The music should be pumping and the burgers and jerk chicken wings flying out of the kitchen this holiday weekend at the Rambler Kitchen and Tap in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago.
To wash it down, patrons might go with a mixed drink or one of the 20 craft beers the bar sells. But many will order a hard seltzer. The Rambler expects to sell close to 500 cans in flavors like peach, pineapple and grapefruit pomelo.
“We’ll sell a lot of buckets of White Claw and Truly seltzers,” said Sam Stone, a co-owner of the Rambler. “It’s going to be a big summer for hard seltzer.”
The Memorial Day weekend kicks off what many hope will be a more normal summer, when kids start counting down the number of days left in school, people head back to the beach and grills heat up for backyard parties that went poof last year because of the pandemic. And for the hard seltzer industry, it’s the start of a dizzying period when dozens of old and new competitors vie to be the boozy, bubbly drink of the season.
ad campaign with the British pop singer Dua Lipa. This spring, the hip-hop star Travis Scott released Cacti, a seltzer made with blue agave syrup, in a partnership with Anheuser-Busch. It quickly sold out in many locations.
“People were lining up outside of the stores to buy Cacti and share pictures of themselves with their carts full of Cacti,” said Marcel Marcondes, the chief marketing officer for Anheuser-Busch.
Also this spring, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer was released. A partnership between Coca-Cola and Molson Coors Beverage, it hit shelves in 16 markets across the country, chasing the cult following of Topo Chico’s seltzer water in the South.
“I feel like I can walk into a party saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I brought the Topo Chico,’” said Dane Cardiel, 32, who works in business development for a podcast company and lives in Esopus, N.Y., about 60 miles south of Albany.
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How flavored bubbly water with alcohol became a national phenomenon is partly due to social media videos that went viral and clever marketing that sold hard seltzers as a “healthier” alcohol choice.
White Claw’s slim cans prominently state that the drinks contain only 100 calories, are gluten free and have only two grams each of carbohydrates and sugar. The brand is owned by the Canadian billionaire Anthony von Mandl, who created Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
“The health and wellness element is front and center in terms of the visual marketing,” said Vivien Azer, an analyst at the Cowen investment firm. “Every brand’s packaging features its relatively low carb and sugar data.”
On top of that, the alcohol content in most hard seltzers, about 5 percent, or the same as 12 ounces of a typical beer, is less than a glass of wine or a mixed drink. That makes it easier for people to sip at a party or while watching a game without getting intoxicated or winding up with the belly-full-of-beer feeling.
“It’s a nice drink for an afternoon on the patio,” said Shelley Majeres, the general manager of Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver. “You can drink four or five of them in an afternoon and not have a big hangover or get really drunk.”
Blake Street, an 18,000-square-foot sports bar, started selling hard seltzers two years ago. Today, they make up about 20 percent of its can and bottle sales.
The industry has also neatly sidestepped the gender issue that plagued earlier, lighter alcoholic alternatives like Zima, which became popular with women but struggled to be adopted by men.
“I’ve got just as many men as women drinking it,” said Nick Zeto, the owner of Boston Beer Garden in Naples, Fla. “And it started with the millennials, but now I have people in their 40s, 50s and 60s ordering it.”
That kind of broad appeal is attractive to beer, wine and spirits companies.
“We view ourselves as the challenger brand,” said Michelle St. Jacques, the chief marketing officer of Molson Coors, which has been making beer since the late 1700s but hopes to end this year with 10 percent of the hard seltzer market.
Last spring, the company released Vizzy, a hard seltzer that contains vitamin C. Top Chico came this spring. “We feel like we’re making great progress in seltzer by not trying to bring me-too products, but rather products and brands that have a clear difference,” Ms. St. Jacques said.
While grocery and liquor stores have made plenty of space available to the hard seltzer brands that people drink at home, the competition to get into restaurants and bars is fierce. Most want to offer only two or three brands to their customers.
“Oh, my god, I get presented with new hard seltzer whenever they can get my attention,” said Mr. Stone, who sells six brands at the Rambler. The crowd favorite, he said, is the vodka-based High Noon Sun Sips peach, made by E.&J. Gallo Winery. “Everybody, from the big brands to small, new ones, are getting into the hard seltzer game.”
