Ask an Ole Miss student what they miss about being away from Oxford and the bar scene may come close to the top of the list. Local bar employees are missing the routine, too, and trying to remain optimistic despite their uncertain future.
Known for their colorful daiquiris, lively music and what seems to always be a packed house, the COVID-19 crisis has now forced Funky’s to focus on their pizza.
“We are carrying out delivery pizza orders but that’s all we can do. Nobody can come inside, we can’t serve any drinks, we can only do pizza,” said Funky’s bouncer Simon Corson.
The longer pandemic-related safety rules stay in place, the more worried Corson gets.
“The fear is that there’s not going to be enough money to keep all the employees paid, once this starts going on and after the government stops giving financial aid to these businesses,” Corson said.
Library Sports Bar bartender Reid Bankston said he’s missing his regular customers coming in for their usual drinks….and his tips.
“Personally, I’m just trying to get out of the house…I’ve also binged watched just about everything on HBO and Netflix,” Bankston said, laughing.
The third-year bartender says that The Library doesn’t really have anything they can offer that “adheres to [quarantine] guidelines that Oxford’s going with right now,” so, the bar is shut down. However, this is giving the owner time to do some maintenance work inside and continue working on a new back patio.
While Bankston is lucky enough to have another source of income during the country-wide lockdown, he said some of his employees aren’t as fortunate.
“There’s a lot of people that that’s their livelihood. We do have several staff members that that is their 40-hour week. For them to be out of work and not really knowing when that’s going to end, you feel for them first,” Bankston said.
Bankston said, fortunately, the bar was having a good year this year and is financially stable. He said the real concern is “for the individuals that make up the business.”
According to Corson, Funky’s owner Lee Harris seems to be making the best out of the current situation by staying positive.
“He’s rolling with the flow. He’s been talking to the mayor and the governor as well as all the small businesses. Everybody is just doing carry out and they’re all just hanging together and they know as much as we do. They don’t really know when they are going to open. They’re just taking it day by day,” said Corson.
Corson himself is hopeful that once businesses are able to reopen, the bar will have no problem filling the dance floor and serving up drinks.
“I think that when everything opens back up, we are going to be really busy and so that will be good. I think it’s going to be a lot busier than normal, at least the first week or the first two weeks once everyone gets back into town,” Corson said.
Both Bankston and Corosn said the best way to help the smaller business within Oxford stay afloat during this time is to order their food from the local restaurants and bars.
“Just go out and eat local and shop local. Make sure you spend your money on these small business areas and not the big corporations that are still open,” Corson said.