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." Courtesy of Amy Moreland
Reading Time: 2 minutes

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. 

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. Courtesy of Amy Moreland

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

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Popular stories from Wisconsin Watch

Bridgit Bowden is the special projects reporter at Wisconsin Public Radio. Previously, she was the Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow at WisconsinWatch.