Yesterday marked what would have been the third anniversary of my first shift working at the sweetest little wine bar.
Three years and one week ago, I arrived at the bar for the first time to attend a private party in honor of a friend. Some months earlier, I had seen an ad that the bar was hiring and joked to my guys that I was going to get a job pouring wine. They replied, “Yah, right…” and that was that. I didn’t apply.
That night, however, I unknowingly struck up a conversation with the owner who offered me a job on the spot. The next morning he called me. Laughing, he asked, “Are you serious?” Laughing on my end of the line I responded, “You know, I had the strangest dream that I accepted a job I hadn’t meant to apply for.” A week later I started my new job.
I started that job much to my family’s amusement and my friends’ amazement. I had no restaurant or retail experience. I’m an introvert and a homebody. I had spent my entire adult life working in and writing for churches while I also earned a Master’s degree in Divinity (an M.Div., common among pastors) and raised two boys. Working at a bar seemed off-topic and out of character.
Still, the very idea brought me joy. I like wine and I like people. Besides, I had four weekends, eight shifts, before my older son would leave for college and I would take two weekends off to drive him cross-country. I could do anything eight times and then, if it wasn’t a good fit, I could quit.
To the contrary, I loved it. Over time, I recruited four friends to work there as well.
Sure, sometimes it was slow and other times so busy I broke a sweat. But I discovered that I delight in offering hospitality, making someone smile as I suggested a wine they’d like or served them a beautiful cheese plate. I’m not big on small talk but often we discussed the movies playing next door, and sometimes those who sat at the counter came in for the company; they wanted to share the struggles and joys of their lives, and I was happy to listen.
The bar’s co-owners, business partners for 20+ years, also owned that gorgeous historic Art Deco movie theatre next door. They held an annual film festival that brought in stars and rising stars. They also developed a cabaret concert series in which Broadway stars traveled to our small town outside of San Francisco to share their flare for fantastic music. At both the bar and the theatre, we hosted receptions that included delicious wine and beautiful food. It was fast-paced fun and I had a lot of creative freedom to execute a vision for serving our honored guests and VIP ticket holders. The opportunity to support the arts added a new layer of meaning to my life.
I made friends at the bar and we definitely had our share of colorful characters. We became a real-life version of the TV sitcom Cheers, where everybody knows your name, as the staff and regulars developed a rapport that extended beyond the bar walls. We celebrated many special occasions together: birthdays and anniversaries, births and baptisms, home sales and purchases, holidays and blockbuster premieres. On Sunday evenings, talented local singers came in for Open Mic Night. On occasional weekends, musicians played guitar and sang for us. A local artist decorated the walls with movie-inspired paintings. We held monthly karaoke nights that month after month gathered steam to become the best party in town.
Four months ago yesterday I worked my last shift at the bar. The previous night had been a karaoke night; we anticipated a low number given the increasing amount of information regarding the pandemic and the correlating caution/fear. Instead, our regulars showed up in force and we had one last blast together before the bar came to a sudden close.
COVID-19 took my job. I miss getting out of the house, serving guests, seeing friends. But that’s small potatoes, as C-19 took a lot of jobs. What makes my heart ache is that it may take down the theatre altogether. The theatre’s fixed costs (rent, insurance, equipment maintenance, etc) total as much as $18,000/month, and clearly the longer movie theatres are closed the more difficult it will be to afford to reopen. Our community stands to lose not only a spot for gathering and entertainment but a theatre that has provided so much more than just movies.
The theatre is running a fundraiser, a One Ticket Challenge. If I’ve ever poured you a glass of wine; if you’ve ever enjoyed chatting with the server in your neighborhood’s version of Cheers; if you’ve ever taken in a movie at an independent historic theatre; if you’re willing to donate the amount of just one ticket to help save this historic gem, please visit their GoFundMe page. Thank you in advance for your support!