Could Cheer's Stay Open in 2020?
If you are a fan of the old television show Cheer's you might recall a scene where a gentlemen sits at the bar (seemingly down on his luck), orders a drink, and proceeds to tell the patrons at Cheer's (and the viewers of course) about his new job. He is recently employed as the janitor at a biology lab where they work with "mutant" viruses. The team at Cheer's proceeds to lift his spirits, but as he leaves everyone (including the customers) begins frantically cleaning and wiping down surfaces. Upon watching this scene during a global pandemic, I started to wonder, could Cheer's stay in business in 2020?
Before we really get into it, we will note that this is a look at a fictional bar. And while I think highly of local watering holes like Cheer's, I still think it is in everyone's best interest to stay out of crowded bars for now.
Below I have listed a few aspects of Cheer's that made the bar endearing and successful in its time, but may not have the same effect in 2020.
Cheer’s Was Not a Tech Savvy Establishment: Throughout the show there are various comedic scenes of the gang at Cheer’s trying to figure out a computer, calculator, television, alarm system, ect. . However, if Cheer’s were open in 2020 they would have to get with the tech program. For a lot of small bars selling drinks online and to-go has been their last and only hope. Seemingly adding insult to injury alcohol sales across the country are up 55% percent as Americans turn to the sauce to ease anxiety and kill time during lock downs. So not only are people less inclined to go back to the bar, they are getting very used to drinking at home.
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Cheer’s Did Not Serve Food: When referencing a “neighborhood” bar, I am talking about the true watering holes, and not restaurants that also have a bar. If you are a fan of the show you will recall the only food available at Cheer’s was pretzels and beer nuts. Although the bar sat in the basement of the upscale Melville’s Sea Food restaurant, Cheer’s remained a place strictly for drinking and camaraderie.
Unfortunately, even prior to COVID, bars like Cheer’s were already on the decline. Unless you had some type specialty cocktail or renowned small dish, its likely you were not seeing many customers outside of a few regulars. With technology allowing you to chat with your closest friends in an instant, the need to heir your grievances to a friendly stranger at the bar is long in the past. Add into that a global pandemic, and not only do people not want to talk to a friendly stranger at the bar, they want to stay as far away from them as possible.
Cheer’s Change in Ownership: For the show’s earlier seasons the bar was owned by Sam Malone, a retired baseball player and local celebrity. Sam not only owned the bar, but he operated it. Sam served the drinks, washed the glasses, and cleaned the tables. However, a few seasons into the series Sam sells the bar to the Lilian Corporation to fund a trip around the world. Upon returning to Cheer’s to ask for a job, Sam find things are vastly different. The bar’s emphasis on revenue is front and center. Employees are following a strict code of policies and procedures, and the old free wheeling Cheer’s seems to be long gone.
Although Cheer’s does return to its old ways for the sake of the show, the story of Cheer’s and its corporate owners is one that rings true for many bars in 2020. Unfortunately, the government’s methods in issuing assistance programs gave large restaurant chains and franchises an opportunity to utilize their resources and sweep up the majority of funds early on. Already in a tough spot fighting for relief, local bars in 2020 are not paying rent to the warm-hearted mom and pop landlords they used to in past decades. Most inner-city bars now a days are paying rent to the subsidiary of a hedge fund whose concern lies a lot more in their returns then it does with the employment of your favorite bartenders and servers.
This may all seem like a blog that is being sympathetic to a business that never actually existed, but it is intended to be a realization that some of our favorite characteristics of bars in the past might never come back. Observing the few bars that are finding success during this unusual time and applying some of the personality that makes your bar unique might be a better option than hoping that whats work in the past will catch hold again.