Dining Out

Laid-off New Hope bartender reimagines happy hour during covid-19 crisis

Casey scrolls through the comments during one of his Facebook Live broadcasts.

With the paradigm shift that covid-19 has brought and resulting quarantines, local bartender Casey Caracciolo sensed that people were going to need a semblance of normalcy.

After getting the news from Triumph Brewing Company of New Hope that he was being laid off after a decade, Casey acted quickly. He resolved to remain connected to his network and scheduled a “virtual happy hour” on Facebook Live to keep in touch with old customers and friends. Like a good bartender, Caracciolo wanted to listen to everyone’s stories on how they were handling it all.

The first video, posted on Friday, March 20, one week after he lost employment, garnered over 650 views and had 1,000 comments. That initial success has now evolved into a biweekly broadcast, “Distance Social with Casey Caracciolo,” a Public Facebook Group that has over 200 members.

“I think it’s been partial therapy for viewers, as well as partial therapy for myself,” Caracciolo said. “At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be. Now I’m spending a decent amount of time scripting each show.”

Frenchtown residents Michelle and Chris Guglielmo enjoy one of Casey’s shows.

There have been thirteen virtual happy hours that have lasted anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. The broadcasts are usually themed—past shows encouraged viewers to wear fancy attire or suspenders like a TGI Friday’s server, which was Caracciolo’s first bartending job.

Most shows involve Casey making planned out cocktails, drinks requested by viewers, a beer review and advice about restaurant and bar etiquette. There’s also a five-question trivia round, where guests can submit guesses toward the end of the live broadcast and are politely discouraged from internet searching for answers.

The production is filmed simply using a phone on a tripod and is shot from the same angle to provide viewers with familiarity. The stable video, lighting and sound are arguably aided by Caracciolo’s education—he graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia with a degree in Animation and Media Arts.

His channel’s stage includes an orange puppet of himself, that he’s used to demonstrate animation, as well as a gnome named Larry, complete with a familiar bar setup for the day’s topics.

Caracciolo’s background as a published author also helped. He had to create trailers for his series of novels, The Shadow of the Gauntlet and The Dragon Within. But this experience also hurt—his unemployment claims were initially denied because government officials wondered if he had a larger income from selling the books.

“No one goes into writing to make money, but I had to send in proof. It’s all hopefully getting settled now, but thank God my wife is working,” he said.

Casey’s wife, Christine, posts Vemno and PayPal information during the broadcasts, which they have used to buy ingredients and supplies for the show. During one episode, he lamented that he needed a good muddler to better mash cocktail ingredients. Before the next show, two muddlers arrived in the mail, gifts from enthusiastic fans.

When he’s not planning for the shows or making videos about animation, Casey has been learning new skills, while refining old ones.

“I’m going to try and improve myself during this time,” he said referencing his recent purchase of Adobe Creative Suite.

The next episode of “Distance Social with Casey Caracciolo on May 5 will be themed around Cinco de Mayo, where virtual participants might be introduced how to make palomas and other Mexican-inspired libations. Casey hinted viewers will probably not see a Corona beer review.

“This idea is all about community,” Caracciolo said. “During this time, people need each other. I hope I can make people a little happier for a few hours a week.”

“Distance Social with Casey Caracciolo” airs every Tuesday and Friday at 5:30 p.m on his public personal Facebook page.


Do you have a story about a local who has reimagined the way we work? Please comment on this article to let us know more.

About the author

Steve Chernoski

Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website: http://stevechernoski.com.


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