13 Service Industry Professionals Open up About Life in the Coronavirus Pandemic

“Before we closed the office, we started a handwashing and ‘don’t come to work if you’re sick’ campaign, but to be honest, I don’t think we were nervous about it at all. We just wanted to keep working and stay healthy any way we could. I think we were shocked because it all seemed to happen so fast. One week we were all in the office, planning events as usual. The next week we were all limited to seeing each other over the internet. It was surreal. And for some of our employees, it’s been scary and isolating. So we’ve made sure we stay connected as much as possible.

“What we do for a living is bring people together, usually in large groups for things like marathons and parades. So obviously, the fact that the current situation is at odds with what we do is of great concern. But we lived through September 11, the 2008 recession, and Hurricane Sandy—events always came back. So we hope and predict that they will come back again. When they come back, however, there will be a new focus on hygiene, similar to how we upped security after September 11.” —Matt Glass, 51 chief creative officer, Eventage, and Jennifer Glass, 51, partner, Eventage

6. “There are so many people who can’t get unemployment because they aren’t citizens.”

“When things first started ramping up, I wasn’t too nervous because my mom is a nurse, and she explained to me the steps I needed to take to keep myself safe. I mix cocktails for high volume nightclubs, and I’m a performer for a company that books dancers at different night clubs across Chicago, so I probably interact with over 500 people a night. However, a few of my coworkers feared guests’ accidentally spitting on them when yelling across the bar. They worried about people touching their hands, picking up empty glassware, or touching anything that could possibly get them sick.

“I’m personally afraid of how long this will go on. The entire Chicago service industry thrives during the summer months, and to miss an entire season is going to be tough on businesses that depend on that revenue.

“This industry is relatively large, but there are so many people who can’t get unemployment because they aren’t citizens. They are forced to apply for grants that take forever to even get (if they get anything at all). So many people live paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, there are landlords demanding rent. It’s tough to see my fellow industry kin suffer like this.” —Dasha Patton, 28, bartender and go-go dancer

7. “My therapist says I’m grieving, and I believe her.”

“I own a boutique brand visibility agency, and my primary clients are in indulgent markets like hospitality, travel, retail, restaurants, and spas. Since COVID and the government mandates, I’ve lost all of my clients except for one. Due to the travel ban, my hotel clients are operating at 2% occupancy, and they aren’t open to anyone except essential travelers. So my future is really up in the air right now.

“My therapist says I’m grieving, and I believe her. I am wondering how I’m going to pay my bills, if things will ever return to normal, and what ‘normal’ will look like. So like the service industry, I’m suffering too.

“I wish everyone understood that small businesses are getting hit hard. I’m supposed to be pivoting my business, selling new services, and applying for aid—but I am one person. I might not be making money, but I am busting my ass every day to keep my head above water and not completely lose my business. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.” —Samantha Eng, 36, founder and CEO, Brand Eng

8. “Without us, the world is already different.”

“I am a server and a cocktail server. My job is to make sure guests have an unforgettable experience. I provide beverage and food pairing recommendations while anticipating guest needs. Restaurants and bars were one of the first sectors to close, and it made me wonder if I should rethink my career choice. I depend on my serving gig to help support my family, so it was pretty devastating to figure out how I was going to make ends meet.

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