Introducing Amy Moreland: Madison bartender

Prior to the pandemic, Moreland’s life was moving forward. Now she’s unemployed and scared of the unknown.

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Outbreak Wisconsin chronicles people’s journeys through the coronavirus crisis, exposes failing systems and explores solutions.

Listen to Amy Moreland’s first audio diary, produced by Bridgit Bowden for WPR

Just a few months ago, Madison, Wisconsin, bartender Amy Moreland’s life was headed in a good direction. She had quit drinking, left her job at the bar where she worked for a long time and started a new bartending gig with potential for a promotion. She had started seeing a therapist to address anxiety and depression that she had previously used alcohol to cope with.

With record numbers of people unemployed nationwide, the service industry has been hit particularly hard. 

“I was thriving,” she said. 

Courtesy of Amy Moreland

Amy Moreland is seen at work at Alchemy in Madison, Wis. She won an award for best drink in Madison for the cocktail circled on the menu, called “The Girl with the Dinosaur Tattoo.” She says she was thriving before the pandemic, but is now experiencing financial and mental stress after the bar where she currently works closed down.

But suddenly, that progress came to a halt when Moreland, 38, found out she wouldn’t be returning to work. The bar where she works, One Barrel Brewing, closed its doors on March 17 following an executive order by Gov. Tony Evers.

Moreland, a high school graduate from Madison, has worked in service for a long time. It’s the only job she’s ever had, and she enjoys it. 

“It’s not an easy job, but you don’t need a college degree to do it,” she said. “It is a job that’s flexible and you can make a good living doing.”

She applied for unemployment, and is now getting about $100 each week. It’s something, but not enough to pay her rent, she said. She’s relying on the roughly $1,000 she had saved to go on vacation, which she expects to dry up quickly. 

But it’s more than a financial problem, Moreland said. Being out of work is taking a toll on her mental health. She thrives with schedules and goals, she said, but now her time is unstructured. 

“It’s a balance of trying to forgive myself for not being productive during a pandemic, while also not giving myself permission to slide into a heavy depression,” she said. 

Looking forward, Moreland worries that her life will never go back to normal. 

“And what do I think will be different when this is over?” Moreland asked. “I think that’s part of the scary thing … it’s the unknown.”

Courtesy of Mariah Clark

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