Sophia is an award-winning bartender, cute as all hell, a delight to be around, and looks damn good rocking our garments. When we first took these photos with her, we planned to do a trade profile featuring her experience in the restaurant industry, why she loves her job, and her views on workwear as it applies to her world. One of her quotes was, quite poignantly, “I love my job because it allows me to work with my hands while in a highly social setting.”
Needless to say, Sophia isn’t doing that job right now. We reached back out to see if she had anything to share about what she and her colleagues are going through. With her permission I am sharing her words with the hope that some of you are able to find solace, and others are inspired to support our beloved hospitality industry. Call a representative, send a virtual tip, or order a meal from one of your favorite restaurants that’s still offering take-out options.
Over the coming weeks, we hope to highlight resources and perspectives from ma’ams in a handful of different industries. Here’s Sophia on the current situation:
On Saturday night, I got home from work and had a panic attack. It was beginning to really click that this was going to be a problem and I was scared for myself, my family, my friends, our community — everyone. My friend talked me back from the ledge and I went into work on Sunday with an attitude of positivity. Within just an hour or two of working though, I realized that I was very uncomfortable being at work. People came in to eat, and I became more and more upset that there were people in the room. By this point, it had been announced that it was important to practice social distancing, but there hadn't been any real directions on how to do so, or any emphasis by the government on just how critical it was to do that. Throughout the shift on Sunday, I kept hearing about more and more restaurants and bars in Richmond that had decided to close. By the end of my shift I decided that, whether or not Saison closed the next day, I would not be able to be at work.
Saison did end up closing last Monday and yesterday we finally got the message from our owners that the restaurant would be closed indefinitely, that we should apply for unemployment, and that they would be hiring us back once they reopen. I think the restaurant and bar industry has just been dealt a catastrophic blow. We felt it first, because we are a highly social industry. It was upsetting to realize that we needed people to continue coming in because our livelihoods depended on it. We also realized that the more people came in, the more danger we were exposed to. It was a double-edged sword that ultimately led to restaurants closing before a government mandate was issued in order to protect the public. Everyone in the industry quickly came to the understanding that closing, as difficult a choice as it is, was the most responsible thing to do.
I don't know if Saison will reopen. If it does, I don't know when that will be. I know that many businesses will not make it out the other side of this. The industry is bleeding. And I know that other industries are also feeling it now: independent artists, retail workers, basicallyservice or business that involves people... It’s so upsetting. It’s extra painful because during times of hardship are when we need to be around friends and family most, but we can't do that right now.
I think it will be important, today, to call our lawmakers and pressure them into helping the everyday person. We can't let them just bail out the giant companies. We need them to give aid to the small businesses that make our society vibrant and beautiful. Giving out checks isn't going to save us — it’s just as important to make sure we all have jobs to return to.
Below are more accounts to check out for guidance in the Richmond area:
The Holli Fund
Richmond Restaurants United
Another Round Another Rally
For nation-wide resources, please visit Eater.
If you have any resources to add, please send them our way. We are in the process of compiling resources into this and other blog posts that we hope to share soon.