Sam Ross: NYC bars are still take-away only but the fog is lifting

Sam Ross at Attaboy, NYC

This week, workers in NYC started heading back to their office. Restaurants and bars are still take-away only but talks are under way about phasing into regular service. We spoke to Aussie expat Sam Ross (of Attaboy fame) as the city was under coronavirus seige.

We’re pretty used to it by now. We’re doing ok. Luckily the weather is getting nicer, so that is making for a bit of distraction. You know, sitting inside as it’s still rain gin and cold out just adds to the potential depression right there.

We were learning as we were going. There were regulations coming in from the government on an hourly basis on what they were going to be allowing going forward. Sunday March 15th was when we did our last service.

Everyone just went home and took stock of the news and what was going on. I think on the Friday we came in and thought, why don’t we do some to go cocktails just in the meantime to subsidise some staff.

We did that for a few days, and [then] we shut it down for about a week and a half. We were wondering if it was a responsible thing to have people come out of their house to get a couple of cocktails.


About two weeks into it, people are coming out of their houses to go to the grocery store, and liquor stores were deemed essential in New York. They were doing tremendous trade. We focused on bulk cocktails, encouraged people to stock up for the week, and we did two days a week a few days apart. If they’re venturing out to go to the grocery, put an order in online with us and pick up some cocktails and ice that you can stick in your freezer and sip on for the rest of the week.

[To go cocktails] have been great for a couple of reasons: business has been brisk, we’ve been very happy — it’s more than taking care of our rent and our utilities and helping out with our staff health insurance right now.

There’s definitely going to be a huge amount of caution when it comes to people going out again. The overly cautious people aren’t going to come out to bars initially. And you have to assume there’ll be strict guidelines of 40 to 50 percent occupancy.

We’re all going to have to go above and beyond both visually and actually and doing all sorts of checks, and sanitising and wiping and making a big show of that. You’re going to see our bartenders wearing gloves, possibly masks for a little while. It’s a bummer but if that’s what we have to do we’ll make it work.

If they allow, at least for a period of time — maybe three months — if they allow us to continue doing to go cocktails, for those customers who don’t feel entirely comfortable, if they allow us to do that I think it’s going to help out. It’s not going to save the industry, but it’s going to help out.