In 2021, A Very Different Valentine's Day for Bar Professionals | Wine Enthusiast
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In 2021, A Very Different Valentine’s Day for Bar Professionals

Longtime London bartender Gergő Muráth and New York City bar veteran Chockie Tom were wed via Zoom in June 2020, so this Valentine’s Day will be their first as a married couple. Last year, the holiday fell shortly after their engagement and a major fundraiser Tom had organized. Instead of a traditional evening out, they’d stayed in and ordered takeout.

“This year doesn’t shape up to be much different: stay in, have takeout, celebrate our continued success, and most importantly, binge watch as much Marvel as I can handle,” says Muráth. “Chockie may or may not take part in the latter.”

The past year has been a whirlwind in more ways than one for the couple. A series of visa-related obstacles delayed their 2020 wedding, and then Tom contracted Covid-19 in March 2020. She still suffers from related symptoms.

“The most important thing that I’ve learned through this crazy last year is how important it is to get a partner that supports you no matter what, [and] how fortunate I am that I didn’t have to go through a bunch of major life things alone,” says Tom.

“We might not have had any of our plans happen the way we wanted, and we still haven’t gotten a honeymoon, but if I had to pick anyone to go through all of this crazy situation with, I’m definitely with the person that I would pick, without a question.”

Muráth agrees. “I couldn’t be happier to have been able to be by each other’s side in this past year and see Chockie gain more and more praise for the incredible work she does.”

“If I had to pick anyone to go through all of this crazy situation with, I’m definitely with the person that I would pick, without a question.”—Chockie Tom

Over the last year, the global hospitality industry faced countless closures and shifting mandates. Bar and restaurant owners, often without government support, had to cut staff, fundraise, adapt or downsize operations, or close entirely, leaving front- and back-of-house workers without jobs and uncertain of their futures. It’s been a trying time, to say the least.

The luxury of ordering a cocktail or going out to dinner—on Valentine’s Day or any other—had perhaps been taken for granted by many bar and restaurant patrons before the novel coronavirus pandemic uprooted the hospitality industry and life as we know it. But human connection is the lifeblood of the business.

If there’s a silver lining to all of this for bartenders, cooks, servers and other hospitality workers, it’s that their time is spent differently now. Instead of serving others each weekday, weekend and holidays, there’s more time and opportunity to serve themselves and those they love.

This year, semi-furloughed Brooklyn bartenders Taylor Adorno and Orlando Franklin McCray plan to celebrate their at-home Valentine’s Day in the presence of their cats with local seafood and, of course, great drinks.

“[We’ll be] drinking one-bottle martinis and a high-acid white or sparkling to cut through all the butter going down with these lobster tails,” says McCray. “For the oysters, I’m going to have to find a nice Muscadet—you just reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve had one.”

In San Francisco, Tanya Clark and Tammy Hagans are taking a similarly safe, low-key approach to this year’s Valentine’s Day planning. It will still be meaningful, Clark says.

“We usually go out and dine at our favorite places, bar hop, and exchange really cheeky cards. I got her one a couple of years ago that read ‘I am so proud of you for picking me,’ ” says Clark. “This year, there won’t be bar hopping, there won’t be dining out, but we will make a beautiful meal together and get wild and rent something thrilling to watch.”

Hagans and Clark met while bartending together at San Francisco bar Bergerac, and believe quarantine has taught them a lot.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned about relationships [during] the pandemic, it’s being grateful for the little things your partner does without having to ask—not focusing on what they aren’t doing, but all of the wonderful things they are doing,” Clark says. “When you are quarantined and having to share a space with someone, the little [things] can be magnified, but turning the focus onto the positive things can make a happier home.”