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Remember those college days when you were too poor to properly tip? Maybe you drunkenly yelled at a bartender at a sleazy pub near campus. Or maybe you recently, well into your midlife crisis, gypped a tapster out of their due.

Now’s your chance to redeem yourself. Make an online donation to the Bartender Emergency Relief Program (BEAP), and you just might receive your “Get Out of Hell Free” pass … while supplies last.

You see, as you amass gift cards, order curbside, and Favor meals to support your favorite local restaurants — while breweries like Rahr & Sons have commenced beer to-go sales and a few Mexican restaurants are offering margaritas for takeout and delivery — your friendly neighborhood taverners are out of a job

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Yes, the very same people who kept us sufficiently liquored –– flammable yet safe. The ones who would patiently listen to our self-indulgent tales of woe and, ever-vigilant, cut us off when we’d crushed one too many brewskis.

Hence the need for BEAP. It’s precisely what it sounds like. The brainchild of businesspeople in the beverage, hospitality, and nonprofit industries who run the United States Bartenders’ Guild National Charity Foundation, BEAP supports our furloughed friends who are AWOL because of COVID-19 — as if to say, “This one’s on us.” If you or someone you know is a barman, take a look-see at the program at usbgfoundation.org/beap to look-see if they qualify.

Let’s be honest. Next to real heroes like hospital employees and first responders, bartenders are the unspoken heroes of the daily grind. These brave men and women on the frontlines charge into battle, armed with the thickest of skin and prepared for challenges going well beyond the original job description. These troopers act as victuallers, customer service agents, wizards, bouncers, and therapists, all rolled into one. How else could they manage to put up with our drunk asses?

Some people possess the gift. Others don’t. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t fashion a cocktail for shit, let alone deal with lushes who aren’t my friends. That’s why I stick to wine at home and mosey over to a bar for the occasional mixed drink. Best to leave the mixology etc. to the professionals. 

But just how many are we talkin’? When I first caught wind of BEAP, I slipped into my role as Nancy Brew and conducted a little research of my own. I wanted to know how many people in the nation could potentially qualify for assistance through BEAP. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that a little more than 631,000 people have answered the call to tend bar, and they earn a mean hourly wage of $12.88 or an annual wage of $26,780. Interestingly, and in spite of our “everything’s bigger” trope, the average bartender salary in the Lone Star State is actually lower, at $10 per hour and $20,816 per year.

You can order an Old Fashioned or Piña Colada, whatever spirits your heart desires, at just about any dingy drinkery you dare enter, so what (or rather “who”) keeps us coming back weekend after weekend, even day after day, to a select few watering holes? I think you know the answer.

So let’s keep our resident bartenders around a while. And when this all blows over, we can welcome ’em back like we’re in our very own episode of Cheers. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name” — or at least where your favorite barkeep does. — Christina Berger

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