At Fort Bragg, soldiers who have gotten their coronavirus vaccines can go to a gym where no masks are required, with no limits on who can work out together. Treadmills are on and zipping, unlike those in 13 other gyms where unvaccinated troops can’t use the machines, everyone must mask up and restrictions remain on how many can bench-press at one time.
Inside Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, where lines not long ago snaked for miles with people seeking coronavirus vaccines, a special seating area allows those who are fully inoculated to enjoy games side by side with other fans.
When Bill Duggan reopens Madam’s Organ, his legendary blues bar in Washington, D.C., people will not be allowed in to work, drink or play music unless they can prove they have had their shots. “I have a saxophone player who is among the best in the world. He was in the other day, and I said, ‘Walter, take a good look around because you’re not walking in here again unless you get vaccinated.’”
Evite and Paperless Post are seeing a big increase in hosts requesting that their guests be vaccinated.
actually doughnuts, beers and cheesecake — to prod laggards along. Some have even offered cold hard cash: In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine this week went so far as to say that the state would give five vaccinated people $1 million each as part of a weekly lottery program.
On Thursday, federal health officials offered the ultimate incentive for many when they advised that fully vaccinated Americans may stop wearing masks.
Now, private employers, restaurants and entertainment venues are looking for ways to make those who are vaccinated feel like V.I.P.s, both to protect workers and guests, and to possibly entice those not yet on board.
Come summer, the nation may become increasingly bifurcated between those who are permitted to watch sports, take classes, get their hair cut and eat barbecue with others, and those who are left behind the spike protein curtain.
for children ages 12 through 15.
But even without a mandate, a nudge can feel like a shove. The military has been strongly encouraging vaccines among the troops. Acceptance has been low in some branches, like the Marines, with only 40 percent having gotten one or more shots. At Fort Bragg, one of the largest military installations in the country and among the first to offer the vaccine, just under 70 percent have been jabbed.
podcast designed to knock down misinformation — a common misbelief is that the vaccines affect fertility — plays around the base. In addition to their freedom gym, vaccinated soldiers may now eat in groups as they please, while the unvaccinated look on as they grab their grub and go.
With soldiers, experts “talk up to decliners versus talk down,” said Col. Joseph Buccino, a spokesman at Fort Bragg.
promoting inoculations, and stadiums have become a new line of demarcation, where vaccinated sections are highlighted as perks akin to V.I.P. skyboxes.
In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced that sporting venues and churches would be able to increase their capacity by adding sections for the vaccinated.
Some businesses — like gyms and restaurants — where the coronavirus was known to spread easily are also embracing a reward system. Even though many gyms have reopened around the country, some still haven’t allowed large classes to resume.
Others are inclined to follow the lead of gyms like solidcore in Washington, D.C., which seeks proof of inoculation to enroll in classes listed as “Vaccine Required: Full Body.” “Our teams are now actively evaluating where else we think there will be client demand and will be potentially introducing it to other markets in the weeks ahead,” said Bryan Myers, chief executive officer of the national fitness studio chain, in an email.
specific invitation designs with the inoculated in mind, vaccinated only please RSVP.
Not everyone endorses this type of exclusion as good public policy. “I worry about the operational feasibility,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. “In the U.S., we don’t yet have a standard way to prove vaccination status. I hope we’ll see by fall such low levels of infection in the U.S. that our level of concern about the virus will be very low.”
But few dispute that it is legal. “Having dedicated spaces at events reserved for vaccinated people is both lawful and ethical,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, an expert in health law at Georgetown Law School. “Businesses have a major economic incentive to create safer environments for their customers, who would otherwise be reluctant to attend crowded events. Government recommendations about vaccinated-only sections will encourage businesses and can help us back to more normal.”
so far to impose vaccine mandates for workers, especially in a tight labor market. “Our association came out in favor of masks,” said Emily Williams Knight, president of the Texas Restaurant Association. “We probably will not be taking a position on mandates, which are incredibly divisive.”
But some companies are moving that way. Norwegian Cruise Line is threatening to keep its ships out of Florida ports if the state stands by a law prohibiting businesses from requiring vaccines in exchange for services.
