The annual month of self-righteous sobriety — in which mostly young people go cold turkey on booze for four weeks and lord it over their nonsober pals only to immediately hop off the wagon on Feb. 1 — is mildly annoying in a normal year. But this year, it’s a wholly selfish endeavor that’s a slap in the face to the struggling bars and restaurants that have suffered a seemingly unending bout of COVID-19.
Fellow New Yorkers, this January I urge you to quash your inner Gwyneth Paltrow, put down the green juice, and put on something other than cashmere joggers. Hit your local watering hole and order up.
“The last two years have been tough on this industry as a whole,” said Brittany Belfiore, a bartender at the Elgin in Midtown, where business has tanked in recent weeks after previously picking up. “The other night I went into the beer cooler and cried for almost 10 minutes . . . There’s a bunch of people that usually come in for lunch and I haven’t seen them.”
If Belfiore’s midday regulars are skipping their daily tipple in the name of Dry January, what’s the point this year?
There’s nothing to recover from. By mid-December, New Yorkers were getting COVID in droves and scrapping Christmas travel plans. Offices weren’t hosting festivities, and Broadway and other attractions were hobbling along or giving up entirely. Nights out on the town and holiday excess were limited or nonexistent.
Belfiore estimated that she’s lost about $3,000 in income over the past two months, initially due to the Omicron surge and now the deadly new variant known as Dry January. Temporary health nuts are turning beloved bars into wastelands at a moment in history in which there have never been more reasons to drink.
A Morning Consult poll estimated that 19% of Americans are partaking in Dry January this year, up 6% from 2021.
The worst offenders might be those who feel safe enough to go out, but are holier-than-thou enough to not order an adult beverage.
“The other day a guy was here with his friend,” said Teresa Maher de la Haba, bartender of McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village. “And the friend said ‘No, I’m not drinking. Dry January,’ and just ordered a bit of food.”
Johnny Schultz, a McSorley’s employee for decades, didn’t mince words when asked about his feelings on the annual sober foray.
“[It] sucks!” he yelled. Too right.
An optimistic Maher de le Haba thinks we’re rounding the corner with both the virus and our drinking habits and that business will pick up next month. And she has a suggestion: