On Sunday I rolled up to The Haberdasher on Dauphin and was met by a smattering of men wearing bandanas around their faces and latex gloves. If this was any other afternoon B.C. (before coronavirus), I’d assume it was a stickup and quietly tiptoe away like Elmer Fudd. But these are strange times, indeed.
Instead of demanding from me my car keys and AmEx, the cloaked men handed me boxes of hot-and-spicy crawfish and fixin’s, some T-shirts and a list of to-go drinks. This was the bar’s first “Staff Benefit Crawfish To-Go,” a fundraiser for their out-of-work employees. It is just one of many efforts local bars are implementing to keep money flowing to their workers, most of whom have seen every penny of their income evaporate overnight.
The Hab had announced their event a week prior and sold hundreds of pounds of crawfish preorders in a day. On Sunday they did the cooking out front — a nostalgic sight for those who appreciate a good springtime sidewalk boil — packaged the food inside and responsibly staggered the disbursements so not too many people were standing at the property at the same time.
When I arrived for my 5:15 p.m. pickup, I spotted my friend Roy Clark, the beverage director and general manager, and chatted with him for a few. He told me his bartenders were happy to show up for the event. They didn’t want to just be sitting at home, bored. They wanted to work. This is a common refrain across the local service industry: They just want to work.
Roy’s peer at the Alabama Music Box on Conception, Nick Shantazio, had hosted the same crawfish boil/to-go drink fundraiser the week before. The proceeds from that event went to his out-of-work staff and those of their sister venue, The Merry Widow. Roy and Nick are going to continue trading off weekends for the foreseeable future, with The Merry Widow hosting a boil on April 12 and The Hab on April 19. Follow their Facebook pages for event notifications and links to buy their merch or donate directly to their staff relief funds.
Like at The Hab, boredom is running high among local bartenders, some of whom consider their jobs performance art. The staff at O’Daly’s Irish Pub downtown has channeled that energy into a series of unhinged Facebook videos, in which they dress up as famous characters and share their curbside pickup and delivery options for the day.
In one, Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic promise their pizza will “have you roaring for more.” In another, Maverick and Goose take viewers along for a “no-contact drop” so their target can “veg out and stay home.” A “Y.M.C.A.”-themed video asks you to let them “deliver to your Village. We are your People.” Check out these silly and surprisingly high-production-value pieces at facebook.com/odalysirishpub. And if you have the money, order something already!
Other places are getting creative, as well. Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina is offering virtual wine classes with their sommelier, Sara Kavanaugh. For their initial Facebook Live tasting, the restaurant alerted guests to the wines Sara would be discussing via email a few days ahead of time. They then offered the bottles for sale, available for curbside or dockside pickup at their sister restaurant, Playa.
During the hour-long interactive event, Sara explained the wines’ tasting notes and answered questions from viewers in a casual, approachable way. The video is still available for free on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Sign up for their newsletter to learn when their next educational event will take place, and purchase the bottles if you want to taste along with Sara.
Local breweries are still churning out suds, which are available for pickup. Astonishingly, Big Beach in Gulf Shores has been offering a new small-batch release nearly every day since the pandemic began. Quarantine Sour #8 came out Tuesday and is inspired by summertime sorbet: tangerine, coconut and lime. They are not handling money at the brewery, so all orders of beer, merch and tips need to be done through their website.
Fairhope Brewing released some “Tiger King”-themed brews, Big Cat Radler and Joe Hopzotic session IPA, over the weekend, selling out in mere hours. “No tigers or millionaires were injured or disappeared by the production of these delicious brews,” the brewery joked in a Facebook post. They’re also selling brewery-branded T-shirts that read “Beer for My Nurses” (a play on Toby Keith and Willie Nelson’s 2003 banger, “Beer for My Horses”), and $10 from each sale is being donated to the Thomas Hospital COVID-19 Employee Assistance Program.
And, of course, plenty of bars are offering drinks to-go. The Ice Box Bar on Monroe is selling plastic jugs of frozen Screwdrivers, frozen gin and tonics and growlers of beer. In fact, they’ll sell you anything that’s sealed, including cases of White Claws. Flora-Bama is offering Bushwackers with food purchases, as is Moe’s Original BBQ, where you can buy them by the gallon.
That is just a sampling of what is available for loyal bar patrons in these rough times. If you haven’t already followed your favorite bars on social media or signed up for their newsletters, do it. They need your support — financially or even just virtually, with a like or a share — now more than ever. And they’ll let you in on some pretty great drink and hot-and-spicy crawfish specials, which will help make shelterin at home just a little more bearable.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist and Boozie’s most unreliable Baldwin County spy. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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