Synopsis: Our story begins with Jena Ellenwood, a bartender in Queens, NY, recounting her experiences moving to New York and finding herself as the newest employee at the Sparrow Tavern, a local Astoria watering hole. We are introduced to Jena’s coworkers and close friends, all working within the network of the New York City hospitality and service industries.
In March 2020, business-as-usual comes to a grinding halt as COVID-19 sweeps through New York, quickly establishing Queens as the epicenter of the pandemic in not only the state of New York, but throughout the entire country. Bars and restaurants are ordered to close, leaving thousands of hospitality workers stranded without work and an uncertain future. Jena and her friends vent their frustrations and anxieties, not only surrounding the seemingly hopeless economic uncertainty, but also the deadly virus that threatens their very lives.
Jena and her friends learn to adapt and cope with the reality of life during COVID, finding new sources of income and seizing the opportunity to pursue creative endeavors that might normally be sidelined. Throughout the process of finding a foothold in this “new normal”, the anxiety and uncertainty of New York’s hospitality industry looms, as 2020 ends with COVID hospitalizations in New York continuing to rise once again.
I thought it was important to tell this story because the first industry I thought of when the pandemic hit was the hospitality industry. I worked at a bar throughout my college days at Syracuse (shoutout former Konrad’s bar staff). Arguably the best professional morale I ever experienced was working at Konrad’s. So, imagine thousands of those types of mini-professional families having their lives ruined at the same time over something they couldn’t control. These businesses and their employees should be recognized.
Born and raised in NYC, Johnny Sweet graduated from Syracuse University in 2003. He was recently nominated for an Emmy for Best Long Sports Documentary for “Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story.”
Sweet was an Emmy Award winning feature producer at ESPN for 10 years, primarily covering the NBA and the NFL. In 2016 Sweet directed his first long film, “Vick” which won the Associated Press Sports Editor Award for journalism, his second APSE award. His second film, “Quiet Storm,” a documentary about the life of Ron Artest was released in 2019 on Showtime. The film won the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Cleveland International Films Festival for Best Documentary and was selected by the Hot Docs and Big Sky Film Festivals.