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Bartenders or babysitters? | What it's like being behind the counter during a pandemic

On top of dealing with crowd numbers varying every night, bartenders are also responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations of COVID-19.

TOLEDO, Ohio — If you have been to a bar recently, you've probably noticed things look a little different with an assortment of safety measures and new protocols in place.

When it comes down to maintaining an environment that is pandemic-friendly, the bartenders are the ones tasked with what sometimes can be a daunting chore.

Since March, bar owners have been walking on eggs shells while navigating the ever-changing rules of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know, we just aren't getting frequent visits like we used to,” said Joe Kostelnik, co-owner of Quarters Bar in Bowling Green.

As bar owners like Joe and his wife Lauren struggle to keep their businesses open, their employees behind the counter are also taking a hit.

“It’s a whirlwind. Pretty much, the rules are changing every month!” said Sarah Thorton, a bartender at The Blarney.

Credit: WTOL

With capacity restrictions combined with no alcohol sales after 10 p.m., tips are not flowing in as easily as they were before.

“It’s super hit or miss, yeah. It's not the same as it was before,” said Drew Westmeyer, a bartender at Quarters who has noticed the crunch.

On top of crowd numbers being up in the air every night, bartenders are responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations of COVID-19, like making sure customers have masks and stay a safe distance away from other parties.

“Our staff has been amazing at following all these new rules and becoming sort of baby sitters in order to keep their job!” said Lauren Kostelnik, co-owner of Quarters. Lauren said her employees are often put in a tough spot when they have to ask people to comply with COVID-19 protocols.

“I’ll say, 'hey sorry you need to have a mask on.' And they either get frustrated and leave or they're like, aww man really? I'm sitting down, do I really need a mask?" explained Westmeyer.

While not every customer is actively trying to break the rules, many easily forget, and it becomes the job of bartenders to remind them.

“It’s not that people aren't trying to do their best, but you get people having a good time and drinking and carrying on, and they forget the rules,” said Thorton.

Going into the second weekend under Ohio's new 10 p.m. alcohol cut-off order, bar owners are trying to find new ways to bring customers in and stay in business.

“We have to get creative with promotions, you know, the amount of money we've put in for outdoor areas to become COVID-19 compliant... Everything,” said Joe.

Bartenders hope anyone coming into a bar understands the rules are for everyone's safety, so they can stay open and stay in business.