Special Report

Forget Restaurants: Here’s How the Coronavirus Is Changing Bars

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6. There’ll be new ‘decor’

Sanitizing or hand-washing stations, no-touch thermometers, plastic dividers, and disposable cocktail lists will take their place among the sports memorabilia, old license plates, posters, and group photographs that have traditionally decorated bars and taverns.

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7. You probably won’t be able to sit at the bar

As long as social distancing protocols are in effect, very few drinking spots will be able to accomodate more than one or two patrons at the actual bar; the bars just aren’t long enough. That means table service only, with some bars even allowing (or requiring) patrons to make reservations.

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8. There’ll be fewer craft beers to drink

According to the food industry news site Food Dive, “[F]ew businesses are feeling [the pandemic’s] impact more than craft beer.” The Brewers Association estimates that as many as 4,000 of the nation’s 8,000-plus breweries could be forced to close permanently in the coming months. The outlook might not be good even for those who survive: Because craft brews tend to be more expensive than mass-market suds, they’ll likely be ordered less often in the future, and some bars might simply stop serving some of the more marginal brands.

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9. There’ll be a smaller selection of spirits

According to a Nielsen CGA study, “Operators will be turning to the brands that can prove they’ve been essential to the COVID-19 need states of consumers.” Some 57% of the bar owners surveyed reported that they would give special consideration, going forward, to “value evidence based recommendations on the optimal drink range/assortment for their bars.” In other words, they’ll be more selective about what they pour, cutting down their overall inventory. As with breweries, smaller craft distillers will likely be the biggest losers as liquor options shrink.

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10. Shared snacks will disappear

Even before the pandemic, health experts warned that bar snacks could be contaminated. Now the danger is much greater, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find serve-yourself bowls of peanuts, pretzels, snack mix, or popcorn on the bar in the future.