We need Christmas. Things are different at the moment.

In the catering industry, employees in bars and restaurants are worried about the economic feasibility of a large holiday period, because the weather is getting colder and colder and the number of places in enclosed spaces is limited or even non-existent. Without reservations for company parties or halls full of festive entertainment, the bars have to change their strategy.

Many of them create innovative winter landscapes in an attempt to increase sales – and perhaps the spirit – in a particularly difficult year.

Holiday Bars in San Francisco The Elixir of San Francisco has curbs called parquet floors, painted with festive flowers and decorated with garlands. Photo by Marc Forito

The themes of the holiday bars are of course not new, but the pandemic has brought about some important changes. Some people start their holidays earlier than normal and by the first week of November the lights start to shine.

In Washington, DC, the Tiki TNT team, which includes a rum distillery and a Tiki bar, started on January 21. November: two snow machines. I usually waited a week after Thanksgiving, says Todd Trasher, owner of TNT.

This year he added a second snow machine and decorations from his personal hideout to make the bar even more festive. As in previous years, each wall of the Tiki TNT is illuminated with festive lights and a huge tree hanging upside down, decorated with teak to entice buyers to buy tropical cocktails and bottles of Thrasher’s rum.

A little more, a little too much, he says. I’m just trying to make it fun and crazy for people.

Some of these restrictions, which impede social interaction, have external structures designed for smaller units, such as the Needle Halls at LondonHouse in Chicago and the Geraldine’s at Kimpton’s Hotel Van Zandt in Austin. The Westlight Winter Village in Brooklyn has wooden outdoor chalets and The Greens on Pier 17 in New York City has new ski cabins.

Chalet near Rosie Cannon Core in Houston, Chalet near Rosie Cannon Core with fireplaces and Irish coffee card / Photo by Julie Suffer

Houston Good Night Charlie also conveys the vibrations of the ski chalet. While the establishment closed in March, an open courtyard in Rosie Cannonball’s sister restaurant was transformed into a chalet at the beginning of November, with fireplaces and an Irish coffee menu, designed by the bar’s managers, Alex Negranza and Sarah Crowle. There are also industrial evenings on Sundays with drinks around the fire.

The concept is a form of escape and comfort, explains co-owner June Rodil, RS. You feel like you are in an environment where you travel for a season of fun.

Still, escape isn’t cheap.

The hardest part of preparing a holiday is investing in a cottage, Rodil says. The furniture has been redesigned as much as possible to reduce costs, for example by painting the tables and chairs with a coin stick in white and red. Rodil’s husband, furniture designer Aaron Rodil, made custom-made sofas and fireplaces.

We have to spend money to operate in a pandemic room, but there is always the fear of a closure that would result in further losses due to the pandemic, she said.

While the bar owners do their best to create a happy and welcoming space, many of them get tired after such a difficult year.

We are all going to have fun and be entertained, said Joseph Hermann, owner of the Elixir of San Francisco. But if Congress goes on vacation for the New Year without a package, they’ll end up in a much worse situation again. This is the biggest challenge of all.

The winter theme of the elixir includes extensions of sidewalks called parquet floors, painted in festive colours and decorated with garlands. The six cabins are equipped with loudspeakers that play festive melodies, and guests can enjoy hot rum with butter or homemade eggnog.

The interior of the Elixir is comfortable enough, heated all year round with old wood, Victorian lights and a red painted ceiling. This year the bar focuses on outdoor decoration, with large windows, one of which shows a scene with a Christmas tree and the other framed on the TV screen with either sports events or a Christmas log. This year, workers’ stockings will be hung on the outside, not on the back pillar.

I hope that the obvious point of view attracts people, says Ehrmann, and that the reality of our offer, the atmosphere and the service will bring them back again and again and hopefully create a company.

Tiki TNT In Washington, DC, Tiki TNT Todd Thrasher has added a second snow machine and decorations of his personal shelter to make the bar even more festive / Photo courtesy of Tiki TNT.

Hermann emphasizes an important point: Most years, the crowd gathers in festive bars and sales increase at the end of the year. This year’s jewellery is part of survival, sunk costs to create goodwill and ensure the return of guests after the new coronavirus pandemic.

I’m investing in the future, Trasher says. I have a long-term vision. This year’s bankruptcy. It’s done. None of us are going to be rich this year.

But that doesn’t mean he’s completely cynical.

This year I don’t know how it’s going to turn into money, he says. If it can make people happy, make them forget what’s going on for an hour or two, I’ve done it.

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