Bartender is offering $6 virtual cocktail-making classes during the pandemic—and strangers are sending him money

Here's how one bartender is making ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic

On Monday, March 16, Chris Scensny found out that all bars and restaurants in New York state would be forced to close in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The next day, the full-time bartender was out of a job.

Scensny, who's been bartending since college, was making about $1,200 a week at 2 West Bar & Grille in Saratoga Springs, New York, before the pandemic.

During a staff meeting on Tuesday, March 17, the owners told Scensny and the rest of their employees that they expected to be closed for at least two months.

Chris Scensny was working at a bar in Saratoga Springs, New York until it closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Chris Scensny

"Right then and there I'm thinking: Alright, how am I going to actually make money?" Scensny tells CNBC Make It. "Things were rolling in my head of what I can actually do online."

He decided to offer cocktail-making classes over Skype and teach people how to make their favorite drinks from home. He posted the idea on Facebook, asking people to Venmo him $6 for a virtual class.

About an hour after Scensny uploaded the post, someone shared it on a bartending Facebook page and it took off. 

"It just blew up. There were 200 likes, then 400," he says. "It started off as a joke. I didn't think 30,000 people were actually going to like and share this."

Next, he checked his Venmo account. Sure enough, strangers were sending him money: "People were actually sending $6. Some were $10, $20, $50."

As of Thursday, March 19 — two days after he found out he was out of work — Scensny says he received $1,500 in Venmo payments, the biggest one being $75. None of them even asked for a virtual class, he says: "These people that are actually Venmoing me the money, they just said they wanted to help me out."

He plans to use the extra cash to pay bills and help out his mom, who he's living with in upstate New York.

His advice to other bartenders and people losing their jobs during the pandemic is to take action and brainstorm creative ways to start making money right now. "There's always somebody that's going to be in need of something," says Scensny, who also started delivering groceries. "There are ways to actually make money, you just have to put your mind to it."

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