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Tasting Room Etiquette: COVID-19 Edition

By: Meghan

Well, we’re six months into Miss Rona disrupting the entire world. Things are so radically different now, none of us could have seen this coming! Breweries had to retool quickly and switch to offering home delivery and more packaged products as the demand for draught died down with restaurants, cafes, and bars closing. It feels like in part we’ve made it out to the other side or new normal - but we need to remain vigilant and safe to avoid the dreaded second wave. Tasting rooms have been reopened for a few months now - beer tenders and consumers alike have had to learn to operate under the new normal.

Let's be honest; this has been hard for everyone. Don’t fear though - your favourite bartender has some tips and suggestions on how we can stay safe and get through this together as a community. As you may have seen by now, Dr. Bonnie Henry has implemented a fine of $200 for patrons who do not follow COVID-19 safety precautions at businesses. This is clearly the last thing any of us working in tasting rooms would want to have happen. We care about the safety of our patrons, coworkers, and ourselves so let's keep the cops out of it, right?

Here’s what we can do together to keep tasting rooms open and safe:

1. BE KIND. This probably goes without saying, but it is a stressful time for us all. Patience and respect go a long way right now as folks are working two times as hard to keep everything clean and safe so things might move and work a little differently than last year at this time. It can be frustrating having extra lines, contact tracing, trying to talk through plexiglass and a mask, extra sanitization, and every business seems to be operating a little differently; but at the end of the day it's to keep everyone as healthy and safe as possible. Most bartenders do not choose the policies and are following COVID-19 safety plans put in place by their employers - try to keep this in mind if you’re feeling frustrated with the new normal. Thank you’s and "smizing" are much appreciated.

2. STAY HOME IF YOU’RE SICK. Bartenders interact with hundreds of customers in a day - if you’re sick please stay home; if you’re looking for a beer try out some home delivery contact-free options. If bartenders get sick, that means an entire business can shut down. Not to mention most places do not have sick pay so it can really threaten livelihoods having to miss work unpaid. We live in a society that has normalized toughing it out through sneezes, drippy noses, and coughs but it is incredibly important for our whole community to stay home and rest if you’re sick in any way. It's not worth spreading illness!

3. WEAR A MASK. Other municipalities across Canada have mandated masks being worn. This hasn’t happened yet in Vancouver but wearing a mask is one of the easiest ways to avoid spreading illness to others you interact with. They haven’t invented a mask that you can drink beer with while wearing yet, but until that happens please wear a mask when you enter breweries, go to the washroom, and go up to order.

4. RESPECT FOLKS’ PERSONAL SPACE. Talking through a mask is hard y’all - we get it. But please try to maintain a distance from staff and other customers, please do not reach around plexiglass and help yourself to food, do not touch merchandise if you don’t intend on purchasing it, and please do not touch bartenders (if COVID-19 ever goes away this still applies!). Not everyone has the same fears surrounding COVID-19, but avoiding contact with strangers has consistently been pointed to as an important way to lessen the chances of spreading illness.

5. DO NOT GO TO BREWERIES WITH GROUPS OVER 6. Dr. Bonnie Henry has recommended keeping your contacts small and to not interact with big groups of people. You shouldn’t be hanging out with large groups but if you feel the need to - try to go to a park or outside space where you can keep a safe distance. Don’t share joints, cigarettes, straws, needles or drinks. We saw earlier in the summer how groups of bar hoppers spread COVID-19 throughout Kelowna. Isolation and stress are very real and very hard but you can be sick without even knowing it, and the more people you’re with and the more places you visit the higher chance of spreading illness there is. Don’t put other customers and staff in uncomfortable positions by breaking the rules.

6. TIP TIP TIP. Breweries have had to dramatically lower their capacity to ensure safe distance is kept - this means less money coming in, less customers, and less tips. Most bartenders are reliant on tips for their groceries, rent, bus passes and other essentials. If you can afford to, consider tipping on a growler fill or 4-pack if you can spare it. If it's in your ability - please tip more than you normally would. 50 cents on a 4-pack might not seem like a big difference but if everyone chips in a bit it makes a big difference at the end of the day.

7. READ THE COVID-19 SAFETY POLICY. Most businesses have posted their COVID-19 policies outside, take a moment before entering to learn about how it's operating. Some places have switched to table service, some places have markings on the ground and it definitely can be confusing. If in doubt - ask your bartender and/or host! We want you to have a safe and enjoyable experience and understand the new normal is a bit complicated so don’t be shy with your questions!

8. DON'T TRY TO BREAK THE RULES. Things like contact tracing are pretty commonplace now, but each business has to put safety practices in place for their establishment to operate safely. If you don’t agree with a policy, that's your right but unfortunately things like contact tracing have been mandated by the government and is a requirement. If you’re worried about giving out your personal information in the case of contact tracing, you should consider not entering businesses’ as we are required to collect this information. Some rules in place might not be obvious as to their benefits on surface level, but please know nothing we are doing is for arbitrary reasons and we all want to be safe.

And there is my non-exhaustive list of how to visit tasting rooms! The only way to get through this historically tough period is to work together and practice compassion and understanding. For the love of beer, wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay safe friends!

For more from Meghan, follow her on Instagram at @blackvogue.

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