Tiffany Howell, the owner of Burke Street Pub and Tee Time Sports & Spirits, said she is holding up “as good as can be expected” as the owner of two bars in Winston-Salem amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It happened so fast that the whole world just got knocked off its axis,” she said. “Yes, everybody is scared of this virus and worried about global health. But on top of that, owning two bars is like, boom, you’re done, for now.”
Howell said she is shell-shocked, but she said the worst part of it is the lack of daily social interaction, which she misses dearly.
“Being a bartender, you are just a social person anyway; I miss that the most, and my staff miss that the most,” Howell said. “But we all keep in contact with each other every day.”
Howell isn’t one to be all “doom and gloom” about this unprecedented global health crisis. She decided to make the best of a bad situation by bringing the bar experience online. She posted instructions on how to join a Zoom meeting as well as the Venmo accounts of her staff on Burke Street Pub’s Facebook page. From 7 to 9 p.m. on April 1, about 15 to 20 people tuned in remotely to Howell’s Zoom meeting to try and return to some form of normalcy at their favorite bar.
“It was good to see people’s faces and hear people laughing,” Howell said of Burke Street Pub’s first virtual bar meet-up. “We aren’t looking to make lots of money off of it; it’s more for our sanity. All of us bartenders and bar owners are like fishes out of water right now being non-social creatures. It is really taxing on our mental health.”
In the Zoom meeting, Howell said they all were sitting down with their drink of choice, just socializing with each other as they would at the bar’s physical location. She even remarked that one person was out in their yard throwing axes, and one person was teaching the group how to speak Korean.
“One of our customers, Revik Walker, joined us from Spain,” Howell said. “He is healthy and OK, but he is under a strict quarantine there. So, he talked about that, but we try to keep the mood kind of light.” She said it wasn’t a political discussion, but more like, “This is weird, now who’s turn is it to take a shot?”
Howell said that the group also talked about the things they are all watching on Netflix at the moment.
“Of course we are all watching the Joe Exotic thing, Tiger King,” Howell said. “Owning two bars, seeing stuff like that is not too far off the radar, either.”
Last Friday, Burke hosted another Zoom meeting, but it was for Tee Time, which traditionally hosts karaoke on Friday nights. Burke wrote in a text message that there were about 20 people online with her, and they “had a little sing-along.”
“Doing things like this, to kind of keep us in the loop and keep us together,” she said. “Everybody needs it, I think.”
Howell said she would be hosting more virtual bar nights for both Tee Time and Burke Street Pub on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
“I am not worried that my bars won’t survive once we re-open the country,” Howell said. “My bars will come back, just like this country will come back.”
Check the Facebook pages of Tee Time and Burke Street Pub for instructions on how to join. Don’t forget to tip the bartenders!