ON THE AVENUES: Mask up, folks. Pints&union is coming back, and we’re taking precautions.

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I’m sharing column space this week with sentences written by two others, so let’s get started.

Pints&union is coming back, although to be specific, we never really went away. Owner Joe Phillips explains this in the current issue of Edible Kentucky & Southern Indiana.

When the COVID-19 quarantine shut down local restaurants in March, we were devastated and silent. We all knew it was coming, but to know it’s knocking at your door is a very different reality than watching others face it on social media or television. We were shell-shocked for two days—then realized we needed to get back to work, somehow.

Knowing our perishable food would go bad, we donated it to our workers who were suddenly out of work. We needed a sense of purpose; we needed to give back to the workers who have been providing hospitality to our communities every day for years.

Chef Edward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek, founders of the LEE Initiative, gave us that opportunity with the Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Thanks to a donation from Maker’s Mark Distillery, we gathered essential household items and served hot meals to feed laid off restaurant workers and their families every day. There are no words to fully describe what it felt like to experience the gratitude of the many service workers who received support and love during this scary time.

With additional donations, we joined forces with 610 Magnolia, Lee’s flagship Louisville restaurant, to serve Louisville industry workers while still keeping tabs on the people we served in New Albany, Indiana. The streets were empty but our hearts were full, serving over 200 people per week. The program expanded to 18 other cities in the U.S., providing over 275,000 meals.

Moving forward, we are working with the LEE Initiative’s Restaurant Reboot Relief Program, a $1 million commitment to purchase produce from local farmers for restaurants to create more sustainable food supply chains. Restaurants that have hosted restaurant-worker relief centers will receive the food and help select other local restaurants to participate.

This remains a trying time for all of us. I have witnessed firsthand amazing beauty from great loss. I have seen open doors and hearts, open minds and people united for a greater sense of purpose. We look forward to enduring this time, coming out stronger together.

Joe also threw himself into helping others in West Louisville when the Black Lives Matter protests began, although this is another story for a different time.

You should know that I’m proud to be working for a man who hasn’t once denied science during a pandemic, complained about financial misfortune, dismissed the importance of civil rights for fear of alienating antebellum mouth-breathers, or minimized the all-purpose societal challenges we’re facing at this juncture.

As I’ve said before, Joe just lowers his head and runs in the direction of the fire. It’s too bad not every downtown dining and drinking establishment’s owner can say the same … but alas, I digress.

Our new general manager at Pints&union is Steven Cavanaugh, a resident of New Albany who recently concluded a long, productive stint running the Garage Bar in NuLu.

Steven wrote this outline of what we’ll be doing for the safety of our customers and ourselves when the doors reopen to the public on Saturday.

PINTS & UNION REOPENING OUTLINE

Pints & union will be reopening to the public on Saturday, July 11th at 5:00 p.m.

While the charity work we’ve been able to accomplish in the time our doors have been closed has been some of the most rewarding and transformative experiences of our lives, we could not be more excited to welcome our guests back into the Public House you’ve come to know and love in our nearly two years of operation.

This being said, there are a few new procedures to be aware of that we’re implementing to ensure the highest level of safety for our guests and for our staff as possible.

For starters, masks will be REQUIRED to enter the building, to order at the bar, and to move about the pub. Essentially anytime you’ll be away from your table, we’ll require a mask to be worn.

Being a public house, we and all who enter have a duty to do our part in helping keep the public safe. We’ll be doing a temperature screen and taking information from one person in each party for contract tracing purposes. We’ll be self-imposing some capacity restrictions that go a bit further than the state currently allows by properly distancing all tables and bar stools, as well as prohibiting any standing-room-only areas.

Our neighbors at The Root have been kind enough to let us use their patio for dinner service from 5 to 10 PM on the weekends as an extension of our small outdoor seating area to help combat the capacity issue.

All tables will have a “drop zone” where fresh food will be placed by our staff and dirty dishes can be placed by guests for our team to pick up. We’ll have bottles of sanitizer provided by Starlight Distillery at each table for guests to use while they’re here, and are taking several other behind-the-scenes precautions such as air purifiers, ionizers in our AC unit, and new ceiling fans to constantly clean and circulate fresh air.

The whole team is beyond exciting to get our doors open again and see some familiar, albeit masked, faces! We’ve got a new dinner menu to show off as well as some incredible stories to tell behind some of our new products. We’ll see you all soon!

One point in the preceding merits emphasis:

“Masks will be REQUIRED to enter the building, to order at the bar, and to move about the pub. Essentially anytime you’ll be away from your table, we’ll require a mask to be worn. Being a public house, we and all who enter have a duty to do our part in helping keep the public safe.”