Public health mandates — from smoking bans to seatbelt laws to containing tuberculosis outbreaks by requiring TB patients to take their medicines while observed — have a long history in the United States.
“They fall into a cluster of things in which someone is essentially making the argument that what I do is only my business,” said Dr. Frieden, who is now chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, a program designed to prevent epidemics and cardiovascular disease. “A lot of times that’s true, unless what you do might kill someone else.”
Dr. Frieden was the main official who pushed for a smoking ban in bars and restaurants in 2003 when he was the New York City health commissioner under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Other senior aides at the time felt certain the ban would cost Mr. Bloomberg a second term. “When I was fighting for that, a City Council member who was against the ban said of bars, ‘That is my place of entertainment.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s someone’s place of employment.’ It did have impact.”
Mr. Duggan, the bar owner in Washington, said protecting his workers and patrons are of a piece. “As we hit a plateau with vaccines, I don’t think we can sit and wait for all the nonbelievers,” he said. “If we are going to convince them, it’s going to be through them not being able to do the things that vaccinated people are able to do.”
Tied to that is an apparent frustration and anger toward people who break or bend the rules. Anti-mask protests that have popped up in many parts of the country, particularly in Alberta, don’t appear to have advanced their cause with the general public and, in some cases, appear to have also been spreading racist messages. And there’s little obvious sympathy for the 536 air travelers who have been fined 3,000 Canadian dollars each for dodging the mandatory quarantine period in hotels that is required at entry.
This week, some of that anger and frustration spilled over into a sentencing hearing in Vancouver. The case involved a man who defied restrictions in British Columbia by turning a penthouse apartment into a makeshift nightclub, complete with topless dancers and a dancing pole. When the police entered on Jan. 31, there were 78 people squeezed inside.
according to the CBC.
She didn’t stop there as she sentenced him to 11 days in jail, which included the 10 he had already served while waiting for bail; 18 months probation for violating two parts of the Public Health Act; and 50 hours of community service. He was also fined for breaking liquor laws by running an unlicensed bar.
“What you did, sir, is comparable to individuals who sell fentanyl to the individuals on the street who die every day,” she said. “There’s no difference. You voluntarily assumed a risk that could kill people in the midst of a pandemic.”
brazenly broken lockdown restrictions during the pandemic, the actions of Mr. Movassaghi, who pleaded guilty, stood out.
The police began receiving complaints about large and loud parties at Mr. Movassaghi’s apartment, even though lockdown rules in British Columbia allowed people to entertain only one other person outside the household. No one, however, would open the door for officers who, among other things, observed one night the delivery of about 100 McDonald’s hamburgers.
After they finally obtained a search warrant and got inside, the police found menus for “Granny’s Exotic Bar” listing drinks priced from 26 Canadian dollars to 1,500 dollars for a bottle of liquor. A prosecutor told the court that lap dances were offered for 46 dollars.
The police fined people at the party a total of 17,000 dollars as they arrested Mr. Movassaghi.
Mr. Movassaghi’s lawyer and brother, Bobby Movassaghi, told the court that it was merely a party that had gotten out of hand after guests brought uninvited friends along.
Judge Gordon dismissed that argument, saying that when she hosts a party: “I don’t have stripper poles. I don’t have chairs around for people to watch. I don’t charge admission. I don’t charge for liquor. I don’t have point-of-sale devices attached to my cellular telephones.”
(Bobby Movassaghi did not respond when asked for comment.)
As for Judge Gordon’s move into the realm of the hypothetical, Isabel Grant, a professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, told me that “it’s very unusual for a judge to comment on liability for a crime that was not before the court.”
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The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world.
Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food.
For the past decade, Krystle Mobayeni had been trying to convince them that they needed more. Ms. Mobayeni, a first-generation Iranian-American, started her company, BentoBox, in 2013 as a side job. She wanted to use her graphic design skills to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities. But it was a hard sell. For many, she said, her services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity.
Until 2020. The pandemic sent chefs and owners flocking to BentoBox, as they suddenly needed to add to-go ordering, delivery scheduling, gift card sales and more to their websites. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants onboard and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.
“I feel like our company was built for this moment,” Ms. Mobayeni said.
The moment opened a well of opportunity for companies like BentoBox that are determined to help restaurants survive. Dozens of companies have either started or scaled up sharply as they found their services in urgent demand. Meanwhile, investors and venture capitalists have been sourcing deals in the “restaurant tech” sector — particularly seeking companies that bring the big chains’ advantages to independent restaurants.
“A lot of what’s happening is reminiscent of what we’ve seen in the broader retail sector in the past decade,” said R.J. Hottovy, a restaurant industry analyst and an investor at Aaron Allen & Associates. “Covid accelerated the transformation quite a bit. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to redefine the experience.”
Part of what Ms. Mobayeni offers restaurants is a one-stop shop and the ability to own their customer data. Many restaurants rely on third-party vendors, such as DoorDash or UberEats, to handle delivery. But those companies charge significant fees and retain customers’ data because the transactions go through their websites. That’s not such a big deal when delivery is 20 percent of a restaurant’s income stream, but it’s a game-changer when delivery becomes 100 percent of income — and you can’t contact any of your customers.
“Restaurants realized they had to think of themselves as larger businesses and brands,” said Camilla Marcus, co-founder of TechTable, which connects the hospitality and tech industries. “You have to expand into other things: e-commerce, delivery, products. You have to think outside the four walls.”
Helping restaurants deepen relationships with customers is where Sam Bernstein saw an opportunity. Before the pandemic he ran a tech start-up that connected students to housing, similar to Airbnb; when universities sent students home last spring, his revenue fell to zero.
He went to his board of directors and offered to return what investment was left and close down. Instead the board suggested he regroup with a smaller team and new vision.
“It was an existential crisis, as you can imagine,” he said.
Mr. Bernstein laid off all but 10 employees and took them for a brainstorming retreat. They considered dozens of business models, looking for the right problem to solve. The more they discussed options, the more the members of the team realized they were all interested in food and hospitality and wanted to help restaurants.
They hit upon the idea for a site that would allow customers to “subscribe” to their favorite restaurants. The new firm, Table22, would help chefs develop and market subscriptions for monthly meal kits and wine clubs, for example, and then manage the sales, recurring billing, scheduling, data analytics and more. In exchange, Table22 takes a percentage of each transaction.
Table22, which is based in New York, went live with its first restaurant in May. Since then, it has grown to more than 150 restaurants in 50 cities. Late last year, the company received about $7 million from investors, who include David Barber, owner of Blue Hill farm and restaurants.
Shelby Allison signed up her Chicago bar, Lost Lake, for the service on a cold email from Table22. She was hesitant at first, planning to listen just long enough to learn how to create a cocktail subscription service herself.
“We get lots and lots of calls from these tech companies trying to help — or prey upon — us struggling businesses,” she said.
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But she was impressed by the low service fee and the fact that Table22 shared customer data. She started the service in October, hoping for 30 sign-ups; 100 people joined. Ms. Allison now has 300 subscribers and five employees working on the make-at-home cocktail boxes.
“This will 100 percent stay in the future,” she said. “I love this program. I thought it might cannibalize my to-go business, but it hasn’t at all.”
Ping Ho considered signing up with Table22 to host the wine and meat clubs she offers at her Detroit restaurant and butcher shop, Marrow, and wine bar, the Royce. She decided against it, however, because her existing subscription platform, Zoho, gave her the essential tools.
“It’s a bit more work, but there’s more agency,” she said.
But because her website was mostly informational, she realized she did need help offering online ordering and a delivery system for the butcher shop. So Ms. Ho turned to Mercato, which enables e-commerce for independent grocers. In a bit of fortuitous timing, she had signed up a month before the pandemic struck. When stay-at-home orders were issued, she was able to quickly begin offering grocery items, such as milk and eggs, in addition to meats.
Her sales jumped “tremendously” she said, although they have flattened out in recent months. Still, Ms. Ho intends to maintain the service.
Mercato began in 2015, but 2020 was its year. In February 2020, the service had 400 stores across 20 states; it quickly ramped up to more than 1,000 stores in 45 states. It continues to grow and has added some big-name clients, including the Ferry Building Marketplace on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, with dozens of merchants.
“We’re trying to give independent grocers a sustainable competitive advantage,” said Bobby Brannigan, founder and chief executive of the company, which is based in San Diego.
It’s a mission that he has been training for all his life. Mr. Brannigan’s family owns a grocery store in the Dyker Heights area of Brooklyn, where he started working when he was 8, stocking shelves and delivering groceries.
“It’s ironic that I’m back to doing what I was doing as a kid in Brooklyn,” he said.
Last March and April, Mercato brought on hundreds of new grocers each week — clients that weren’t used to having online orders or weren’t used to the sudden volume of orders. Some stores that were accustomed to 10 orders in a day were flooded with hundreds, Mr. Brannigan said. Thankfully, his dad already had him build tools into the system that would allow grocers to limit the pace of orders and schedule them.
Mr. Brannigan is also adding more data analytics to help his clients better understand what their customers want. They can now see what was bought and what customers searched for.
“You’re amassing a valuable treasure chest of data that lets you sell the products they want today and that they want tomorrow,” he said.
Of course, not all solutions are tech-centric; sometimes, it’s just a grass-roots community of chefs helping chefs. Alison Cayne, for example, has been giving free advice to chefs looking to create packaged goods, like her line of Haven’s Kitchen sauces. Having that extra revenue stream was critical when she shuttered her Manhattan restaurant and cooking school last spring, and she wants others to have the same options.
“This is all very much from my perspective, not the supercapitalized, venture capital-backed, cool-kids business,” she said. “I just want to help them take a brick-and-mortar business and develop a product and build a brand that makes sense and is sustainable.”
In Detroit, the grocer Raphael Wright and the chefs Ederique Goudia and Jermond Booze developed a “diabolical plan,” as Mr. Wright called it, to offer a weekly meal kit cooked by Black chefs during Black History Month.
“Black food businesses are hurting in the city, so we thought, what if we created this meal box in a way that celebrates Black food and Black contributions to American cuisine?” Mr. Wright said.
They named the project Taste the Diaspora Detroit and brought together Black chefs and farmers to create the weekly dishes — like gumbo z’herbes and black-eyed pea masala. The three organized all of the e-commerce and scheduling, which allowed chefs to participate even if they weren’t tech-savvy, and created the packaging and inserts that told the history of the meal. They topped it off with a paired Spotify playlist.
“Being a part of this project woke everyone up and made them think they have a little hope they can push through,” Mr. Wright said.
They hope to reprise the service for Juneteenth and are currently talking to funders to support the effort.
While your travel plans may be on hold, you can pretend you’re somewhere new for the night. Around the World at Home invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture, all from the comfort of your home.
Over the course of the decade since I first visited, I have often imagined myself at home in New Orleans. I think of the syncopated shuffle of a snare drum, the simple pleasure of an afternoon walk with a to-go beer in hand and the candy-colored shotgun houses that sink into the ground at odd angles. And so it wasn’t a huge surprise when, at the beginning of 2021, I found myself packing up my life and moving to the Crescent City for a few months. Why not be somewhere I love at this difficult time, I thought? Why not live in my daydreams for a little while?
New Orleans is above all else resilient. Mardi Gras parades were canceled this year, though it didn’t stop New Orleanians from finding ways to celebrate (nothing ever will). In recent months, brass bands have taken to street corners in front of masked, socially distant spectators instead of packed night clubs. Strangers still chat you up about the Saints from their front porches. My visions of this city may still be filtered through the fuzzy lens of a visitor, but I know I’ll be pretending I’m still there long after I’m gone. Here are a few ways you can, too.
bounce, popularized by superstars like Big Freedia, the call-and-response songs of Mardi Gras Indians, and so much more. For an overview of the sounds of this loud, percussive city there is no better place to start than the wonderfully eclectic WWOZ, a community-supported radio station that has been on the air since 1980. Luckily, you can listen to it from anywhere online. It’s only a matter of time before you start getting to know the various D.J.s and tuning in for your favorites.
a show on WWOZ for more than 25 years, told me. “New Orleans is the reason for it all.” Soul Sister was one of a handful of local experts I consulted in putting together a playlist that will send you straight to New Orleans. Among her recommendations are a bounce classic by DJ Jubilee and the music of Rebirth Brass Band, which brings her back to afternoons spent celebrating on the street: “It reminds me of the energy and freedom of being at the second line parades on Sundays, dancing through all the neighborhoods nonstop for three or four hours,” she said.
