On March 25, 2020, UnWineding began following three wine industry professionals in the hospitality capital of Orlando, Florida. Like many of their peers, the COVID-19 pandemic had turned their professional and personal lives upside down. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and theme parks had shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Six months later, Florida’s governor announced bars and restaurants could reopen completely. The pandemic is by no means over, but in this episode, we close Season 1 of the podcast with a look back at what the past six months have meant to our guests.
Season 2 will cast a wider net across Central Florida’s wine community. Follow Orlando Wine Blog on Facebook and Instagram @orlandowineblog for details.
In a move that took many Floridians by surprise, Governor Ron DeSantis has moved the state to Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Most businesses were allowed to reopen at full capacity less than two weeks after bars emerged from a months-long total ban on alcohol service. Not long after the governor’s move, Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 employees, including at least 6,700 at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
We’ll taste and talk about some fun and unusual wines, which are available for pickup now at Swirlery and Digress. Then, we’ll unveil the final episode and look back at the past six months of the podcast in a conversation moderated by WMFE’s Brendan Byrne. All profits will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and you can join from anywhere in the world!
You’ll find all the details here and registration links here.
Florida’s bars reopened for service this week, almost six months after the state first banned onsite alcohol consumption in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. And after six months of unemployment, one of our regular guests on UnWineding is finally back to work. In this penultimate episode of Season One, the celebration is tempered by concern about a possible second wave but buoyed by a sense of relief, optimism, and gratitude.
Two important things happened in Florida’s wine world this week. The state announced it’s lifting the ban on alcohol service at bars, almost six months after the original restrictions were imposed … and UnWineding guest Melissa McAvoy celebrated five years since the grand opening of her Orlando wine bar, Swirlery.
We’ll explore the first development in next week’s episode; this week, I share my conversation with Melissa about her journey into the world of wine. She once saw the hospitality business as the means to very different end, she says, but it was wine that changed her mind.
COVID-19 cases are still high in Florida, but the daily increases have dropped significantly from their massive spikes in June and July. Hospitality businesses are steadily reopening, and industry workers are relieved they’re starting to find employment again, just in time for Labor Day. There’s still a ban on alcohol service at bars, but many are getting around the restrictions by launching food service, and some are resuming onsite tastings. While things are by no means back to normal, there’s a sense of cautious optimism in the air.
Orlando sommelier, bartender, and server Christina Peebles has been in the service industry for fifteen years. Over the past five months, we’ve heard about the jobs she lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, her struggles with unemployment, and even a COVID health scare in her own family.
But this week, she talks about her journey in the wine industry – from having her first glass of wine while working for one of Orlando’s most colorful characters … to entering the world of fine dining and scrambling to build her wine knowledge … to dealing with customers who’d rather show off their knowledge than take advice from a young female somm.
Some Florida bar owners are turning to food licenses to get around a ban on alcohol service that has been in place almost continuously since mid-March, but business is slow to return. With bars still effectively shut down and more restaurants closing for good, prospects for the state’s food and wine professionals is still shaky at best.
UnWineding’s editorial advisor Amy Tardif likes to joke that the podcast’s dirty little secret is that it’s not really about wine. Indeed, many of UnWineding’s stories transcend the wine industry, reflecting the struggles of so many people trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else that’s been going on these past four and a half months.
This week, we take a step back and talk about wine. I asked the UnWineding trio about their journeys in the wine industry, and this episode is the first of those occasional conversations, with Rob Chase of Digress Wine in Orlando’s College Park Neighborhood.
As Florida’s slow summer season drags on, bar owners are still playing a waiting game, while state and local governments consider when it might be safe for them to serve drinks again. The state’s out of work bartenders, servers, and sommeliers face a financial cliff, now that the federal unemployment benefit has expired and the status of a presidential executive order reinstating it is unclear.