This situation has been a nightmare for many bartenders, who are forced to juggle conflicting responsibilities: of earning a living after months of unemployment; of keeping their patrons safe without alienating them; of facilitating both a relaxed ambiance and a squeaky-clean environment. Now, many are worried that the fate that befell Texas and Florida could happen everywhere, throwing an already-fragile industry even deeper into prolonged crisis.

LaShan Arceneaux, the vice president of the Houston chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), advises bartenders to use this time to think about making a living in an adjacent field—like working in a distillery—or doing something else entirely. “This is the downtime to train yourself in something else–learn a new skill,” she says. “I think COVID has shown that the bar industry nationwide is broken.”…

Page didn’t anticipate the volume or attitude with which patrons would arrive. “It’s starting to just get busier and busier, because a lot of people are still not working,” she says of her day shift. “And when happy hour begins, it gets really nerve wracking. Basically, all I can see is germs.”