Professor Longhair, for example, starts it off — recommended by Keith Spera who writes about music for the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. By the end of the playlist, you will undoubtedly agree with Mr. Spera’s assessment of New Orleans music: “There is no singular style of ‘New Orleans music’ — is it jazz? Rhythm & blues? Funk? Bounce? — but you know it when you hear it.”
Dooky Chase Cookbook, the collected recipes of Leah Chase, who died in 2019, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, an institution that has hosted civil rights leaders, presidents and countless regulars at its location in Treme, the neighborhood where jazz was born. Next, tap into the Cajun influence on the city with “Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou,” by Melissa M. Martin who oversees a restaurant of the same name in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. Ms. Martin recommends making her grandmother’s oyster soup. “I can picture her stirring a pot on Bayou Petit Caillou and seasoning a broth with salty Louisiana oysters, Creole tomatoes and salted pork,” Ms. Martin said. “The marriage of three ingredients transports me to the tiny fishing village I call home, where salt was and still is always in the air.”
Anthony Bourdain for encouraging her to keep it secret). But she has shared versions of her recipe, so you can try your hand at it at home. “That will get you pretty close to the real thing,” she said with a wink I could almost hear over the phone.
Free Tours by Foot, which has transferred their expertise to YouTube. You can now stroll the grandiose Garden District, pull away the sensationalism around New Orleans’ Voodoo traditions and take a deep dive into jazz history in Treme. “New Orleans is full of painful history, and it’s also known as one of the most fun cities in the world,” Andrew Farrier, one of the tour guides, said. “I think it’s useful for all of us to know how those two things can live so close to each other.”
New Orleans’ drinking scene extends far beyond the vortex of debauchery that is Bourbon Street. There are the classic New Orleans inventions, of course, like the Sazerac, but for something a little different, turn to one of the city’s most revered mixologists. Chris Hannah, of Jewel of the South, invented the Bywater as a New Orleanian spin on the Brooklyn. “Among the ingredient substitutions I swapped rum for rye as a cheeky nod to our age-old saying, ‘New Orleans is the northernmost tip of the Caribbean’,” Mr. Hannah said.
your quarantine pod and a “set-up” and you might just get close. What is a set-up, you ask? It’s a staple dive bar order that will get you a half-pint of your liquor of choice, a mixer and a stack of plastic cups. It’s also an often-overlooked part of New Orleans drinking culture, according to Deniseea Taylor, a cocktail enthusiast who goes by the Cocktail Goddess. “When you find a bar with a set-up, you are truly in Nola,” Ms. Taylor said. “First time I experienced a set-up, it was paired with a $5 fish plate, a match made in heaven.”
“The Yellow House,” a memoir by Sarah M. Broom, which the Times book critic Dwight Garner called “forceful, rolling and many-chambered.” Going further back in time, try “Coming Through Slaughter,” a fictionalized rendition of the life of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden by Michael Ondaatje.
If you are in the mood for a documentary, Clint Bowie, artistic director of the New Orleans Film Festival, recommends Lily Keber’s “Buckjumping,” which spotlights the city’s dancers. For something fictional, Mr. Bowie points to “Eve’s Bayou” directed by Kasi Lemmons. It’s hard to forget New Orleans is a city built on a swamp when you feel the crushing humidity or lose your footing on ruptured streets, and this movie will take you farther into that ethereal environment. “Set in the Louisiana bayou country in the ’60s, we could think of no better film to spark Southern Gothic daydreams about a visit to the Spanish moss-draped Louisiana swamps,” Mr. Bowie said.
“If I had not been vaccinated already, I really would have thought twice about coming here,” said Cristina Delgado, a doctor. But Ana, her sister, who was also vaccinated because she works in health care, felt differently. “I was going to come whatever, because I want to save culture and return us to normal life,” she said.
Inés Villasuso, a 24-year old nurse, also said that “it would have been better to get everybody tested again later, to have scientific evidence that can really convince the authorities that such a big event can be held safely.” But she and her twin sister, Eva, agreed that the concert outstripped their expectations. “It felt like living a total dream,” Eva said.
