Want to help the world after the lockdown is over and we can all travel again? Great: get drunk. Get as much food in your stomach as you can. Stumble from bar to bar, cafe to restaurant and start over.
Because these are the places that suffer. They are the ones who could disappear.
It can be difficult to keep up at times in this world of constant bad news, difficult to determine the permanent changes COVID-19 will have made to the globe once we all come out of it properly.
So let me catch up with you on something. What social places do you like when traveling? Small family establishments, bars, cafes, trattorias, izakaya, tapas bars, aperitif bars, small businesses that do not have an enormous financial weight? They are already disappearing. Some will never come back. And those who are still there desperately need your help.
It’s one of those things that struck me recently. Everyone has their favorites when traveling, the places they like to spend time, which make them feel alive and delighted. Some people like museums, others like art galleries. Many love forests, rivers and the great outdoors.
I like bars, cafes and small restaurants. I like the connection they give you with the local culture and the connection with the local people. I love that you can spend hours in these places and not disturb anyone, that you can just slip into local life and have unpretentious fun.
A Parisian cafe pretty much looks like the best thing in the world right now. I would do anything to order pintxos at a bar in San Sebastian, or enjoy sashimi at an izakaya in Tokyo.
And yet, how many of these places will be left behind by the time we all emerge?
Because these are among the sites that are hit hardest by the global cycle of lockdown and re-emergence, expansion and slowdown, the constant blows COVID-19 has taken on small business owners who work in the industry. food and drink.
Already, some of the places you once loved are gone forever. In Spain, historic tapas and pintxo bars across the country have closed, never to reopen.
Bar Manolo, a must-see in Seville for 50 years, has disappeared. Cal Pinxo, the seafood specialist for more than 60 years in Barcelona, ââhas disappeared. Taberna Basaras, a favorite in Bilbao for over 80 years, is gone. A Fuego Negro, a staple of the modern pintxo movement in San Sebastian, has disappeared (as has the family classic, Aitzgorri). Many more are in danger and will likely have closed their “Persiana” shutters for good by the time one of us gets there.
The news is just as bad in Japan, where izakaya – often tiny bars that serve beer and sake to accompany small plates of really good food – are struggling, with alcohol bans and restrictions. on opening hours, as well as the loss of the entire tourist trade, making these small businesses almost impossible to manage.
Many have already closed – 842 Japanese bars and restaurants filed for bankruptcy in 2020. Others have since followed and will continue to close as the pandemic unfolds.
The same also happened in Rome, with its family trattorias and osterias that received so little government support. It happened in Berlin. It happened in Bangkok. It happened in Buenos Aires.
These places are the heart and soul of a city. They link the social fabric. They are essential to culture in a way that we in Australia will probably never be able to fully understand. In cities like Tokyo, San Sebastian, and Rome, you live in these places, you all socialize there, you visit one every day for pretty much your entire life.
Right now, of course, there’s not much we can do about it. Australians have their own set of issues, namely an ever-growing list of sites and cases of exposure to COVID-19.
At some point, however, we will be able to travel again, we will be able to visit the places we love and experience the new normal. And when that time comes, the best thing you can do is find all those little places you once loved and spend your money. Support your favorites. Allow them to survive.
And hey, if that means gorging on Basque pintxos, even though that has all changed, even though the food is now hidden behind plexiglass screens and there are limits to how many people can cram into these bars. both, then you should do it. If that means drinking booze with a lot of your new Japanese friends while making fun of sashimi and karaage and all those other good things, then it’s a hit you just have to take.
It is the highlight of the travel experience. These places are the pinnacle of contemporary culture and a vital window into the local psyche. And they’re fun – so much fun.
Some will no longer exist by the time we return to the Big World. Those who do, however, could use your patronage.
What are your favorite little bar and restaurant scenes around the world? Where do you plan to go first? Do you think your favorite places will still be there when you return?
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