June 29, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
A film documenting the struggles that Astoria bar owners and employees faced during the COVID-19 pandemic will have its New York City premiere at a film festival in Queens this Saturday.
“Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars” will be screened at the Queens World Film Festival on July 3, with an in-person screening at Queens Theater in Flushing Meadows at 1 p.m., followed by a virtual screening at 8 p.m. through the Film Festival Flix app.
The film was directed by Johnny Sweet, an Emmy Award-winning producer who worked at ESPN for 10 years, and produced by Bryan TwZ Brousseau.
The 61-minute film follows Jena Ellenwood, a bartender at The Sparrow Tavern on 23rd Avenue in Astoria, as she copes with the frustrations and anxieties after her entire industry is laid off in a single day due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other Astoria bars that are featured include Diamond Dogs on 31st Avenue and The Bonnie on 23rd Avenue.
The film was shot at the height of the pandemic, with interviews being conducted in an empty studio, with cameras that were remotely operated, and subjects that were fully masked.
Sweet, who worked at a bar throughout his college days at Syracuse University, says he felt a personal connection to the struggle that bar and restaurant workers were experiencing.
“I imagined thousands of those small professional families having their lives ruined at the same time over something they couldn’t control,” said Sweet, whose film, “Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story,” was nominated for a 2019 Sports Emmy Award.
“These businesses and their employees needed a voice, a platform to speak about the sacrifices they made for us to help turn the tide against Covid-19.”
The film will air on the final day of the Queens World Film Festival, which runs from June 23 to July 3 and will showcase 198 films – 133 of which will be screened at live venues.
The pandemic has loomed large over the festival as well, as last year’s festival was moved entirely online due to the pandemic.