FLINT, MI — Following Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, bars all over Michigan were instructed to temporarily shut down. The Loft’s owner, Rodney Ott, has been staying productive trying to navigate the situation.

“Before the Governor gave us the stay-at-home, I was able to still do to-go beers,” says Ott. “I partnered with Oliver T’s and I sold their growlers, but filled it with my beer and they were able to get it out at Oliver T’s and whatnot. They’re still open for business, so a lot of people that bought them from me are refilling them there. I’ve been selling to-go beers, White Claws, and basically just anything I could—-wine, you know what I mean?”

The Loft, like all bars without food service, was deemed non-essential and they had to close their doors to the public. After their resident DJ, Peter McFray, pulled off successful live streaming for charity, Ott decided to recreate the bar experience for those stuck at home with his Virtual Happy Hour via his personal Facebook.

“I was like, ‘Me and Pete go hand-in-hand. It’s what people did on Friday and Saturday nights,’ at least a lot of people at The Loft. So I went in and put 4 or 5 of the Loft regular drink recipes online, our specialties, and we just went live from The Loft from 6 – 7. It was just me and my wife and my sound guy. We videotaped it. I gave a tutorial, we did virtual shots and it was a good time.“

The Loft donated part of the proceeds of their donations to Pets In Peril, a local volunteer-based organization that provides assistance to at-risk pets and pet owners in the area struggling with an array of issues. In addition to raising awareness to local organizations and helping pay their Consumers bill, Ott is looking to host his next live stream at the end of May to create a sense of normalcy.

“This is uncharted territory for us,” says Ott. “What are we doing? I’ve never had a Friday off in the past 17 years of all of The Loft unless I was on vacation, you know? Those are the days when I get the most anxiety. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday is okay, but then Friday I’ll have anxiety because I should be at work and in that mindset. It kind of repeats that. What do I do with myself? I’m not very good with idle hands.”

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here. I miss you guys. I can’t wait to be back. If I can make some money to pay the Consumer bill, that’s a plus too. Another reason why I do it? Just to keep me sane. You know what I mean? Like, it gives me something to look forward to. My thoughts and prayers are with everybody out there struggling. We’ll get past this.”

You can tune into Rodney Ott’s personal Facebook for updates on Virtual Happy Hour and Friday Night Winedown events, or follow The Loft on Facebook here.  

Jonathan Diener is a world-traveling musician, comic writer, and freelance journalist having written for Vice, Alternative Press and The Hard Times. His charitable endeavors include the music compilation...