We Asked Six Dallas Bar And Restaurant Owners To Reflect On 2020 And Share The Biggest Lessons They’ve Learned Throughout This Tumultuous Year.
After the immediate confusion surrounding the earliest days of our nation’s struggle with coronavirus, when the dust started to settle, it quickly became clear: The hospitality and service industries were going to be in for a rough 2020.
Beyond the obvious health impacts of the pandemic, operators of area establishments in these realms were also forced to deal with symptoms of distress drastically altering an industry whose workers’ livelihoods depended on human interaction, consumption and the sharing of close quarters with strangers.
Overnight, the restaurant and bar economy was annexed from our lives as statewide social distancing guidelines were put in place — and then changed, and then reverted to percentage-based operations, and then changed again. There were no obvious solutions for dealing with the pandemic’s devastating effects upon these fields, and with the Texas government’s goalposts constantly moving, frustrations mounted quickly among all involved parties.
Rightly so, too: It remains an incredibly staggering task to even glance at the list of long-adored businesses that our region lost directly as a result of the pandemic (and the regulations surrounding it) this year.
Worse, even with vaccines starting to be rolled out, a clear path toward returning to normalcy has yet to appear.
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• WHAT AN INTERACTIVE ART EXPERIENCE IS LIKE IN A PANDEMIC.
• THE U.S. COVID-19 DEATH COUNT AS NORTH TEXAS CITIES.
• CAPTURING THE FACES BEHIND SMALL BUSINESSES AMID A PANDEMIC.
It’s truly remarkable, then, just how much resiliency has been shown by the businesses that are managing to somehow survive this tumultuous year. How, in the face of all this uncertainty and stress, is this even possible?
Well, we reached out six bar and restaurant owners to find out, specifically asking them to share the biggest lessons and takeaways they learned throughout navigating a truly wild 2020.
Here’s what they had to say.
Jimmy Contreras (Taco Y Vino)
“Supporting local has never been more important. When I think of how hard it has been for small businesses and their employees this year, every dollar you can spend with them makes the world of difference.”
Luis Olvera (Oak Cliff Trompo)
“The struggle is about perception.”
Ryan Payne (Managing Partner at Tiny Victories)
“The biggest lesson in all of this was the importance of guest relations and maintaining your relationships with regulars — because those are the people that are gonna get your through times like this. Be kind.”
Shad Kvetko (Las Almas Rotas)
“As a bar owner, 2020 has been filled with many lessons. Most of them have to do with resiliency and flexibility, as can be imagined.
Two of the most profound lessons I’ve learned is just how little our industry means to those in power — and just how much our place means to our customers. Actually, I’d use the word ‘community’ instead of ‘customers’ because it transcends a financial transaction.
In the darkest days of 2020, my spirit was lifted by the kind words and deeds of those we’ve been privileged to serve.”
Todd Dickerson (BarNone)
“Fuck Trump? [Laughs.] We’re one of the industries affected the most, yet with little protections or plans in place.”
Kim Finch (Double Wide, Single Wide and Thunderbird Station)
“I guess you could say that I learned our government and leaders are more fucked up than I already thought. Not all bars are bad players and as evil as the rep we are getting right now.
Neighborhood bars build community. We have seen relationships form and grow from our establishments. Weddings have been had. Anniversaries and birthdays celebrated. We enable and encourage local artists to perform and grow and build a culture — as well as this city’s personality. We are a space to celebrate. We’re a place to relax and unwind. We are the ones that throw benefits for all the local charities that do good for our neighborhood, or benefits for individuals that have fallen on hard times.
Not every establishment is a Bottled Blonde, nor are we operating like that. Looking online everyday is a gut-punch, just seeing people we know bashing bars right now. For me, more than any lesson I learned, 2020 just validated the way that I already ran my business or believed or felt.
If you have a great staff, you can get through anything — through any beating of a shitty night, through a super-slow and seemingly endless night, through crazy fun-packed parking lot parties where you have to pee for eight hours but can’t leave the bar, through this horrible year of COVID and being shut down for eight long months.
We can get through anything.
Surround yourself with good people. That is what I have always tried to do. Treat people with respect, kindness and give a shit about others. It’s been incredibly difficult some days to not give up, to even get out of bed and fight this god-awful loophole madness known as the bar business in 2020. It feels like a horrible Twilite Zone episode. But my staff is good people, and that is what keeps me going.
So I guess my lesson was to keep doing what I’m doing, be true to yourself and take care of the ones that take care of you.”