By RJ Johnson
As we go into a new month of hunkering down the bar and restaurant industry continues to fluctuate. Some restaurants that had previously closed in order to redesign their safety and sanitization protocols have reopened. Lucky Wishbone is back, but this time around is asking that customers pre-order their food. La Mex has been changing the way that they offer to go orders by making their menu and ordering available online. Some spaces remain closed, while others seem to be gaining in popularity. One of the best options available for those that miss the full experience of favorite locations is to choose a brewpub style location like Matanuska Brewing Company or The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company. The ever popular 49th State Brewing Company downtown is still offering their A4A, or Alaska for Alaska, food options with $5 meals for anyone that has been laid off, or for first responders. With all of these options it is best to call ahead for orders. Sometimes a day ahead is the best option.
Bars and nightclubs continue to be in a holding pattern as owners and employees alike wonder if an end is in sight. Without a kitchen or the ability to offer food, there is no way for these businesses to make any sort of income. For those that have a kitchen, like Koots, it is the only way for them to make money. Recently a unique experience happened in the Koots parking lot, and in addition to the to-go menu they have been offering, they were able to offer carhop-style service during the Drive-In Stand-up Comedy Show, an event that looks like it may become a new option for those starved for entertainment. Attendees tuned into an FM radio frequency in order to hear a comedy show, beeping their horns while supporting stand-up acts expressing their talent.
For others that are looking for some sort of entertainment local performers are using their creativity for more than just their chosen art form. Performers and professionals of all kinds are turning to the internet to keep their fans updated on what they have been up to as well as maybe make a few tips. For most of these artists what they make performing on stage on the weekends locally, it is not their main source of income, although many have been laid off from their day jobs also, but it is money that they are missing currently.
Aestheticians, yoga instructors, and fitness trainers, have lost their entire source of income by not being able to open their spas and return to gyms and studios. For all of these people that enrich our lives in one way or another, what they do for money is not just a job, it is a passion and source of happiness, so they will find a way to continue while we are all kept home.
The Eternal Cowboys did a two-hour live stream event recently which gained around 4,000 views and reached around 10,000 people. Their Venmo information was available for anyone that wanted to donate to their favorite local band, and they are planning more events for the future as long as there is interest. Kat Moore and Llewellyn Sollija of The Forest the Never Sleeps had been presenting Plug in your computer Wednesday and Wine Flights, but due to an injury are taking a couple weeks off but they plan on being back as soon as possible. Jacques Longpre who performs all over the state just debuted an album at the worst possible time, but he has still been doing live sets and the album is available on all platforms. Check out jacqueslongpre.hearnow.com
One group of performers that is normally only seen in bars and once a year on the downtown parkstrip is drag performers. These were also some of the first performers to go online with their art, whether it is their makeup skills or their lip sync abilities. Anchorage Press darling Hank Van Dickerson has taken to performing outside while her burlesque friend Layla DeLovely takes video and adds commentary for everyone that is “Hot for Hank.” Party girl Syd D’Lust has taken to the camera for live makeup tutorials, a talent the Freeza D’Lust and Ivanna Kischcok have also been showing off.
Zaide Manzano performs with several groups around town and has been doing weekly live videos on her Facebook page, always with a different theme. For one performance she sang the songs of iconic singer Selena, and for another she performed mariachi music. Fans may know her as Dela Rosa from the Mad Myrna’s stage, or from her performances with local theatre groups and with the Anchorage Opera.
Another member of the Anchorage Opera that this has hit especially hard is Lisa Willis. This mezzo-soprano is also the co-founder of Anchorage Cabarets with Warren Weinstein. Willis lost all of her sources of income at this time, a time when they were needed the most by her family. She is set to head to Seattle in May for a surgery that is desperately needed. The income from her job and her performance schedule was set to pay for necessities while they were there. Now she is struggling to figure out what to do. Pay attention to the Anchorage Press website and Facebook page for videos of this stellar performer in the upcoming days.
Theatre companies and businesses alike are trying to help find ways to support the artists that have supported them for so long. Enchanted Alaska has been doing 11 a.m. story times with different characters each weekday. Kids and adults alike can watch the live broadcast, and if they like they post the volunteer performers Venmo or PayPal information. If you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org before the broadcast you can even get a hello from the character to your child. Hank Van Dickerson has also been doing story time with their chickens from their backyard. TBA Alaska has been doing story times with more adult books live on their Facebook page as well, and artists like Catie Bartlett and Isaac Kumpala have been performing on their personal Facebook pages. ACT is planning on doing classes or offering theatre performances on sites like Zoom.
For some folks the focus has not been so much on entertainment as it has been about keeping themselves healthy during these trying times. Not able to get to the spa, gym, or other places that they attended for mental health as much as physical, the separation is troubling. Elijah Young-Valladolid of Valla Lash Bar has taken to doing online classes from her spa teaching about at home skin care.
Jay T.S., who goes by the handle snowcactus127 on Instagram, has been using social media to help people learn how to keep fit with normal items that they have around their home. Starting with basics, like making your own weight bags to proper form when using your own body for fitness, this person’s body is proof that they know what they are talking about. Becca Mahar of Artemis Fitness is also offering virtual person training. This multi-talented instructor is an actor, fight director, stagehand, and personal trainer, so all of their methods of employment are temporarily closed.
There are other artists that could use support during this time as well. All April First Friday shows were cancelled, of course, and some mixed media folks are wondering what they will do next. E.M. Remme and Andy Ironhart have websites and social media accounts for the works that they do, and much of that art is available for purchase. Creative types that have the machines and plans have turned to making masks that are attractive and functional. For Dragon’s Lash leather they have turned to cloth as a medium and for every $5 mask that is purchased, they will also be making a mask for first responders on the front lines of this pandemic.
Yoga has been gaining in popularity in Alaska and beyond. AlisaMarie, owner and instructor at the popular Burn and Bloom Studio in downtown has been taking to the internet to teach classes and stay fit during this time. This is a trend that reaches down to everyone’s favorite Alaskan suburb, Seattle. Bettie Beelzebub, a yoga instructor and burlesque performer has online classes as well. This talent uses a private Facebook group called LET’S FLOW in order to manage her classes. She teaches a flow class on Monday nights and a gentle class on Wednesday evening. At this time, she is only teaching for tips, and as she says, “literally whatever people can afford to pay.”
The Burlesque community is one that has had the most trouble with trying to perform online. Because what these performers do can be seen as “stripping” it is not as easy to show off their skills in a social media setting. This should only be a temporary problem as some of our other Seattle friends like the core members of Mod Carousel are figuring it out. Perpetual Alaskan friends and favorites like Luminous Pariah, Paris Original, and Trojan Original will be performing FLOORPLAN 6FT Cabaret: a room-specific digital cabaret inspired by the unique architecture of their home’s and brains. Tickets are available online and concepts like this truly show the creativity of Alaskan performers and the friends that they have in other states.
As we continue to hunker down and try to maintain our sanity, art and health may be two of the most precious commodities, we have for keeping busy.
For bartenders, there is not a lot that we can do except for support the communities that fill the stage and wall space of our locations, and the professionals that keep us fit and healthy while we keep the party going.
Cheers to the professionals in our industry that live on the other side of the bar.
For more information on any of the artists or professionals listed please contact the author at email@example.com