“I am talking about understanding spatial awareness.”

That’s what Jodi Calderon, Training and Logistics Coordinator for Proprietors LLC, explains when asked about how she thinks hospitality will change in the newish normal.

Jodi Calderon, Training and Logistics Coordinator

Jodi Calderon, Training and Logistics Coordinator

Photo by Ian Flanigan

With those words, Jodi took the reopening conversation to the next level. She effectively delineated the difference between service and hospitality in the post-quarantine bar.

Service follows the new steps of service. Hospitality is about making guests feel safe, comfortable, and at home. Now more than ever we must provide service, but, like always, bars that set themselves apart crush great hospitality.

Hospitality in the newish normal will look a lot like it did in the old days (like three months ago), according to Melrose Umbrella Company Beverage Director and Death and Co., Los Angeles bartender, Thomas Eslinger:

“We will be back, ready to give people an escape from the outside world, to make them feel seen and taken care of. The magic of hospitality is making someone feel special, like they are important and sometimes that their night is an exciting (but safe) adventure. We will still be able to achieve this. It is as simple as remembering someone’s name, buying them a drink for their birthday, maybe even spraying champagne from the bar top … as long as everyone is wearing a mask.”

So, on one hand, we’ll be hospitable in the post-quarantine bar in the same ways we were pre-pandemic. How we deliver this hospitality now requires greater attention to detail. As Calderon notes, “It is all about improvising, adapting, and rewiring our minds on how bars were operated.” That rewiring requires mindfulness from bar owners and, especially, those of us at the center of attention in most venues—bartenders.

How you move within your space will be more important than ever.

Moving with purpose requires adapting the practical points the best bars teach their staff. “Full hands in, full hands out” becomes “full hands in, wash your hands, full hands out,” alongside obsessiveness over giving what goes in and what comes out proper sanitary treatment.

Moving with purpose means focusing on how I am making a guest feel whether I’m six or sixty feet away from her. If you’re acting improperly at the other end of the bar, you’ll receive scrutiny like never before. But if you’re putting the guest in front of you at ease, she’ll spill praise like never before.

The aura around you and the vibes you throw off take on paramount importance. The way you have about you, the ease with which you do your job, the confidence you project—these seemingly abstract notions define the post-quarantine bartender, who must weave methodical steps of service with gracious and purposeful hospitality.

If Calderon elevated the conversation, Max Reis, Beverage Director at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, put the perfect nightcap on it with his related take:

“Now is the time to premeditate the guests’ needs, and make them feel safer in our hands than they feel at home. The name of the game for the foreseeable future is navigating anxieties, and making sure we have patience and empathy for anyone that walks in our doors.”