On Wine World Diversity and Service Industry Anxieties About a Return to Normal

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

For the second week in a row, Covid numbers have been on the rise in the province and on Friday, BC recorded the highest number of new cases since January 7th. This news comes in spite of a vaccine campaign that has ramped up over the past two weeks. Even so, Dr. Bonnie Henry is presenting a more optimistic outlook, predicting a post-pandemic world by summer. With numbers continuing to rise and the vaccine rollout well underway, we continue to cover how the food and beverage industry is fairing through ongoing unpredictability.

First up, while restaurants across Quebec are opening up as of today, Montreal is keeping its doors closed as the city braces for a potential third wave.

Meanwhile, many states across the US are opening restaurants at full capacity despite many workers still being at risk.

“The vaccine rollout hasn’t been without major disruptions, such as limited appointments and widespread confusion about eligibility since the rules changes state by state, and sometimes even county by county. For example, restaurant workers are vaccine-eligible in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, and New York; they can get vaccinated in Philadelphia, but not the rest of Pennsylvania.”

The varying criteria and rules around vaccine eligibility has many asking why restaurant workers haven’t been prioritized across the board.

“The vaccine is the carrot at the end of the stick. In late January a study out of UCSF found that prioritizing workers in food and agricultural sectors can significantly decrease COVID mortality rates. Those considered to be on the frontline—namely grocery workers, food processors, and farmers who are crucial to protecting the food supply chain—have received vaccine allowances fairly quickly after vulnerable populations and first responders. But vaccine availability for restaurant workers has only come after decisions have been made to reopen indoor dining, such as in New York City and Detroit, or where restaurants have remained open but with low indoor capacities, as in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The view, it seems, is that the financial health of a restaurant and the radiating effect on the national economy are prioritized over the humans who work in those restaurants.”

In Texas, with the governor having recently repealed all Covid restrictions, many of the state’s service industry workers are concerned about going to work without a mask mandate still in place:

Sean Dudley, a bartender in Dallas and a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, says that he doesn’t feel safe working in an environment where masks are not required, even after having an extremely difficult time making ends meet over the past year. “As a bartender whose income has been severely affected by everything, I still disagree with the decision. It’s too soon. I want to feel safe visiting my mom,” Dudley told Eater. “I won’t be able to go see her, not knowing how much I’m being potentially exposed. This is too much, too soon, and I’m scared to work next week.”

Speaking of Texas, that state’s farmers are sharing the serious impacts of the recent winter storm on their livelihood and crops.

As of April 1st, BC will be eliminating tax exemptions for a number of products including carbonated, sugary drinks.

Those risks are most certainly not made any easier by belligerent assholes like Vancouverites James Davidson and Brent Wayot, who were charged with assault after they were filmed harassing workers at a local pizza restaurant and physically attacking another patron.

Restaurants are looking forward to warmer weather for plenty of reasons, one of which is likely the recent spike in thefts of outdoor heaters.

How Wine Educator Kyla Peal is working to make the wine world more inclusive for Black women:

“The wine world hasn’t been easily approachable for Black women. And because it wasn’t made to be inclusive of Black women, people often assume that I know less about wine. I experienced this pretty regularly when I was a server. Diners assumed that I liked these wines—Moscato and white Zinfandel, wines that have historically been marketed toward Black women—and that I didn’t know much about other wines and wine regions. So now I’m like, “No. I’m going to reclaim all of that.” Change always starts with open and honest conversations, and I don’t expect it to happen overnight. But the more we talk about a lack of inclusivity and diversity, the more it’ll stick in the minds of people who are in positions of power and can hire beverage directors, sommeliers, and wine representatives.”

Despite serious and legitimate criticisms of third party delivery apps, these multimillion-dollar platforms appear to be winning.

A new report from One Fair Wage shows that common arguments against the eradication of a subminimum wage aren’t supported by the evidence:

“The report, which relied on an analysis by a team of Harvard researchers, found that in states where the subminimum wage has already been eliminated—meaning tipped workers are paid the minimum wage with tips on top—have, on average, experienced almost the same rate of decline in hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses as states that continue to have the subminimum wage. The researchers’ analysis focused on January 2020 to January 2021.”

Further, Mother Jones details the racist history of subminimum wages and how the policy upholds and perpetuates ongoing pay gaps based on gender and race.

The province has announced that it will invest $2 million dollars to expand the BC Food Hub Network in the hopes of increasing food security on Vancouver Island.

Speaking of food security, it’s gardening time and Scout just shared some of the Lower Mainland’s best seed sources for all of your spring herb and veggie gardening needs.

Without a brick and mortar, chefs and home cooks alike are finding new outlets to sell their cooking to their communities.

Where food and drink really matters! New efforts towards voter suppression in Georgia include a proposed rule which would outlaw giving snacks and water to people waiting in line to vote.

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