Socializing in a Socially Distanced World

Socializing in a Socially Distanced World by Evan Shirreffs

As young professionals, most of us are getting our careers started, attempting to make new friends outside of work, and networking for possible job opportunities that don’t involve surviving at the bottom of the totem poll at a 9-5. A lot of this socializing would typically come at happy hours and on weekends with visits to our favorite spots, but a huge disruption to the young professional lifestyle came with the onset of COVID-19. Our time to let loose became a time of added stress as we were pent up in our apartments, or even back home with our parents, as we waited for any sign of times returning to normal. One thing became clear as week after week brought new broken promises and spoiled expectations: the end of this mayhem was nowhere in sight, so we decided to make do in the meantime.

At first, this meant getting together with a small number of close friends for what normally would be pre-games. These gatherings still somewhat involved social distancing as our parents warned us that we couldn’t see them when we traveled back home if we were stupid enough to see other people, but the seed of times returning to normal was already planted.

At some point in the terrible reaction to the pandemic, the FOMO took over. Our cravings for those social settings that we so dearly missed slowly outgrew our fear of the pandemic. Naturally, we wanted to meet people and we wanted to try new things. As places began to re-open, we scrolled through social media, witnessing our friends start to go out again. Sparked by distrust of the conflicting news we received day in and day out, we were all soon flooding the doors of any place brave enough to host us. Whatever was open, we ran to with hopes of getting in before they reached capacity. We watched our favorite dance floor at Gin Mill reopen before regulations forced them to do table only seating. We saw an earlier last call at Sycamore with each passing evening, leaving us scrambling for a new place to go. We were devastated by a curfew put on the few thriving spots like Hoppin’ after a promise of brewery and bar re-openings that clearly came too soon.

After hearing news the other day of an additional 5 weeks being added to the Phase 2 protocol in North Carolina, I thought of how everything has unfolded over the past few months and pondered the next moves for some of these affected restaurants, bars, and breweries. In my research, I came across this excerpt regarding the “Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (Restaurants) Act of 2020” that truly puts into perspective what these businesses have been going through and why relief is needed:

“Recent surveys found that COVID-19 has forced operators to lay off 91% of the hourly workforce and 70% of salaried employees. Only one in five restaurant owners subjected to state mandated dine-in shutdowns said they felt confident they could keep their restaurants running. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that only 15% of restaurants will be able to stay open if the COVID-19 pandemic lasts six months. All of this in an industry that already runs on extremely thin margins.”

While the circumstances appear dire, there is always hope and opportunities hidden within even the most chaotic of crises. There are strategies business owners and operators in this space can and are taking to make the best of the situation.

Following online research into the subject, I wanted to take things a step further to develop a better approach in which to help these businesses. I decided to reach out to a few business owners (primarily in Charlotte) to see how they maneuvered the past few months, learn how imposed laws have affected their businesses, determine what tactics are working, and hear about their expectations for the future. More to come soon…

Evan Shirreffs, MBA is a Business Analyst with WIMS Consulting a full-service marketing and sales agency operating primarily in Charlotte, NC and Miami, FL. WIMS has a service line dedicated to assisting restaurants, breweries, and bars with growing and scaling called LDR BRD.

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