you haven’t met yet.

As you celebrate the Fourth today however you see fit, I invite you to see it that way. See not strangers, but friends you haven’t met yet; and take the same steps (masking, social distancing, hand washing) to keep them safe as you would for your friends you already have.

I’ll be at Blind Bear at 11, unless I get word that Bardog will open for brunch. My plan is to go home before the sun sets. I am not interested in being out at the bars when the knuckleheads start to come in, and I am not interested in playing “fireworks or gunshots.” Back tomorrow, probably with more depressing coronavirus news. There may be multiple posts tomorrow since I won’t be going out.