Zoom has quickly replaced a lot of people's local bar as the place to unwind with friends after a long day in our new hell. It's the next best thing to meeting up in-person, and yet, as fun as clinking glasses with a computer screen might be, it's no replacement for the beloved bars and restaurants New Yorkers have enjoyed for years. And while we won't be able to return to those places for some time yet, a new initiative called VirtualCheers.org lets former bar patrons grab pictures of their favorite locals and use them for Zoom backgrounds while helping out the bars at the same time.
"There is something magical about seeing everyone in the same place, even with the help of a virtual background," said Mihai Botarel, co-founder of RXM Creative, the agency behind the website, in a press release. "We love these bars and miss the atmosphere, and this is the closest thing to having them back."
While browsing the site for a background, folks can also contribute an amount equivalent to 'a round at the bar' to the businesses to help them stay alive during the pandemic.
"[T]hese virtual parties can translate to real change for the staff and people who run these bars," Botarel explained. "All we have to do is donate a round, download their background, and cheer in their name."
Restaurants and bars have been one of the hardest hit industries as counties and states close non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Some owners have pivoted to a delivery or take-out only menu, but there are others that haven't been able to do the same.
The future of local bars has been in question even as restrictions begin to lift in some areas. Patrons might not feel safe enough to return, employers might not be able to afford all the protection needed to keep their employees safe, and employee moral might drop massively if they're forced to work in an environment that puts their health at risk.
Some experts don't expect many of these places to bounce back after the pandemic. Time will eventually tell how hard the hit will be. Until then, supporting your former hangout with your friends could be a great way to help everyone stay sane during this wild period.