Alberta bars reopen

God how I missed going to the bar.

Yesterday evening I joined Chang, Martok and K'urn at The Purple Onion Pint on Whyte where we braved lines (O'Byrnes and MKT were already full) to do something we hadn't done since March 15th (two months and a lifetime ago): get together in a public house for a few brewskis.

It wasn't yet the proper bar experience: we were all regularly extolled to sit 2m away from each other (Martok and Chang briefly debated pretending to be fags to justify sitting closer). To enter we had to (as mentioned) line up for what felt like an hour (it was 13 minutes and we were at the "front" of the line: it wasn't because of capacity but because of their requirement to scour the table and chairs we were about to use before we could use them), and then each of us individually quizzed on the topic of our health by a bouncer who clearly isn't good at numbers ("do you have a temperature of 108 degrees or higher?" "oh God no, my fever is 105 max!").

We weren't permitted up the bar and had to wait for a PPE clad waitress (still in a plaid skirt at least) to take our orders. But by Jove we got pints of beer. Real beer! In pint form! It was definitely surreal but appreciated: to minimize close contact and spittle the music was kept on a barely imperceptible level so people didn't have to talk loudly to be heard. There was a vaguely funereal feel to the evening because of the sparse crowds, quiet music, and the complete lack of pretty girls. Yes, the night out was more than a bit of a sausage fest, but it was a start.

And that's the important takeaway here. This was a start but this cannot abide as the "new normal". For one, once the novelty wears off I think bars are going to discover they can't stay in business like this. Since almost all pubs and bars in Canada require food service, the profit margins are roughly 7-10%. This is higher than a straight up restaurant but still not sustainable with half-empty seating even on the busiest of nights and extra staff required to do "deep cleaning" which by the way has no evidence of improving outcomes versus just wiping down the table with a cloth. Also as a medium-term business model I can't see this as sustainable. We're probably going to hit either Whyte Ave or downtown again tonight, but the odds of us going tomorrow night are slim-to-none. All-in-all I don't see us wanting to go out for a pub night under these circumstances more than once a month: the entire bar going experience is based on crowds and easy in-and-out: it's called a public house for a reason. We aren't going to a dance club, we don't want to line up every time. Friday and Saturday nights might be a nightmare, so it's far more likely we'd only do this on a weekday night or non-holiday-weekend afternoon.

Indeed the only "new normal" should be that anybody who unsardonically utters that phrase deserves a baseball bat to the teeth for trying to normalize this nonsense.

Jason Kenney deserves a hearty round of applause for his decision to reopen pubs. Compared to places like California or Ontario we feel like we're trying to stop pretending this virus is the worst thing to happen on the planet. Places like Alberta or Wisconsin (temporarily) can be trailblazing leaders forcing other jurisdictions to follow suit and creating a bit of a reverse wave to counter the insanity that was the Great Lockdown.

But we aren't out of the woods yet: and by "out of the woods" I'm not talking about second waves of viral infections. I'm talking second wave of "demanding useless shutdowns". A bar with social distancing isn't really a bar at all. Likewise, a society with social distancing isn't really a society at all. We shouldn't have to stand (or sit waiting on a slow-ass waitress) for this.