Perspective of a restaurant worker on the April 4 order

Written By Chandni Shah, Co-Opinions Editor

Effective Sunday, April 4, restaurants in Pennsylvania will allow up to 75% occupancy, open their bars and lift previous alcohol service rules. 

I have some mixed feelings about this as a bartender and server. 

I work at a restaurant called Mad Mex, a little ways outside of downtown Pittsburgh. I spend a lot of my time there making drinks, serving tables and packing to-go orders. I do all of these things while wearing a mask and following social distancing guidelines alongside my coworkers. 

To say the least, it’s been quite a long year, but I’ve gotten used to doing my job in the midst of a pandemic. I am lucky to say that I have yet to contract the coronavirus (knock on wood), despite the amount of people I come into contact with in a normal work week. I’d like to say this is due to the fact that my restaurant and coworkers have followed safety protocol to a near T. But it’s easy to forget that we’ve only been at 50% capacity with a closed bar for a decent amount of time now. That will all be changing next week on April 4. 

As a bartender, I’ll be able to have people sit at my bar and order drinks straight from me, which is exciting but also terrifying. For one, I have not gotten the COVID vaccine yet. Secondly, not a lot of people who work in restaurants have. Governor Wolf is fast-tracking the reopening process and putting many food service workers at risk. 

With an increase in capacity, by default, there will also have to be an increase of staff on duty. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been in or seen a server ally and cook line before, but they’re not very big. 

If all of my coworkers were fully vaccinated as well as myself, I wouldn’t be as reluctant about the new guidelines, but that’s not the case. Pennsylvania is technically still in Phase 1A of vaccine rollout, which includes people who are considered high-risk. I am not considered high-risk and am eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1C. 

Despite the plan in place for vaccine rollout, I know people who aren’t technically currently eligible to get the vaccine, but they have appointments in place or have already gotten a first dose shot. When I ask them how they were able to get them, they say, “you have to know someone.” 

Unfortunately, I know a fair amount of people in the service industry who have gotten the vaccine when it wasn’t their turn. But how can I blame them? Especially when working in a restaurant. I encounter more than 50 different people a day, touching their used plates, silverware, napkins, cups, etc. It is not very cleanly work to begin with, making the risk heightened of contracting the virus from someone I don’t know. 

I encourage you all to keep servers and bartenders in your minds when going out to restaurants. If you come into contact with someone who has the virus, please don’t come out. Takeout and curbside pickup are still options, and I urge everyone to consider them first before going out to eat. 

Remember to tip your servers and bartenders, wear your mask when you’re not eating and avoid coming out in large parties for the sake of restaurant workers.