On a bright morning in September of 2020, I’m pacing my kitchen. I’m on the phone with a couple who rented the bar for a 25-person outdoor wedding in October. I’m trying to maintain some form of vocal neutrality. I pace, because it diverts my anger and incredulity. The groom has just asked me to turn a blind eye to unmasked guests. He has admonished us for following a set of “arbitrary” health and safety rules—state law. To him, the language on our website asking guests to wear masks in town unless they’re seated at the bar is aggressive.
One of my partners cuts in: “Listen. This is how we’re doing it. It’s how we can respect the Silver Plume community and be part of its effort to mitigate risk. If that doesn’t work for you, we ask that you find another place that will.” The groom acquiesces, but only because he doesn’t want to have to find another venue.
Silver Plume’s population clocks in at about 177 year-round residents. Even with an influx of young homebuyers and renters over the past few years, the majority of people who live here are of retirement age, or well on their way. It’s a tightly bound community, with some families having lived here for generations. This sleepy haven exists outside of time with its Western false-front facades and dirt roads.
Before the pandemic, our work with the town centered on event permits, liquor donations for the town’s biannual Melodrama performances, People for Silver Plume meetings, and parking plans. Last March, that work became more urgent—first with a full shutdown to discourage out-of-town visitors and later with discussions about how (and if) we could safely host small groups outside over the summer. What we arrived at was a reservation-only plan; we shut down the casual, walk-in service that has always been a hallmark of Bread Bar.
We had a summer of reservation-only weekends that were our only means of controlling guest numbers. We fielded both thoughtful questions about our opening plans through fall, winter, and spring, and the inevitable disappointment of customers who were passing through and found a “shut” sign. We crossed our fingers and hoped our website and social media missives were reaching everyone. We’ll keep the reservation system for as long as we need to.
Managing the outrage and colliding views of the virus was, more often than not, maddening. But despite what it costs us in potential guests, when the health of our community is at stake, our priority, always, will be safety and care for the town.
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