• Mary MacCarthy

Barista adjusts to reduced hours, and donates shifts to co-worker in need

Updated: May 7, 2020

Cole is a barista at a coffee shop in Denver, is married to a healthcare worker, and has been saving up to open their own coffee shop next month. (*Cole uses they/them pronouns.)

We chatted by phone on March 20, 2020 - just a few days after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock ordered all bars, restaurants and coffee shops to shut down in-house service for at least the next eight weeks.

HOW AM I GETTING BY? At this point I’m just figuring it out. Until four days ago, my life had a lot of structure. I was working 40 hours a week in the service industry, front-of-house, mostly as a barista. I also had explicit plans to open a coffee shop in Wheat Ridge [a nearby suburb of Denver] at the end of April.

I’ve been a service industry professional since I was 15, when I started working at Water World [amusement park]. I got a college degree, but I came back to service full-time… But now suddenly, I’m working just two days a week.

A reduced number of shifts were divided evenly between three of us baristas. I offered to take fewer than my share, because one of my co-workers is harder-up for money than I am right now. Of course business is slow, with about nine or ten total orders per shift.

The days I don’t work, well, I’m still trying to figure that out a bit. I’m doing a lot of laundry. Deep-cleaning our apartment. Making big meals. Walking my dog. Watching a lot of Facebook.

But I do have to figure out how to make more money. My partner works in healthcare and can cover the cost of rent. But we can no longer save for the house we hoped to buy. And I’m not going to have the capital to open a coffee shop like I had planned. I’d been working on the design, the structure of the shop for the past year, and to be honest I’m afraid to call up my business partner because I don’t even know what we’ll say to each other now. The notion of our project just going away - it’s existentially terrifying.

Part of what I’ve been doing is going to other coffee shops - to contribute to their business, but also to figure out how they are managing to make money right now. A lot of them are selling coffee beans. You can get great deals now - at Pablo’s it’s buy two bags get the third free.

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