Here’s the best sign I’ve seen on the topic of masks, as produced by a Twitter friend; it’s posted at Chicago Bagel Authority on Belmont Avenue in that toddlin’ town.

Now to my column stanzas.

I suspect that our American cultural preference to emphasize mind-numbling ignorance about the wider world doesn’t manage to produce rebellious Francophiles in quite the way we used to, but there was a time when they indeed roamed the earth.

And so let’s imagine an American man of late middle age, living in Louisville, or perhaps even Southern Indiana, who is enamored of all things French, especially the city of Paris, to him the exemplar of culture, modernity … and yes, all-purpose éclat.

The year is 1939, and the leaves have fallen. Owing to a modest inheritance and toothsome work habits, our Francophile friend — can we refer to him as Frank? — has long been able to indulge his love of France through visits every other year. It’s not France alone for Frank, who has embraced the classic “grand tour” notion of examining Western European haunts. He usually spends time in non-Parisian locales during his trips.

Still, French terroir is Frank’s first and most abiding love.

Frank is looking forward to the year 1940; April in Paris, after all. In fact, he has booked passage to France well in advance for the spring of 1940, sailing on the French Line (the Compagnie Générale Maritime) from New York City to Le Havre, where the trains depart for Paris.

However, storm clouds are gathering. War in Europe is all but certain. Transatlantic passages are starting to dwindle, yet Frank persists, because these trips to France are life itself to him, and the sustenance for coping with the philistinism in FDR’s increasingly socialist America, from which he simply must escape every now and then to a place where they do things correctly.

Unfortunately our Frank is a Republican.

Calendar pages turn, and as Frank’s holiday in France draws ever nearer, he finally gets cold feet. Friends, family and the American government conspire to issue unassailable warnings about the potentially dangerous situation across the pond. As a frequent traveler, Frank wangles a postponement with only the minimum in penalties. He’ll sail instead in 1941, after the inclement geopolitical weather blows over.

And so, on cue, the Germans invade France in the spring of 1940, quickly overwhelming the French and capturing Paris. World War II ensues, by any measure the most destructive war in human history.

It will be 1946 before Frank is able to return to Paris. In the interim, he lives his life correctly. Frank purchases war bonds, maintains a Victory Garden, volunteers for useful wartime homefront duties, reads the library’s collection of French novels in translation at least twice each, and burns through multiple phonograph needles listening to the 1941 hit song that always brings his hankie out.

But then it’s 1946, and Frank at long last sees Paris again, finding himself seated within the familiar confines of Harry’s New York Bar at 5 Rue Daunou – Sank Roo Doe Noo – with a Bloody Mary in one hand and a Havana in the other, daydreams of his heroes Ernest Hemingway, George Gershwin and Jack Dempsey swirling through the battered touring cap on his simply delighted, albeit far grayer head.

It doesn’t seem to Frank like it has been eight years. He’s happy to be back, and the feeling is intensified by gratitude, because beating the damned evil Nazis proved to be a collective accomplishment far outweighing his own selfish desires. Hell, even that filthy communist Uncle Joe Stalin helped us out.

Moulin Rouge, here Frank comes.

Returning from the realm of fiction to the present day, we’re experiencing a global pandemic, and Europe is closed to Americans because so many of my countrymen exist in a stuporous state of anti-scientific, fruit-loops-grade denial of medical reality, prattling endlessly about their “rights” while burying their heads in the alluvial mud at the slightest suggestion of responsibilities.

Yes, I won’t be going to Europe any time soon, and it bothered me at first like it bothered Frank back in 1940, but the constructive way I propose to deal with it is to accept the nature of the threat and react sensibly to it, correctly even, such that a semblance of good might come about.

I’m wearing a facemask in public, practicing social (physical) distancing to the best of my ability, washing my hands often, practicing good hygiene overall, and being as much a part of the solution as I can possibly be, as opposed to being another brick in the wall of problematic narcissism.

At the present time, it is my earnest hope that in 2021 my aching feet again will be transported to European soil. As always, upon arrival, whether it’s next year or five more afterward, I’ll kiss the ground, sob tears of joy and thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for my good fortune to be able to enjoy a brief respite from other Americans.

Until then, whatever it takes. I’ll do my part to deal with COVID-19. You should consider doing yours, too, and those of you who are being proud, stupid and plainly anti-social about it — sorry, not sorry, but you’re making it worse for everyone.

Recent columns:

July 5: ON THE AVENUES took a week off. Here’s what I’ve been writing while on holiday.

June 25: ON THE AVENUES: I’m invisible, so will you stop insisting you see me?

June 18: ON THE AVENUES: Anything except common, that Kentucky Common.

June 11: ON THE AVENUES: Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger.

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