Bar life changed, but still alive

Students not letting pandemic stop their drinking and social habits

Sawmill Saloon is located at 1003 Maple St. and has been open throughout the summer and the fall semester due to their large outdoor area. Photo by: Benjamin Totten | Torch Photographer

The college night life is a taste of freedom most young adults look forward to they’re away from parents for the first time, but this past semester has not been typical. 

Bars have been closed and gatherings have been cutback, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging virtual and outdoor gatherings with a limited number of people. As restaurants and bars reopen, regulations have changed how they would normally operate. 

Construction project management senior Dawson Forner said that the restrictions  are making it seem like college doesn’t have a social aspect anymore.

“I hate showing up to a place and then realizing I don’t have a mask,” Forner said. “Having to have a mask nowadays is just as important as having your wallet or cellphone. Without one, you aren’t going to be getting too far.”

Others like communications junior Sawyer Trantham said that the restrictions of having to wear a mask as you order a drink don’t keep him from having a good time. 

“I am honestly happy that Shooters is opening back up,”communications junior Sawyer Trantham said. “Even though they are following social distancing guidelines and you are not able to get to interact with friends you see across the bar, I am still happy to be out and about.”

Shooters is open at limited capacity for the time being, and drinks are available for take-out. According to a Facebook post, masks are encouraged but not required despite Michigan regulations stating “businesses must not allow indoor gatherings of any kind unless they require individuals to wear a face covering.”

Other popular bars in Big Rapids are Gypsy Nickel Lounge and Sawmill Saloon, both of which have been open since the summer months. Since Gypsy is a restaurant with an outdoor patio and Sawmill has an outdoor seating area they both met requirements to stay open throughout the pandemic.

Sawmill has a few signs posted encouraging masks, but not everyone thinks the bar is truly complying with the statewide mandates.

“They do not enforce masks or social distancing at all,” pre-pharmacy senior and Gypsy Nickle employee John Nguyen said. “I think they should at least enforce the workers to wear a mask.”

Nguyen views the restrictions as something here to help patrons. He believes anyone who doesn’t follow them is just being selfish and that there isn’t really a point in not following them because they don’t interfere that much with what you are doing.  

As an employee at another local bar, Nguyen has been able to see the contrast between bar regulations first hand.

“The things we do at Gypsy to keep everyone practicing social distancing is enforcing masks when they walk in the building or are standing, but when they sit down to socialize or eat they can take their mask off,” Nguyen said. “I can’t say anything about students who are being irresponsible or not, but hopefully they are mindful of their actions and surroundings.”

Michigan regulations still require that food service establishments must maintain six feet of distance between each party and cannot exceed 50% of normal seating capacity.

Kaylin Johnson contributed to the reporting of this story.