Alcohol use during turbulent times

2020 is the year of many different sources of chaos for the US: political unrest is dividing the nation, a global pandemic is tearing through the population, and natural disasters are breaking records. While there aren’t many numbers that show America is boozing their way through these trying times, there’s still much to be seen and much to be said regarding where our nation’s at with alcohol use in modern times. Here are several pieces of journalistic work regarding this topic:

First, the image story for this piece is already on my blog. Go ahead and check it out here — you’ve surely been inside liquor stores, but maybe not something as large-scale as Specs.

Second, my text story:

Lost opportunities in the year of illness

Covid-19 has brought about several massive consequences, such as a rising death toll and a crashed economy, but there are also the personal consequences brought to the people affected. One of the most notable parts of pandemic life is the restriction of group-based establishments and activities, especially in enclosed spaces like restaurants and bars. Now, imagine that this year is the year that you’re finally permitted into establishments that primarily serve alcohol — you can easily picture the frustration there. To discuss this dilemma, I spoke with David Rendon, a fresh 21-year-old, about what it’s been like having 2020 as a 21st year of life.

“I really wanted to go to restaurant bars… like, really nice restaurants. […] When the pandemic’s over I really want to go to a hotel bar.” These facets of service are essentially taunts of the drinking age — areas where 21-year-old activity takes place within the vicinity of those who are underage. Another fresh 21-year-old, Jack Way, has a different outlook on the scenario, due to his current occupation. “Being a bartender, I’m already here all the time, so sometimes I’ll get a drink for myself after work and hangout with everyone after closing.” Still, despite the convenience of his place of work, there are still opportunities lost to the pandemic, such as his birthday celebration. “My 21st birthday was pretty excellent even with the pandemic, but I guess it would’ve been in a better setting, like a cool bar or club.” Sadly, the picaresque idea of free birthday drinks and new opportunities was replaced with a small gathering of friends.

For David, Jack (and even myself,) this lost opportunity is major. You only get one 21st birthday — it’s something you plan and dream about for years. Having that perfect day ruined by something this overwhelmingly restricting is perhaps one of the worst case scenarios, akin to a walk-out-wedding. Still, us three have been able to make do with our circumstances, but the fact that we have to make do, on a day that important, is nothing but unfortunate. Of course, not having a perfect birthday is nowhere close to the overall consequences of the pandemic, but on a personal scale, this kind of stuff is honestly life-changing.

Outside of the obviously frustrating scenario of turning 21 this year, there are still many others who have lost opportunities due to the pandemic. I spoke with Harry Crane, a middle-aged Austinite, about how his way of life (with alcohol) has also been disrupted. “I’m a big supporter of local music, so I like seeking out music venues. With all of those being closed, it’s been a struggle.” For many, going to public places like this are the only sources of fun and socialization. “There’s one venue that does serve alcohol that’s outdoors with a stage — very well distanced. It’s been my only saving grace throughout this whole year. It’s the one place I continue to go to get the music fix.” Still, despite having this one option to get out, Harry’s preferences lie elsewhere. When asked “where would be the first place you go once this is all over,” Harry responded immediately and resoundingly with “Saxon Pub,” an indoor space in downtown Austin.

Safety is the priority during times like these, but it’s still difficult to put fun on the backburner. In due time everything will go back to normal, but there are certain things in this world that can’t wait for due time. Hopefully these missed opportunities will help people appreciate the little miracles in normal life (those that are currently missing from pandemic life,) such as bumping into a friend at a concert, or reuniting with someone at a nice restaurant. Sooner or later these things will once again be possible, and they will feel more magical and important than ever before.

Third, my audio story:

Lastly, my data story, split into 5 different parts:

A map of select locations serving to-go alcohol (with the price of a Frozen Margarita at each location given for comparison,) visible here.

A set of two graphs comparing beer brand performance:


A graph showing the the states with the top 5 rates of death related to drunk driving:


and a map of where to find addiction help in the Austin area, visible here.

…and with that, I have completed the coursework for Multimedia Journalism…! This class has honestly been a very fun experience — hunting for photos, interviews, and content has been a fulfilling and entertaining exercise in real-world journalism. Thank you to Professor Hinsley for conducting this class despite the bleak circumstances!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *