It's 'Drinksgiving,' but COVID-19 could still belly up next to you at the bar

Beer tap
Posted at 1:18 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 13:18:35-05

(WXYZ) — Happy "Drinksgiving?" Tonight is the biggest bar night out of the year, bigger than New Year's Eve, bigger than St. Patrick’s Day.

We may be cheers-ing now to enjoying life, but COVID can still be sitting next to us.


"COVID's not over. We know that. We've always followed any restrictions or any rules that have been given to us," said Justin Pries, director of operations for Mesa, Ale Mary's and Tom's Oyster Bar.

One year ago, with COVID lockdowns, the only option was outdoors, igloos, or carry out.

This year, even with rising COVID numbers, there is no lockdown, no restrictions from Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

"A year ago we did not have access to vaccines. We do now," said Gov. Whitmer at a recent press conference.

Still, we continue to be told, the COVID numbers are high, the worst since the start of the pandemic.

"We've let our guard down somewhat, we have not been wearing masks as much as we have. We have been in larger gatherings," said Dr. Gary Roth, chief medical officer of Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

The bar and restaurant business had to adapt to survive. At Rec Bowl in Mt. Clemens, a typical indoor bowling alley, pool, darts and a big enclosed patio that they started heating last year.

"It was a godsend. Some people were very unfortunate. We got this set up not for the wintertime, but for the summer. And it just turned out that it helped us survive the whole mess that was going on," said Fred Fox of Rec Bowl.

COVID is not the only challenge. The biggest ongoing challenge: having enough staffing to be able to handle the big crowd.

"We're actually expecting a big night ... so we missed out on last year, so we're expecting a bigger crowd than ever," said Louie Golematis, Shores Inn owner.

In terms of staffing, Fox said, "It's always a challenge. And everybody I talked to, it doesn't matter what industry it is. But we've been very fortunate. We got a lot of people that have been here over 20 years."

"We’re doing all right for now. We’re always looking for good people," said Pries.

So, bring on the crowds, and the cheers to the business bottom line.

"In years past, before the pandemic, we've had some huge crowds of college kids come back home and fortunately, we've been fortunately one of the places that they want to stop by because we've been here so long," said Fox.

Most businesses say, safety will be up to the customer. Health officials get the final word here.

"We've always known with any kind of disease, the best option is to prevent it versus to have to treat it," said Dr. Roth.

Drinking responsibly always means don’t drink and drive. And still this year, don’t let your COVID guard down too much.