In an interview before the concert, Julián Saldarriaga, a member of Love of Lesbian, said that the band’s decision to perform had received very broad support, but also generated “some criticism, from people who have called us irresponsible or who say that we only care about money.” But for his band, he said, “we really saw this as an opportunity to take part in the recovery of culture.”
Rather than featuring a supporting act, the concert was preceded by a series of videos about Covid-19, shown on the big stage screen and interspersed with hits from the distant past — like “Come Together” and “Here Comes the Sun,” by The Beatles — whose themes warmed up the crowd.
To comply with the safety protocols, on Saturday, concertgoers visited one of three smaller Barcelona music venues to get a rapid antigen test for Covid-19. The cost was included in the €23 ticket price.
Christiana Guldager, a photographer, said that she cried before her test at the Razzmatazz nightclub. “I’ve been dancing so often in that place that it made me feel very emotional to find it instead converted into a mini-hospital,” she said.
Ms. Easterbrook, the Hatch’s manager, had been planning to open a sister bar called Good for Nothing, but she quickly ditched the plan when the pandemic arrived. Then, in a late-night conversation while waiting for takeout orders at the Hatch, Ms. Easterbrook, a trained florist, and Mr. Kachingwe came up with the idea for Pothead. To them, the concept made sense: There was still demand for flowers and plants, the Hatch’s new outdoor space could attract customers, and they could use the bar’s liquor license to sell wine.
Ms. Easterbrook said the first weeks had been a success, though Mr. Kachingwe still had plenty to learn. “In the beginning he asked me things like, ‘Should I get more sand for the flowers?’” she said.
Mr. Kachingwe teamed up with the Hatch’s cook, Leonardo Garcia, to make and bottle sauces, including Hatch Fire Ketchup and Hatch Fuego. And he worked with Giacchino Breen, a 23-year-old bartender, on bottling cocktails under a new brand, Wolfmoon. As part of Mr. Kachingwe’s effort to empower his employees, Mr. Garcia and Mr. Breen have stakes in the sales.
Now, after a year in which he worried the Hatch would never fully open again, Mr. Kachingwe said his biggest anxiety was welcoming customers back inside. He is trying to figure out how to make the sound system cover both the indoor and outdoor spaces and whether to have indoor customers order food at the outdoor window. Until they receive a vaccine, some on the staff are also uncomfortable with customers returning inside the compact bar.
In fact, Mr. Kachingwe said, he prefers the new Hatch to what it was before the pandemic. With the outdoor seating, “it’s more lively,” he said. “I don’t see things going back to the way they were.”
She mentioned her frustration to someone she met at work. “He called his friend, who called his stepdaughter, who called her boyfriend, who called his son, who works for the unemployment office,” she said, and he was finally able to clear up the mistake.
Ultimately, Ms. Pontia hopes to get her old position back. But “to get a job even close to what I was able to have before seems absolutely impossible until things are safer,” she said.
Fifteen hundred miles to the southwest, in San Antonio, Jordan Alaniz was hired as a bartender at a French restaurant and bar on Feb. 20. Ms. Alaniz, a 28-year-old mother of two infants, received her first Covid-19 vaccine this week. But even with the shot, she is worried about working at a bar in a state without a mask mandate after Gov. Greg Abbott rolled back the requirement.
“I’m definitely nervous about it,” said Ms. Alaniz, who previously worked at a different restaurant. “The last time they lifted our mask mandate, we actually had a Covid outbreak at the place I was working because they weren’t requiring masks there. That kind of traumatized me, and that’s why I was so adamant about getting the vaccine.”
Still, Ms. Alaniz feels lucky to have a job. She appreciates that her new workplace takes virus protocols seriously, requiring staff to wear gloves and clean the establishment regularly. The restaurant will continue to ask customers to wear masks, despite the governor’s lifting of restrictions.
The varying attitudes about risk of infection underscore why the shape of the post-pandemic economy remains uncertain even as more and more of the population is vaccinated.
Will people rush back out to restaurants, theaters, sports events and shopping malls or shift their behavior? Will workplaces crank back up to full capacity or shift to more remote work? Will business travel and conferences return to previous levels?