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Postcards From The Pandemic: A Bartender's Year In And Out Of Work

Judy Gyorky is a bartender at a Downtown Cleveland hotel. [Judy Gyorky]
Cleveland bartender Judy Gyorky

A year into the pandemic, frontline workers like those in the hospitality or manufacturing sectors have not enjoyed the benefit of being able to work from home. They’ve had to continue heading in to work every day - albeit with a mask and maybe some gloves on.

Judy Gyorky has been a bartender at a hotel in downtown Cleveland for 11 years now, and this past year has brought with it a real cocktail of emotions. 

Shutting Down

When the pandemic hit we had closed our bar and restaurant. We stayed open for a couple weeks trying to keep some business coming with carryout, but, unfortunately, the business was just not there. We had so few hotel customers and after a few weeks they officially had laid all of us off except for maybe a few employees in the food and beverage department. 

It was a long six months of unemployment. It was definitely a trying time, anxious about when we’re going to work again, how we’re going to pay bills. My boyfriend, he worked throughout the whole time. We were fortunate to have some income. I was called back the first week of September.

What We Have Been Avoiding All Year

So the end of February my boyfriend came home from work one day not feeling very well and (it) took an extra day or two before his boss called and said, "Hey, maybe you should get tested for COVID because one of your coworkers has just tested positive. And that day I came down with a fever and was quite sick and I realized that this is probably unfortunately what we have been avoiding all year. And we both got tested and sure enough we both had COVID. 

So we were very fortunate to not have serious, serious symptoms - I would say two or three days of fever, aches, chills, congestion and then the following week was more just fatigue and congestion and headache, maybe some nausea. We did in fact both lose our sense of smell and taste. 

Back to Work - Again

Luckily, after three weeks, we tested negative and both got to go back to work. My boyfriend was lucky because he ended up getting paid for his time off whereas I didn’t. I did have the option to take vacation time, I just chose not to. I was hoping to use my vacation time for a vacation eventually, since I feel like everyone deserves a vacation after this past year.