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Where Y'Eat: Sidelined in the Crisis, New Orleans Bartenders Not Forgotten

Ian McNulty
The go-cup is a New Orleans standby that is a lifeline for bars to reopen in the pandemic.

Lately, my drink of choice has not been about on what's in the cup so much as where I get it.

I’ve been visiting bars around New Orleans, which would not normally qualify as noteworthy but these days we’re taking nothing for granted.

For a few weeks bars In the city could serve only take out drinks, so it was all go cups for me. Now, more can offer outdoor seating.

Bars need our help, and I don't just mean tips.

On top of the financial pain of shutdowns, I know the crisis has brought anguish to many in the bar business – cut off from what they do, from the people they count on and who rely on them.

So when I get thirsty, I’m visiting the bars under whatever terms they can offer, go cup, outdoors, whatever.

I’m remembering that what I miss most are the people who make these bars tick, the bartenders. So I'm raising one for them.

This one's for the bartenders who can make you feel valued when you need it, and who can bring people too big for their britches down to earth, gently, just by asking “you all right?”

The bartenders who make that Sazerac-old fashioned-marg-martini-Manhattan-negroni-paloma-bloody Mary so well but also make a bucket of beer appear right on time.

The bartenders who make sure the memory of old regulars now departed to the saloon in the sky are not just pictures on the wall but stories of life and humor and generosity still in circulation on their shifts.

The bartenders who will be bartenders so long they go through different chapters of life right alongside their regulars, getting married, having kids, losing people, moving on.

The bartenders at the joint near home, and those at various favorite stops across town who make the whole city feel like your neighborhood.

I don’t know what bars will make it through this crisis. I don’t know what will happen to the people who made their living there.

But I know that these days, I’m drinking to them.


Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.

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