When you think of horror movies zombies or gore might come to mind, but for me it was walking through an empty Times Square in June 2020. Empty as in nobody but myself. Stores were shuttered. The streets became eerie after 6PM. It was a quiet reserved for a small town somewhere very far away. Not only did it not seem safe, but New York seemed beaten. I had never seen the city that calm or alone. What was truly upsetting was seeing old haunts and underrated favorites closing down, unable to function in what seemed like a new normal. Rumors flew of the death of mom and pops and the corporate takeover of your local bar. It looked like Fridays and Olive Gardens were going to hit every corner like Starbucks. But was it really the end?
As evidenced this past month, New York is yawning again. It’s rubbing its eyes and stretching, but it’s awoken from its untimely slumber. The streets are filled with the sounds of dull tinder dates and exciting rooftop parties. I couldn’t see any other way of beginning everything again than in NYC. What better way than having the Tribeca Festival (the film was dropped this year to make way for the round of video games, VR, and more) be the coming out party for the city (and in a sense the country)? With outdoor screenings, imaginative events, new experiences, and important conversations, Tribeca solidified its place as a cornerstone of this city.
One of those important conversations was facilitated by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey and Tribeca Festival. Reigniting NYC: The Future of Hospitality in a Resilient City brought in Sophie Kelly (SVP Whiskies, Diageo North America), Paula Weinstein (Executive VP, Tribeca Enterprises), and Matthiew Miele (Director of Turning Tables: Cooking, Serving, and Surviving in a Global Pandemic). This was all moderated by our new friend Colman Domingo (who had a busy Tribeca, showcasing the film’s Zola and The God Committee). Discussing the weight of the pandemic and how it literally shut down bars, restaurants, and the hospitality industry as a whole, the panelists went over their analysis and hopes for the future. Matthew’s film showcased the struggle some of these establishments had during the pandemic, and how they are viewing the uncertainty of tomorrow. Paula, a seasoned producer, reaffirmed Tribeca’s need after this past year, as it came into fruition in the shadow of 9/11 exactly 20 years ago. Sophie showcased Bulleit’s “First Drink is On Us” virtual bar tab (which ran until June 20th), and introduced Local Bar Sundays, a mission to bring us back to our local haunts.
This was all moderated by the enigmatic Domingo who spent years in the hospitality industry (and is a current part owner of the loved The Wolves bar in LA). Afterwards Bulleit hosted a bar crawl that brought together those in media to do what has not been done in over a year; have fun and socialize. It was like riding a bike. How did I ever think we would forget?
Is New York back? Of course.