Covid-19 has been a part of our daily lives for well over a year now. If you are reading this, chances are you or someone you know has been affected by the Coronavirus in one way or another. In 2020, most of America was shut down due to the pandemic that had spread throughout the globe. Many businesses suffered because of the pandemic and people quarantining. But, more importantly, the folks who made the companies run — the employees — were harmed the most. Writer/director Johnny Sweet’s Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars takes a close look at some of the bars in Queens, New York City affected by the shutdown and the people who helped make these places a staple of the neighborhood.
Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars is much more than a title. New York City was so greatly impacted by the virus that at one point, it was the epicenter for the entire country, known for having the most positive cases of Covid in the U.S. One bar, Sparrow Tavern, was one of the bars that were forced to close its doors. It is a small bar and restaurant right in the heart of the neighborhood where many would frequent either as customers or employees. The bonds made there often turned into long-lived friendships.
“How do these employees pay bills in an economy that already had its struggles before the pandemic?”
Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars focuses mainly on the bar’s employees and others in the hospitality industry that were (and still are in some cases) wondering what they will do if there’s no more work for them. How do these employees pay bills in an economy that already had its struggles before the pandemic? One of the bartenders, Jena Ellenwood, took the shutdown as hard as anybody else who lost a job during that time. Not only did she have to worry about keeping the lights on and a roof over her head, but she also had to deal with anxiety and not having the same type of daily life as she was once used to.
The shutdown forced Ellenwood to come up with other ways to make money and stay social. So, she turned her bartending skills into a thriving online cocktail business. Unfortunately, not all employees of the numerous bars and restaurants have positive lockdown stories, and quite a few of the more disheartening tales are discussed throughout the documentary.
What I liked about Sweet’s film is that although there is talk about the health aspect of the virus, it really focused on the economic side of the pandemic. So much of the headlines have been about the numbers of cases and casualties that other affected parts seemingly do not get looked into all that much. The workers in the hospitality industry need help from the government to stay afloat and keep the doors open to ensure job stability. Although Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars only focuses on one part of New York City, it speaks for a whole industry that has been the backbone of this country.
"…speaks for a whole industry that has been the backbone of this country."