BOSTON — The hottest new bar's dress code? Your sweatpants. And you don't even have to leave your couch.
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With bars shuttered and stressed-out workers stuck at home, companies and friend groups across the U.S. are holding happy hours over video chat to commiserate and keep spirits high amid the new coronavirus pandemic. In one community, neighbors are toasting to one another every night from the ends of their driveways to unwind — while keeping a safe distance, of course.
“Let’s be honest, we could all use a break and a drink right now,” said Nick Minerd, who recently took part in a virtual cocktail hour with more than 30 of his home-bound colleagues with Hendersonville, Tennessee-based STR, which provides data and analytics for the hospitality industry.
Video chat happy hours have popped up all over social media as communities have closed bars and restaurants to all but delivery and takeout and banned large gatherings in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
Emily Anderson, who runs an organization that connects moms in New York City, was forced to cancel all of her events because of the virus. Now she planning to host weekly video chat happy hours to help moms “celebrate surviving another week of the Coronapocalypse" with a “quarantini."
“On a good day, a lot of moms feel isolated, particularly new moms ... So now, more than ever, moms need one another's support and camaraderie,” Anderson, founder of Mom Crew, said in an email.
Even book clubs, game nights and support groups are going virtual.
Brian Koppelman, co-creator of the Showtime series “Billions," said he and his friends played their weekly poker game using an app and chatting over Zoom video conferencing.
“It was a pretty great way to stay connected despite the distancing,” he tweeted.
For others, it's been a way to check in on friends who live across the country and share tips about how to stay sane while staying at home.
Tracy Stallard said a group of her friends from high school caught up over drinks via video chat and talked about their new normal.
“Have you been going out and taking a walk? Do you wear real pants when you get up in the morning? How many days did it take before you stopped wearing makeup?” they asked each other, according to Stallard, who lives in New York City.
In Montclair, New Jersey, a group of more than a dozen neighbors is taking a different approach with a nightly happy hour in front of their homes. It started with a text suggesting they all come outside one night and share a drink from afar, said Gail Stocks.
While each family stays in their own yard, they've sang happy birthday to those whose celebrations were spoiled by the virus and toast "to better times, but never better neighbors," Stocks said. They plan to keep the tradition going until their lives go back to normal to give everyone a chance to get away from their computers for a bit and a reason to smile, she said.
“It's keeping everyone's spirits up," Stocks said. “I was feeling very down around the late afternoon... And by the time I came in the whole blues had lifted."